January 2016

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Substance Abuse in Women

It can be hard for anyone with a substance use disorder to quit. But women can face unique concerns.

Scientists who study substance use have found special issues related to hormones, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause that can affect women’s struggles with drug use. Women themselves report using drugs for reasons such as controlling weight, fighting exhaustion, coping with pain, and self-treating mental health problems.

Culturally defined roles for men and women can also have an effect. Women may be afraid to get help during or after pregnancy due to possible legal or social fears. Women in treatment often need additional support for handling the burdens of work, home care, child care, and other family responsibilities.

Women may also respond differently than men to certain treatments. For instance, nicotine replacement (patch or gum) does not work as well for women as for men.

Learn more about the unique substance use issues that women face at Drug Facts: Substance Use in Women.