Why Female-Only Addiction Treatment Programs Might Be Best

Medically Reviewed

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.

What To Look For in a Women-Only Drug Rehab Program

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:

  • Does the program offer childcare resources? Many women seeking addiction treatment are also mothers. On-site childcare can help make it easier for mothers to complete treatment successfully.
  • Does the program offer pregnancy care? If you are pregnant you can still participate in a drug rehab program, and a women-only program will likely offer pregnancy care, but be sure to ask.
  • Is behavioral couples counseling an option? Often, women who seek rehab help are also dealing with difficult, or abusive relationships, or addiction may be a cause of strain in the relationship. Behavioral couples therapy can help couples develop better communication skills and heal traumas.
  • Are parenting classes and/or job training programs available? Gaining new parenting skills and the opportunity to learn new job skills can better position women to be successful in recovery and avoid relapse.
  • Does the program treat co-occurring conditions such as physical conditions or psychological conditions like depression, PTSD, or other substance use disorders? Many women who seek addiction treatment are struggling with other co-occurring conditions, whether physical, psychological, or emotional. If you have a co-occurring condition, it’s important to find a program with professionals who are skilled at helping patients cope with and recover from additional substance use disorders, diseases, and other health and emotional challenges.
  • Does the program offer transportation assistance? If transportation to a treatment program is a challenge for you, seek out programs that offer transportation assistance.
  • Is financial assistance an option? Because women often earn less money than men, they may struggle financially to afford treatment. Ask if the program offers any financial assistance.
  • Is there an aftercare or alumni program? Maintaining an ongoing support network and attending events and programs to support your recovery is key to helping you stay strong once you complete your formal treatment program. An alumni or aftercare program can be an important feature to look for in any drug rehab program regardless of whether or not it is a women-only program or a mixed gender program.

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. 

Pregnancy and Rehab

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.

What To Avoid

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.

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