The United States has been battling an opioid crisis since the beginning of the 20th century. For many years, statistics have shown that while both men and women have been affected by this crisis, men have higher rates of overdose. However, studies are showing that women have a higher rate of use and develop a dependency quicker.
There are three contributing factors that need to be explored in the fight against the opioid crisis. Here, we will take a closer look at how these factors play into the rising rates of opioid use and overdose rates in women.
What Factors Contribute to Higher Use in Women
The opioid epidemic has been severe for both genders. However, recent stats show there is a greater harm to women and girls. While men still have higher rates of overdose due to opioid use, women are quickly closing that gap.
Higher Prescriptions and Faster Dependency
Women are more likely to be prescribed opioids, and they often receive higher doses for longer periods of time. Evidence shows that women can become dependent using smaller amounts of drugs for a shorter time frame. Opioid drugs are often prescribed to treat acute or chronic pain, with post-surgical pain causing higher rates of addiction. Studies show women have higher rates of taking opioids three to six months after surgery.
Women progress from use to dependency quicker than men, suffer more severe emotional and physical consequences, but have underutilized treatment. Women are more likely to have chronic pain than men, and typically need prescriptions after surgeries. They are prescribed higher dosages, which in turn can cause them to develop a dependency at a higher rate.
Higher Rates of Mental Health Disorders
Mental health issues are directly linked to opioid use disorder. People who use drugs often have histories of physical or sexual trauma. Women are more likely to have experienced these types of traumas.
Women also have significant rates of psychiatric co-occurring disorders, which can manifest by women trying to cope with their mental health symptoms. There’s no guarantee that having a mental disorder will lead to addiction. However, mental illness can put individuals at a higher risk than others. A few co-occurring disorders that are common in women include:
- Mood disorders
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Personality disorders
Harder Time Finding Help
Ultimately, women have a much harder time getting the help they need for recovery. They are often the primary caregivers in the family or are single parents to their kids, meaning they can’t simply stop their normal routines and seek treatment. Reaching out for help could cause issues with custody, which can bring a chance of losing their child, so they avoid seeking help out of fear.
Women also face many financial challenges, such as the gender pay gap and financial illiteracy. Financial strains make it harder to afford treatment and other services needed, such as childcare or necessary income, while in treatment. Finding treatment centers that specialize in women’s recovery can be difficult, but centers with dedicated women’s residential programs do exist.
How to Bring Awareness
Many people feel that there is not much they can do to fix the opioid crisis. Bringing awareness to this epidemic is one of the biggest ways to help overcome this crisis. There are many ways you can help support the cause by educating yourself and others, being aware of warning signs that someone may be using opioids, and staying informed of treatment options.
Whether you are a doctor, teacher, public health official, friend, or family member, educate others around you or in your community on opioid use disorder and the risks associated with it. Most people don’t know how addictive prescription medications can become, or that it is even possible to become addicted to prescription medicines. Take the time to read articles, books, blogs, documentaries, and research papers to learn everything you need to know about opioid use and how dangerous it is to go untreated. Spreading this knowledge can help others become aware of how serious this epidemic has become in America.
Know the Signs
Addiction can happen to anyone. While specific people and populations may be at a higher risk of developing some form of substance use, addictions can happen to people of any ethnicity, gender, or age. Knowing the signs of opioid use can save lives. Signs of opioid use include but are not limited to:
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Excessive need to obtain or refill prescriptions
- Mood swings
- Failure to fulfill daily responsibilities
- Continued substance or prescription use despite medical needs subsiding
If you or someone you know displays signs of opioid use, it is important to get help as soon as possible. Substance use can take over a person’s life and have devastating effects on their lives and their loved ones.
Treatment is extremely important in potentially saving the life of someone with opioid use disorder. In any situation of addiction, it is not safe for a person to go cold turkey and stop using on their own. Once the body has become dependent on the drug and the person is using in high doses, the body could go through adverse effects during the withdrawal phase. There should always be professional and/or medical help when quitting.
Finding a treatment center that can support people in recovery from opioid use disorder can help safely guide them through the withdrawal process. After medically-assisted withdrawal has been completed, they can then move onto other beneficial programs such as individual, group, and family therapy, and depending on the facility, try out holistic treatment modalities as well.
The opioid epidemic is a severe crisis in America that needs to be addressed by spreading awareness and encouraging those who are using to get treatment. Spero Recovery offers a women’s residential recovery center that specializes in treating women with substance use and mental health disorders. There is no shame in needing help. We all go through some form of struggle in life. Our peer-led facility allows our patients to connect with other women who have faced similar situations and who now use their own recovery process to help others. Being located in beautiful and tranquil Evergreen, Colorado allows us to not only provide a scenic stay, but a chance to connect with our natural environment to aid in the healing process. Give us a call at (303) 351-7888 if you or a loved one are in need of a safe and supportive addiction treatment center.