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Women's Addiction Treatment

Women's Substance Abuse Treatment

Alcohol and drugs devastate the lives of many women. Substance abuse treatment can help these women regain control.

ADDICTION AND GENDER

Because addiction and alcoholism manifest in distinct ways for men and women, substance abuse treatment must be similarly tailored to suit each gender. Just as the physical effects of drugs and alcohol differ in men and women, so do the psychological, emotional and situational side effects of prolonged substance abuse. Because all of these differences are pronounced, female alcoholics and drug addicts find the most nurturing recovery experience in treatment programs designed specifically for women. Substance abuse treatment for women addresses gender-specific aspects of addiction and alcoholism, and creates a safe intimate space where women can rediscover themselves.

WHAT IS ADDICTION LIKE FOR WOMEN?

Addiction and alcoholism are two forms of the same chronic disease, a disease that has devastating effects on both the mind and body. Addiction is often conceived as a behavioral pattern that stems from a lack of moral fiber. In reality, it is a behavioral pattern that results from mental illness coupled with physical dependence on a substance. For women, substance abuse treatment addresses both the physical addiction and the gender-specific mental, emotional and situational aspects of drug and alcohol abuse.

Alcohol and drug abuse has different effects in men and women. Substance abuse treatment must take these differences into account if it is to be comprehensive and successful. On the most basic level, drugs and alcohol debilitate a woman’s body at a significantly quicker pace than a man’s. There are several factors that contribute to this phenomenon. The higher percentage of body fat in the female body is significant because fat cells are the locale where the residue of foreign substances stockpiles. With regards to alcohol, the female body is ill-equipped to process excess amounts, due to the small amount of alcohol dehydrogenase (the enzyme that breaks down alcohol) produced by a female’s body in comparison to a male. There is also the issue of sheer body mass. As women tend to be smaller than men, the same amount of substances will generally have a greater effect on women, consequently causing greater damage.

More difficult to summarize, but much more important, are the psychological and emotional differences between addicted men and women. Substance abuse treatment, when effective, brings all of these subtle distinctions to light. Women who develop alcoholism and drug addiction are likely to be people who struggled mentally even before they began to drink or use. Chronic depression, severe anxiety, and bipolar disorder are some of the most common mental conditions female alcoholics and addicts bring to the table. Often these women also struggle with low self-esteem, distorted body image, and codependency. Though some of these mental issues can affect both men and women, substance abuse treatment for women can delve into those that apply mostly to the female gender – namely self esteem, body-related issues, and codependency and love addiction. Because these are fundamental insecurities that predate alcohol and drug use for most women, addressing them is crucial to building a strong foundation in recovery. If an individual attempts to get sober without working through and resolving her core issues, she is likely to find sobriety miserable or impossible.

Long-term drug and alcohol abuse is also different situationally for men and women. Substance abuse treatment programs designed for women understand that sexual and physical abuse is common for women whose lives are steeped in drugs and alcohol. Many women who suffer from alcoholism and drug addiction experienced abuse at a young age, which likely contributed to their desire to escape themselves via substances. Whether these traumatic events occurred in childhood or during the height of substance use, they can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a psychological condition which required cautious and intensive treatment. The combined burden of both substance addiction and PTSD is a great deal to tackle for women. Substance abuse treatment programs for women must be equipped and ready to handle dual-diagnosis situations such as these.

ALCOHOL AND DRUG TREATMENT FOR WOMEN

A well-designed rehabilitation program for women encompasses all of the aforementioned aspects of alcoholism and addiction and provides treatment for each of them. Safe Harbor Treatment Center, one of the nation’s premier dual-diagnosis treatment facilities for women, offers such a program. Safe Harbor’s curriculum treats alcoholism and addiction comprehensively, working through not only drug and alcohol problems, but also core psychological issues and any peripheral topics that are relevant for an individual client.

Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women and Safe Harbor’s Capella – a new, state-of-the-art facility specifically designed to help women with PTSD and trauma – are multifaceted treatment centers for women, utilizing a combination of structured therapeutic groups, individual therapy and counseling sessions, 12-step meetings, life skills development, and uplifting social activities to create a full and balanced treatment experience. Therapeutic groups cover topics like relapse prevention, body image, eating disorders and healthy relationships, as well as delving into more experiential therapeutic techniques like art therapy, hypnotherapy and psychodrama. Through these various avenues women who come to Safe Harbor jettison unhealthy old behaviors while simultaneously cultivating new ones.

Safe Harbor sets itself apart from other top-of-the-line treatment centers by its strong sense of community. Far from feeling like an institution, the residential location of Safe Harbor’s treatment center feels like a home, and the case managers and support staff like family. Many of the women who complete the 90-day treatment program choose to move into Safe Harbor’s sober living houses until they accomplish a year of sobriety, after which they often relocate permanently to the Orange County area. The result is a rich sisterhood of Safe Harbor women, always looking for an opportunity to reach out a hand to the newest member of the family.

Located in Orange County, California, Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women has the added benefit of the richest 12-step community in the world. Orange County, in particular the Newport-Costa Mesa area, holds more 12-step meetings of all varieties each week than any other neighborhood on the planet. Surrounded by this vibrant recovery community, and bathed in perpetual sunshine and ocean breezes, Safe Harbor is a haven where female addicts and alcoholics heal their wounds and rediscover themselves.

We are here to help. Call us today.

Anorexia Nervosa

This condition causes a person to severely restrict their eating, often due to an intense fear they will gain weight. Over time, they may start to appear extremely thin with brittle nails and hair as well as muscle wasting.

Binge Eating

People who suffer from a binge-eating disorder have episodes where they engage in uncontrolled eating in a short amount of time. A person will often feel embarrassed or ashamed of their eating and may often eat in secret. People who engage in binge eating are often overweight.

Bulimia Nervosa

This condition causes a person to engage in binge-eating behaviors that are then followed by vomiting episodes. People with bulimia nervosa aren’t always thin. They are often dehydrated and may have worn tooth enamel as well as a chronically inflamed sore throat.

It’s possible that a person can progress from one eating disorder, such as anorexia, to another, such as bulimia.4 A person may also not recognize their behavior as a true problem that can have deadly effects if left untreated.

What Are Misconceptions About Eating Disorders?

Many people don’t understand the true severity of eating disorders. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder.1 In addition to complications from eating disorders, those with the condition also commit suicide.

Eating Disorder Means Skinny

Another misconception about a person with an eating disorder is that the person will be extremely emaciated. While it may be true that some people with eating disorders are extremely underweight, this is not always the case. A person can be a normal weight or overweight and still suffer from an eating disorder. 1

It’s  a Female Issue

Some people also perceive that eating disorders only affect women. It is true that women experience eating disorders in higher numbers than men. However, men experience a greater proportion of binge-eating disorders than when compared to other eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, according to the National Institutes of Health. 5

Are Eating Disorders Addictions?

Eating Disorders

Long Term Goal of Unattainable Weight

Exerts Control Over Body

Receives Positive Social Feedback

Thinks Nothing is Wrong

Similarities

Starts in Adolescence

Interferes with Daily Life

Causes Preoccupation

Substance Use Disorders

Short Term Goal of Using

Lost Control Over Substances

Receives Negative Social Feedback

Desire to Stop Using

Women’s addiction treatment begins with understanding the importance of drug and alcohol treatment in a gender-specific environment. Gender-specific recovery programs are especially important when treating drug addiction and alcoholism in women.

UNDERSTANDING DRUG ADDICTION

Drug addiction is a complex illness characterized by intense and, at times, uncontrollable drug craving, along with compulsive drug seeking and use that persist even in the face of devastating consequences. While the path to drug addiction begins with the voluntary act of taking drugs, over time a person’s ability to choose not to do so becomes compromised, and seeking and consuming the drug becomes compulsive. This behavior results largely from the effects of prolonged drug exposure on brain functioning. Addiction is a brain disease that affects multiple brain circuits, including those involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and inhibitory control over behavior.

