While in the past addiction was more common among men, that’s no longer the case. As of 2013, women accounted for about 30 percent of the roughly 2.6 million Americans who receive treatment for addiction each year.
If you are a woman seeking treatment for addiction, you may be interested in enrolling in a women-only drug rehab program. Between the opioid epidemic and more women struggling with alcohol use disorders and addictions to other substances, it’s now estimated that about 4.5 million women are struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD).
Certain experiences and conditions are unique to women or more common among women than men. These include pregnancy and postpartum depression, sexual and domestic violence, which can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and body image and eating disorders. Plus, women are typically burdened with more childcare and domestic responsibilities than men.
Finally, women often have fewer financial resources than men. Because of these circumstances that tend to be unique to women, a women-only drug rehab program often appeals to women who are ready to get help for a substance use disorder.
Roughly 30 percent of all drug treatment centers in the United States offer programs specifically for women. Some of these programs are separate, and some of them are housed within mixed-gender settings.
Women-only (WO) programs are more likely to offer specialized services such as pregnancy care, parenting classes, job skills training, on-site childcare, transportation, and child development services. With that in mind, key questions you may want to consider when exploring women-only drug rehab program options include:
Although the assumption may be that women would prefer to attend women-only treatment programs, that’s not necessarily always the case. Some research has found that women-only rehab programs don’t always appeal to all women. Some women see other women as a threat to their relationships. Sometimes women will also impose negative gender stereotypes onto other women. That being said, frequently, once women enter WO programs, they find they feel supported.
Studies are limited on long-term outcomes for women who participated in WO programs. Some studies that followed up on women one year after completing WO treatment programs found that these women showed better outcomes in terms of drug relapse and criminal justice issues. One study that followed up with women 10 years after they had completed a WO program found that those women had fewer post-treatment arrests and that women who were pregnant when they entered the program showed the most successful outcomes 10 years later.
Finding a program that includes pregnancy care is generally easier with women-only programs. About 13 percent of women-only treatment programs offer special services for women who are pregnant or postpartum. Studies have shown that women who are at a later stage of pregnancy often are more likely to complete the treatment program.
Alcohol and drug use are not only risky for the mother, but it can also endanger the health of the developing fetus. Risks can include miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects, and behavioral problems. Heavy drinking can also risk giving birth to an infant with fetal alcohol syndrome and cerebral palsy, both irreversible conditions.
A women-only drug rehab program can offer pregnancy-focused care that ensures the health and well-being of both the mother and the developing infant while also providing the mother with the medical care and emotional and psychological support she needs to complete addiction treatment.
It may seem like a good idea to stop taking drugs or drinking “cold turkey.” However, this can actually be dangerous. For example, stopping alcohol suddenly can result in some dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including hallucinations, catatonia, high blood pressure, a fast heartbeat, delirium tremens (DTs), and even death.
Because of this, don’t try to detox at home. Instead, seek out a professional medical detox program. You will be clinically monitored 24/7 while you go through the detox program, ensuring that you and your developing infant will safely go through the withdrawal process.
If a program does not address the needs and concerns specific to women, it may not make sense to pursue it if your interest is in participating in a women-only program. This is because the program really doesn’t offer any additional services or programs that a mixed gender program would offer and may not necessarily be sensitive to the unique needs of women seeking WO treatment.
Women often have certain needs and concerns that could benefit from a women-only drug rehab program if the program provides resources that meet those needs. Women are often dealing with circumstances such as pregnancy, motherhood, a history of sexual and/or domestic violence, PTSD, and other challenges such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and financial difficulty. Because of this, there are many things to keep in mind when seeking women-only treatment programs, such as pregnancy care, child care, and job training among other considerations.
Evans, E., Libo, L., Pierce, J., Hser, Y. (2013, May 20) Explaining Long-Term Outcomes Among Drug Dependent Mothers Treated in Women-Only Versus Mixed-Gender Programs. In Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Neale, J., Tompkins, C.N.E., Marshall, A.D., Treloar, C., Strang, J. (2018, Jan 24) Do Women with Complex Alcohol and Other Drug Histories Want Women-Only Residential Treatment? In Addiction. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Sack, David (2017, April 18) 6 Myths about Women and Addiction. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com
“Substance Abuse Treatment for Women.” In SAMHSA/CSAT Treatment Improvement Protocols. Retrieved from from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books