Across the country, over 6 million Canadians suffer from substance abuse (Statistics Canada, 2015). In addition to drug and alcohol dependency, many more Canadians struggle with other types of addictions including gambling, sex, and internet addiction.
Until the 1990s, little was known about the obstacles facing women with addictions, because research efforts mainly studied the addiction habits of men (Harvard Health Publications, 2010). Fortunately, new research has helped bring to light the unique challenges that women can encounter, helping addictions counsellors everywhere better meet the needs of their clients.
If you are considering a career as an addictions counsellor, keep reading to discover three challenges women can face while battling addictions.
Women Often Develop Addictions for Different Reasons than Men
Once you begin counselling clients after receiving your addiction counsellor diploma, you will see that clients can develop an addiction for many different reasons. Male clients can be driven towards drug use by social pressures, competitive feelings, or due to an impulsive decision (Futures Palm Beach, 2016).
For women, slightly different factors are more likely to contribute to developing an addiction. For example, there is a significant correlation between a woman developing a drug addiction and a male partners’ influence. This is demonstrated by the fact that women will often begin using drugs in the company of a boyfriend (Wiesman, 2000). In addition, many women with addictions may have experienced severe trauma and show symptoms of PTSD (Greenfield, 2010).
Because of these additional factors, women with addictions can often face underlying issues of trauma and emotional distress. These can add new challenges to the path towards recovery. By helping your clients address any underlying factors, you can help them break free from addiction.
Women Can Face Barriers to Receiving Care from Those With Addictions Counsellor Training
Unfortunately, many women with addictions are stigmatized, which may discourage them from seeking treatment (Annie’s House, 2015). Women who feel shamed may avoid treatment in order to hide their addiction from loved ones or keep custody of their children. In addition to these social barriers, many women may forgo treatments early or altogether because of family obligations. According to the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, women are more likely than men of to drop out before the 30 day mark of treatment (Arfken, 2001). This could be due to worries about their children or the financial demands that may come with seeking treatment (Futures Palm Beach, 2016).
Once you have successfully completed your addictions counsellor training, you can help remove the barriers that could prevent some clients from seeking treatment. By creating a safe space where your clients can feel welcomed, free of judgement, and safe, you can help empower them to continue their journey towards recovery.
Grads of Addictions Counsellor Courses May See that Biology Can Play a Role in Addiction
On a biological level, men and women face different challenges when battling substance addictions. According to the Harvard Medical School, “women tend to weigh less than men, and—pound for pound—a woman’s body contains less water and more fatty tissue than a man’s. Because fat retains alcohol while water dilutes it, a woman’s organs sustain greater exposure.” (Harvard Health Publications, 2010). As a result, the same dose of a drug or the same serving of alcohol can have a bigger impact on a woman’s body.
In addition, women have a different hormonal profile than men, which can cause their cravings for substances to differ. “Hormonal fluctuations may increase cocaine cravings during certain times of the menstrual cycle.” notes the Harvard Medical School, saying that “Preliminary evidence also suggests that women may experience more intense craving than men do when exposed to cues that remind them of cocaine.” (Harvard Health Publications, 2010).
By understanding these and other factors that can affect women suffering from addiction, addictions counsellors can help their clients avoid relapse and continue on the path to recovery.
Are you interested in a rewarding career as an addictions counsellor?
Contact Rhodes Wellness College to learn more about our addictions counsellor courses.
Annie’s House. (2015, 7 8). Common challenges women face in overcoming addiction. Retrieved from http://annieshouse.com/common-challenges-women-face-in-overcoming-addiction/
Arfken, C. L. (2001). Gender differences in problem severity at assessment and treatment retention. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 53-57.
Futures Palm Beach. (2016). Men vs. Women: How drugs, addiction and treatment differ between the genders. Retrieved from https://www.futuresofpalmbeach.com/addiction-treatment/addictions/why-drug-addiction-differs-in-men-and-women/
Greenfield, S. F. (2010, 06). Substance abuse in women. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3124962/
Harvard Health Publications. (2010). Addiction in women. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/addiction-in-women
Statistics Canada. (2015, 11). Mental and substance use disorders in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-624-x/2013001/article/11855-eng.htm
Wiesman, O. (2000). Women and addiction: Treatment issues and innovative program. Retrieved from http://www.communityalternatives.org/pdf/women_and_addiction.pdf