Because drug abuse and addiction have so many dimensions and disrupt so many aspects of an individual’s life, women’s addiction treatment is not simple. Effective women’s addiction treatment programs must help the individual stop using drugs, maintain a drug-free lifestyle, and achieve productive functioning in the family, at work, and in society. Because addiction is typically a chronic disease, people cannot simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured. Most patients require long-term women’s addiction treatment center or repeated episodes of care to achieve the ultimate goal of sustained abstinence and recovery of their lives.

WOMEN’S ADDICTION TREATMENT: GENDER-SPECIFIC ENVIRONMENTS

Research has shown that women exhibit more depression and suicidal tendencies when battling with drug addiction and alcoholism and also may suffer from co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). They also have a higher rate of exposure to domestic violence, whether in their childhood or current relationship. For many women, alcohol is the way to medicate to avoid these issues. For the female alcoholic to have a significant chance at recovery, she must first uncover the reasons she uses or drinks.

The rate of co-occurring drug addiction and other psychiatric disorders is relatively high for women. For example, data from a study on female crime victims showed that those suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) were 17 times more likely to have substance abuse problems than non-victims. For women a high correlation appears also to exist between eating disorders and drug or alcohol addiction (as many as 55 percent of bulimic patients are reported to have drug and alcohol use problems). Conversely, 15-40 percent of females with drug addiction or alcohol problems have been reported to have eating disorder syndromes, usually involving binge eating.

The 90-day women’s addiction treatment program at Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women provides a safe environment where a woman can address her drug addiction, alcoholism or her co-occurring mental disorders without the shame and stigma usually felt in a co-ed environment. Another advantage of gender-specific women’s addiction treatment programs is that they allow a woman a secure and nurturing environment where she can learn about herself, why she drinks, why she uses and why she avoids. At Safe Harbor’s women’s addiction treatment program, each woman is put on an individualized recovery path and is supported through the process of finding the core of her emotional and spiritual self.

Medication and behavioral therapy are also important elements of the overall therapeutic process in the women’s addiction treatment program at Safe Harbor. The process may need to begin with detoxification, followed by treatment and relapse prevention. Easing withdrawal symptoms can be important in the initiation of treatment; preventing relapse is necessary for maintaining its effects. Behavioral treatments help our women engage in the treatment process, modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug abuse, and increase healthy life skills.

WHY WOMEN’S ADDICTION TREATMENT?

The addiction faced by individuals who find themselves in such a predicament is twofold – its grip is both physiological and psychological.  With regular consumption of any foreign substance, the mind and body adjust their definitions of normality so that intoxication becomes the expected default state. If addicts attempt to suddenly discontinue using the substance to which their mind and body are addicted, they will experience frightening reactions from both of these systems.  The body will respond, depending on the substance in question, by producing feelings ranging from discomfort to severe pain.  With some substances, such as opiates, alcohol, and benzodiazepines, detoxification of the body is extremely dangerous if not done under medical supervision. In women’s addiction treatment, LA and elsewhere, medically regulated detoxification is provided as the first segment of treatment.

Mentally, a similar panic takes place upon rapid cessation of substance intake. Accustomed to a state of intoxication, the mind is unsure of how to read and interpret signals without the substance it has grown used to.  Dopamine and serotonin levels are also skewed.  These phenomena add up to a high likelihood of emotional imbalance and intense fear in the initial phase of detoxification.  Mental and emotional instability will persist until the mind reestablishes equilibrium, another reason that addicts are safest sobering up in addiction treatment.  LA and surrounding areas offer the finest treatment programs, which allow addicts a safe detoxification process as well as the strong rehabilitative curriculum they need in order to cultivate a healthy new beginning.

CHOOSING A WOMEN’S ADDICTION TREATMENT CENTER

Once the female alcoholic or addict has made the decision that she is ready to accept help, a second important decision must be made: What program should be chosen for addiction treatment?  LA and Orange County offer an unrivaled selection of top-of-the line treatment programs, and have the added appeal of year-round sunshine. Many of these California women’s addiction treatment facilities are located in beach communities, utilizing the naturally uplifting weather and the healing power of the ocean to set the tone for recovery.

