Last week, the blogsphere was set on fire when The New York Post reported that Cat Marnell, a popular beauty writer for xoJane.com, quit her job after refusing her boss’ demands that she get sober. Marnell, who famously chronicled her drug use on the site and was profiled by New York Magazine earlier this year, was quoted by the Post as saying, “I’m always on drugs. Look, I couldn’t spend another summer meeting deadlines behind a computer at night when I could be on the rooftop of Le Bain looking for shooting stars and smoking angel dust with my friends and writing a book, which is what I’m doing next.”
Marnell’s fall from grace and refusal to get clean is a story we hear too often, in which a promising young woman squanders her talent and career due to an addiction. Substance abuse is a growing problem among women, with the National Institute on Drug Abuse reporting that adult females comprise one-third of all drug and alcohol addicts in the United States. They are more likely than men to abuse prescription drugs, as well as experience 50-100% more alcohol-related deaths by way of liver disease, circulatory disorders, alcohol-related accidents and suicide. Because the reasons for female addictions are often rooted in different psychological and emotional problems than men – as well as are frequently co-occurring with emotional and health disorders, like depression, eating disorders and low-self esteem – the type of treatment they must receive is unique. Unfortunately, many treatment centers do not recognize this or develop programs tailored to women. Consequently, women tend to have a higher level of failure in recovery programs.
Below are eight things to help you understand the complexities of female addiction and why it’s critical to encourage a loved one with a problem to get the proper counseling and help.
- Due to slower metabolisms that do not process drugs and alcohol as quickly as men, women experience more dramatic effects of substances and can get addicted easier.
- Women often seek help from physicians, rather than drug rehab experts, who often under-diagnose the problem as an emotional or mental problem – like nervousness or depression – and can exacerbate an addiction by providing mood-altering drugs.
- Women frequently cite the loss, failure or lack of solid relationships as the primary reasons for their substance abuse.
- Whereas men are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol in social settings, women are more likely to do so in private.
- Women tend to feel higher levels of guilt and shame that men regarding their addiction struggles and the toll it takes on personal relationships.
- Physical and sexual trauma that results in PTSD and, eventually, substance abuse, is more common with women than men.
- Women are less likely than men to have someone actively supporting them through recovery, as well as more likely to have a partner who is also a substance abuser.
- Female addicts are more likely than male addicts to be single parents and many do not enter treatment for fear of losing custody of their children.