Drugs, Alcohol, and Women: The Increasing Prevalence of Women and Substance Abuse in America

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, women are the fastest growing demographic of substance abusers in the U.S.  Nearly 4.5 million women aged 12 and older suffer from a substance use disorder in the country, with 3.5 million women misusing prescription drugs and 3.1 million misusing illegal drugs. Men still continue to outnumber women in the amount of overall substance abuse cases, but women are increasing in numbers and are becoming less and less behind.

More education on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse as well as consistent, comprehensive drug testing in the workplace are two steps that the country can take to reduce the number of drug abuse cases that affect families and workplaces alike.

Do Drugs Affect Women Differently Than Men?

Many scientists who have conducted studies on the toll of drug abuse on women have found that many issues related to the hormones, fertility, menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause, and breastfeeding have an impact on women who are struggling from drug abuse. Women also have various reasons for using drugs in the first place that tend to differ from men, which include weight management, fighting fatigue, dealing with pain, and self-medicating mental health issues.

Additionally, women process alcohol and drugs differently from men because of their typically lower body weight and overall less water and more fatty tissue in their bodies. Fatty tissue retains alcohol while water dilutes it, so a women’s body is more likely to hold onto the effects of alcohol longer than a man’s. Women also have lower levels of enzymes that break down alcohol in the stomach and liver, which results in more alcohol in the bloodstream.

Drug Addiction and Women

Women tend to develop a dependence on drugs more quickly than men, and many women start their journey with drug abuse with cocaine, heroin, or marijuana. Many women believe they won’t do enough to get addicted, but dependence can escalate quickly. When women develop a dependence on drugs or alcohol, they tend to suffer from a greater severity of the dependence and of health-related consequences. Research has shown that at least 70 percent of women who abuse drugs had a past of being sexually abused and most had at least one parent who abused drugs when growing up.

Women and Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug abuse is becoming a serious problem in the U.S. more and more every year. It is estimated that more than half of Americans that abuse prescription medication were women. Women typically see their doctor more than men do and receive prescriptions for medications more than men, such as pain relievers and sleeping pills. While many pain relieving medications are meant to be used only temporarily on a short term basis, many women continue to get their prescription refilled for years. This turns a medication that was prescribed to help with temporary symptoms into a drug of abuse that can have serious physical and mental health implications.

According to the CDC, deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased drastically in recent years. As more and more medications have been prescribed over the last decade and it has become normal to be on medication, more women have died due to addiction and other health-related issues.

Signs of Drug Abuse Among Women

If you are concerned that you are abusing a drug or alcohol, or you feel a loved one may be, learn about the most common signs of drug abuse here:

·      Skipping work or child care responsibilities repeatedly

·      Drinking while driving, and transporting their children

·      Getting arrested for a DUI

·      Hurting those they love while drinking or taking drugs

·      Continuing drug or alcohol use despite emotional, financial, and physical consequences

·      Taking drugs or using alcohol despite wanting to stop or reduce substance use

·      Suffering from withdrawal symptoms

·      Developing a tolerance

Behavioral symptoms include:

·      Sudden changes in behavior

·      Drastic mood swings

·      Removal from family or friends

·      Quitting hobbies or once-loved activities

·      Abnormal sleeping patterns

·      Bloodshot eyes

·      Dilated or constricted pupils

Getting Treatment for Addiction

Anyone who is suffering from substance abuse, both men and women, should look into entering themselves into a rehab program to experience real and lasting abstinence from drugs or alcohol. Common treatment programs include residential and outpatient programs that can last anywhere from 30 days to six months; individual, group, family, and marital counseling; peer support groups like the 12-step program or AA; and ongoing support with therapists and peers.

Drug Testing in the Workplace

If you’re the owner of a business, you know the implications that a drug-abusing employee can have on your business, other employees, customers, and overall reputation. Drugs can drastically impair someone’s normal functions and motor skills and can lead to deadly accidents when the abuse is not caught, especially for those in the transportation industry. To protect your business and fellow citizens, it is imperative that you invest in a quality drug testing service. These services, such as Consortium Pool, provide multiple drug tests that pick up on various substances, both illicit and prescription. They take the drug tests to their testing lab and have a certified medical review officer review them very carefully. They can provide random testing, pre-employment testing, post-accident testing, and return-to-work testing that are all compliant with the Department of Transportation.

If you have any questions about hiring a drug testing service to protect your business from the nationwide rise in drug abuse, contact Consortium Pool today and ask about their services.