The leader of the pack in Southern California women’s addiction treatment, Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women offers a deeply nurturing program of addiction treatment. Utilizing a multi-lateral treatment program of structured therapeutic groups, individual counseling, 12-step meetings, and life skills development, Safe Harbor affords women the opportunity to dive head-first into recovery, placing unlimited resources at their fingertips.

Call us today. We are here to help.

How Often Do Addiction and Eating Disorders Co-Occur?

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, an estimated 50 percent of people with an eating disorder abuse alcohol or illicit drugs.2 This is a much higher rate of substance abuse than the general population.

Researchers have found that when a person restricts their food, the reinforcement of substance abuse is heightened. A person may find greater pleasure in using substances such as cocaine or methamphetamine when they restrict their food.3 Researchers have also been able to re-create this effect in laboratory rats.

Substances that are most abused by those with eating disorders include:

  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Laxatives

Risk Factors

Doctors have identified risk factors for both conditions that can make a person more likely to experience an eating disorder and substance abuse problem. Risk factors include a family history of either condition and a history of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, or compulsive behavior. They have also identified that some changes in a person’s brain chemistry may influence the likelihood a person will experience a substance abuse disorder as well as an eating disorder.5 Examples of these chemicals include serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA.

Anorexia and Substance Abuse

Research regarding those with eating disorders and substance abuse has revealed that anorexia nervosa is a common disorder that starts before a person starts their substance abuse. This suggests that some people may abuse substances as a means to lose more weight or control their appetite.3 Doctors also know that people who have an eating disorder before a substance abuse problem typically have an earlier onset of an eating disorder when compared to someone who does not.

Differences Between Eating Disorders and Addiction That Impact Recovery

Addiction Recovery

Treating eating disorders and addiction represents unique challenges to a recovery professional. However, neither is impossible to treat. For example, the treatment for substance abuse disorder is to avoid the substance.

Eating Disorder Recovery

However, a person who suffers from an eating disorder cannot avoid food. A person who struggles with an eating disorder must learn how to engage in behaviors that may seem every day for many people – including sitting at a dinner table or eating in public.4 Also, it’s common for someone who struggles with an eating disorder to closely tie their self-worth with their body image. It is difficult for them to separate their sense of identity from their weight.

What Are the Most Effective Treatments for Co-Occurring Addiction and Eating Disorders?

A person can usually receive the most effective treatments for co-occurring addiction and eating disorders at a facility that treats both conditions at the same time.4 Research has shown if a person seeks treatment for one condition at a facility, then goes to another facility for their other condition, they often end up in a cycle of remission and relapse.

Understanding Relapse

What is perhaps most important is that a person and their friends and family understand that addiction and substance abuse treatments require a long-term process.

An estimated 25 percent of people who receive quality treatment will improve in both conditions and do well for the rest of their lives.

An estimated 50 percent will fall into a relapsing and remitting cycle while 25 percent will continue to struggle with their conditions.

Effective Therapies

Treatments for both substance abuse disorders and eating disorders may involve a combination of medication administration and psychological support.5 Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a popular and often effective approach for treating eating disorders. According to the National Institutes of Health, this is often via a three-pronged approach.

First, a person receives education on an eating disorder as well as how to recognize thoughts and behaviors that could be harmful to a person with an eating disorder. They may also participate in nutritional counseling as well a monitoring.1

The second phase is to further challenge a person’s maladaptive behavior and find ways to change their behavior. The third phase involves learning techniques to prevent relapse and continue healthy behaviors.

Components of Effective Therapies

Educate on Eating Disorders

Identify and Change Maladaptive Behavior

Preventing
Relapse

Finding Help

If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder or substance use disorder, seeking treatment at a facility that specializes in treating co-occurring disorders can be vital to long-term success. Many substance abuse treatment facilities will also screen for eating disorders as part of their admissions process. This can help identify a part of behavior that may be further contributing to addiction and impairing health.

Following detox with a treatment program dramatically improves your chances of successful long-term recovery.


Resources

  1. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml
  2. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/substance-abuse-and-eating-disorders
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4438277/
  4. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/real-healing/201511/when-eating-disorders-and-drug-addiction-collide
  5. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh26-2/151-160.htm