You might be surprised by what research has to say about the use and abuse of prescription drugs in women. Unless, of course, you’ve lived the statistics.
- Women are more likely than men to take prescription drugs.
- Primary drugs prescribed to adult women under the age of 60 include antidepressants and the pain-management classification of drugs called opioids.
- Women are more susceptible to the addictive nature of prescription drugs.
Women the world over are struggling to break ties with prescription drugs—and to do so requires special consideration of how prescription drug abuse affects women as well as how women benefit from a well-rounded approach to drug rehab.
Today, we’re going to do just that. Ready?
Prescription Drug Abuse Harms Women in Unique Ways
When used correctly, prescription drugs work as a medical marvel, don’t they? They ease our pain, help us to manage our mental health and work together with our bodies to provide healing. Prescription drugs have the potential to do good.
Unfortunately, they also have the potential to harm. And prescription drug abuse causes a unique set of struggles for women.
Anyone abusing a prescription might experience a rapid heartbeat, mental confusion and organ damage—as well as running the risk of overdose and death. Women also tend to endure additional struggles, including:
- Medication overuse headache—a long-lasting and chronic condition
- A disruption of the endocrine system—a hormonal imbalance that may lead to infertility
- Elevated levels of anxiety and depression
- Heart problems
- Danger to the life of an unborn baby
- A greater potential for accidental overdose
And when a woman begins the hard work of detoxing, she may find it more difficult than a man due to the biological differences in body mass, absorption, metabolism and medical elimination. In other words: women will suffer more withdrawal symptoms than men.
Women Face Added Stigma for Drug Abuse
Again, if you’ve lived the statistics, you know: women take on a greater amount of shame for alcoholism and substance abuse than men. Some of this comes from society at large, which shrugs its shoulders at the man slumped over a bar or popping a few pills while he makes things happen.
Women, on the other hand, are expected to be the fairer sex. We’re gentle. We care for the home. And the children. But not ourselves—because some of the stigmas come from within.
That’s why we all nodded along to SNL’s Christmas Morning skit. When Kristen Wiig says, “I keep the pain inside of me,” we might just be laughing to keep from crying.
Many women view prescription drugs as the maybe-sorta-okay way to handle pain. After all, these drugs aren’t necessarily illegal. So, a woman can set aside a little bit of the stigma when she chooses to use and abuse prescription drugs.
Unfortunately, this viewpoint also dismisses the danger inherent in the misuse of antidepressants, opioids and more.
Women Benefit From a Well-Rounded Approach to Treatment
Thankfully, help is available. And if you know what you’re looking for, you can find it in a stigma-free, research-applied environment—one that considers the unique reasons a woman may find herself abusing prescription drugs and the best ways for her to find relief.
So what should you look for when choosing a substance abuse treatment center? Consider your own story as well as the well-rounded approaches encouraged by Women’s Health Matters, which includes the following:
- A program that addresses mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
- Understands the connection between trauma—due to sexual abuse or violence—and drugs
- Offers options for women who are pregnant or need childcare
There’s no shame in asking for help with your prescription drug use. We can help. Call us at 844.675.0964
By Stephanie Thomas
Contributing Writer with Promises Behavioral Health