women and substance abuse therapy session

Substance abuse in general is something that affects thousands of people every year. There are a few factors that may affect women when it comes to substance abuse. Women’s addiction treatment is always an option and allows for personalized treatment catered towards female patients.

Women may face certain challenges and obstacles that other addicts wouldn’t. This is due to a multitude of factors found specifically in women. Regardless of the substance or the addiction at hand, it is important to be aware of addiction signs and symptoms.

Coastal Detox offers specialized and effective treatment for both men and women. Whatever you or your loved one may be going through, there is always a possible path towards recovery, so you can stay sober for years to come. Let Coastal Detox be your helping hand with addiction recovery.

Women and Substance Abuse: Contributing Factors

There are specific factors in women that may create certain problems when it comes to women and substance abuse. There is also a number of societal reasons that tend to contribute to substance abuse in women. Substance abuse has been shown to affect the following factors in women:

  • Menstrual cycle
  • Breastfeeding
  • Menopause
  • Pregnancy
  • Hormones
  • Fertility

When it comes to why women abuse drugs, it might have to do with controlling weight, coping with pain, and fighting exhaustion among other reasons. Sex (biology-based) and gender (culturally-based) both contribute to women and substance abuse. Certain reasons might push a person towards substances and addiction in general. 

Other Differences Found in Women and Substance Abuse

Compared to men, there are certain societal and biological factors that may contribute to substance abuse in women. A few of these differences include:

  • The effects of drugs on the heart and blood vessels differ in women.
  • Women may be more sensitive to certain effects of drugs due to hormones.
  • Female victims of domestic abuse may be at higher risk of abusing drugs or alcohol.
  • The brain may change differently in women than in men when abusing certain drugs.
  • The likelihood of going to the emergency room or dying from overdose is more common in women.
  • Women often take smaller doses of a certain drug and can become addicted in shorter amounts of time.
  • Panic attacks, depression, anxiety, and other mental conditions may be more likely in women while abusing substances.

The Dangers of Substance Abuse While Pregnant

Substance abuse can have a number of negative side effects on a woman’s health and her children as well. The long and short-term risks can be dangerous and cause a number of unwanted health effects. Particularly drugs like opioids and stimulants can cause possible harm to an unborn baby.

Some effects that may harm a fetus due to substance abuse may include:

  • Seizures
  • Migraines
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased risk of miscarriage

Marijuana in particular is commonly used by women who are pregnant. Studies conducted by The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) suggest that marijuana can cause babies to be born smaller. It’s important for pregnant women (or women wanting to get pregnant) to stop using marijuana. It is best to consult your doctor for healthier alternatives if you are using marijuana for medical purposes. 

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a syndrome that causes the baby to go through withdrawal after birth. NAS occurs when a pregnant woman uses opioids, caffeine, alcohol, and other prescription sedatives. The severity of this condition is based on how often and how long the mother was using while pregnant.

The signs and symptoms of NAS can begin immediately or up to 14 days post-birth. The signs of NAS in a newborn include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Trembling 
  • Poor feeding
  • Sleep problems 
  • Rapid breathing
  • Blotchy skin color
  • Increased heart rate

Pregnant mothers who abuse substances can end up experiencing a variety of dangerous and long-term effects. These may include low birth weight, premature birth, birth defects, and sudden infant death syndrome.

Additionally, certain substances (particularly marijuana, nicotine, or other medications) can be found in the mother’s breast milk. With this in mind, researchers haven’t determined specific long-term effects on newborn children. 

Substance Abuse Statistics for Women

There are a handful of differences when it comes to women abusing substances as opposed to their counterparts. There is a variety of statistics that give us a better understanding of these differences. This depends entirely on the drug that is being abused and other societal factors as well. 

The stats for women and substance abuse tend to show a few alarming numbers that aren’t seen in men. However, both men and women have the same likelihood of developing an addiction to substances (depending on the situation). Let’s take a look at some substance abuse stats for women. 

Alcohol Abuse

When looking at alcohol, in general men tend to have a higher rate of alcohol use. However, when it comes to young adults, girls (ages 12-20) have a higher rate of binge drinking and alcohol abuse than men do. Long-term abuse of alcohol can also have a number of unique issues for women. 

When comparing people who consistently abuse alcohol, women have death rates that are much higher than men’s, studies show that the number is 50-100% higher. This number includes death from suicides, strokes, heart disease, and other alcohol-related accidents. Abusing alcohol also increases the risk of unprotected sex (which can cause pregnancy), along with an increased chance of violence or sexual assault. 


Stimulants, such as cocaine or meth, also have specific effects on women. Research shows that women are much more susceptible to the rewarding effects of stimulants (estrogen might be the cause of this). 

Another popular and dangerous stimulant is methamphetamine (also known as meth). Women tend to use methamphetamine to increase energy, concentration, and in some cases, lose weight.  Over 50% of females who use meth, use it for energy purposes. Whatever the reason for using may be, methamphetamine can cause a number of dangerous effects if left untreated. 

Sleeping Aids and Anxiety Medications

Research shows that women are more likely to misuse central nervous system depressants. These depressants are usually prescribed to treat cases of sleep disorders and anxiety, among other conditions. 

Women also have a much higher rate of death when it comes to overdosing on these medications. Research shows that women are more at risk than men to experience anxiety and insomnia. Which might be the cause for the increased risk of abuse and possible overdose in the long run.

Ending the Connection Between Women and Substance Abuse Through Treatment

women and substance abuse happy woman

Addiction to a substance is extremely tough, with both men and women. However, when it comes to pregnant women, there may be certain reasons that deter a person from getting help. In some cases, the person might be afraid to get helping during pregnancy due to certain social fears, legal issues, or the lack of child care during treatment. 

When it comes to women and substance abuse, time is of utmost importance, especially if the person is pregnant. As with all substance abuse cases, it is important to get help as soon as possible to avoid worse consequences down the line for the person and the child. 

While women addiction treatment might come with its hurdles, it’s important to remember that being sober and clean outweighs any and all costs. Coastal Detox is here to help you or a loved one get to a better place for a better, healthier life. 

The Importance of Detox

When talking about women and substance abuse (or just substance abuse in general) one of the first steps to recovery is detoxification. Detoxification is a process that gets rid of any substances in the body. It is a necessary step and can help reduce some of the withdrawal symptoms of certain drugs. 

The detox process typically takes between 30-90 days depending on the substance being abused. Coastal Detox provides a safe and comfortable environment to address all your needs. Medically assisted detoxes are recommended for safety and effectiveness. Doing detox alone can cause a number of different issues that might do more harm than good. 

When it comes to women and substance abuse, Coastal Detox is here to create a safe and personalized environment to address all your needs. We provide detox for a number of different substances including:

  • Alcohol
  • Heroin
  • Xanax
  • Fentanyl
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription Drugs

Detox essentially opens the door for many treatment options and is a necessary step towards a happier, healthier life down the line. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, make sure to get help as soon as possible to avoid unforeseen circumstances, especially if pregnant. 

Get Help Today

Substance abuse is something that seriously and negatively affects people from all walks of life. But it’s not too late to turn things around! Women addiction treatment and detox are reachable and necessary. It is not too late to strive for a better and healthier life for you and your family. Contact Coastal Detox today for more information on our detox and addiction services.