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Does Drug & Alcohol Rehab for Women Work? What the Facts Reveal

Rehab for Women

It wasn’t until the 1980’s that researchers began to notice how underserved in addiction treatment women were. Up until that point, the industry of substance abuse treatment had focused primarily on how to treat men. As studies were done to better identify and understand the unique challenges and socioecultural circumstances that women with substance abuse issues faced, new treatment modalities were created to better accommodate the female demographic. In this blog, we will explore the effectiveness of drug and alcohol rehab programs specifically designed for women, shedding light on the facts surrounding their success rates and the factors contributing to positive outcomes.


The Gender-Specific Approach


When accessing treatment, women are far more likely than men to face obstacles. This, in turn, means women are less likely to seek treatment. When they do find treatment it is in mental health or hospital based settings and their outcomes are poor. The irony is that when treated in a specialized, gender-specific environment, women tend to have better treatment outcomes when compared to men. Gender-specific treatment was created to address the social, biological, economic, and cultural differences of women battling substance abuse. Females use drugs and alcohol differently than men. Their bodies react to these substances on a biological level differently than men. The situations around their drug use is generally different than men and their experience in active addiction is different than men. So it’s a no-brainer that their treatment approach should be different from men. 


What Makes Gender-Specific Treatment Effective?


Addressing Trauma


Research indicates that women experiencing substance use disorders often have a higher prevalence of trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse. In an addiction program for women, each treatment plan is tailored to address the individual person’s specific type of trauma. A safe environment is cultivated where the underlying circumstances around the trauma can be revealed and processed and healing can begin. Trauma-informed care is an important part of this environment. Gender-specific treatment programs prevent the potential for re-traumatization by being in the presence of men and provide a community of women who may share similar experiences and can be turned to for support and comfort. 


Family Dynamics


“Women have often experienced greater levels of stigmatization around substance use as a result of their traditional societal roles as gatekeepers, mothers, caregivers, and often the central organizing factor in their family units.” Female specific treatment programs understand this and adopt an approach that addresses these sociocultural expectations. Gender-specific treatment centers are also more equipped to treat pregnant women and new mothers.


Mental Health Integration


In 2019 over two thirds of women reporting a substance use disorder also reported a co-occurring mental health issue. Trauma, depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, self-harm, and eating disorders are amongst the most prevalent dual-diagnosis issues in women with the disease of addiction. Women’s treatment programs are clinically equipped to handle these specific mental health struggles and treat them alongside substance use disorder. Gender-specific dual-diagnosis treatment centers are better prepared to screen for these co-occurring issues on the front end so a holistic approach to treatment is available. 

The effectiveness of drug and alcohol rehab for women is a nuanced and evolving topic. Gender-specific programs offer tailored approaches that consider the unique challenges women face on their journey to recovery. As research continues to explore the intersection of gender and addiction, the rehabilitation landscape is likely to adapt and refine its strategies to provide more effective support for women seeking to overcome substance abuse. Ultimately, the success of rehab programs for women depends on a combination of individualized care, comprehensive support, and a commitment to addressing the multifaceted aspects of addiction.


If you or a loved one is looking for gender-specific treatment options, call Momentum Recovery today. Our program, The Cove was designed for young adult women struggling with addiction and mental health.