Would it surprise you to know that studies suggest that women are more likely than men to be prescribed an abusable prescription drug, particularly narcotics and antianxiety drugs—in some cases, 55 percent more likely?
In addition, it is reported ("Women and Prescription and Illegal Drugs," MyAddiction.com, 2011) that women who use sedatives, antianxiety drugs, or hypnotics are almost twice as likely as men to become addicted to these drugs.
Women, in addition to being prescribed more abusable prescription drugs, face additional vulnerability when they are young.
A three-year study on women and young girls (ages 8–22) from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University revealed that girls and young women use substances for reasons different than boys and young men. The study also found that the signals and situations of higher risk are different and that girls and young women are more vulnerable to abuse and addiction: they get hooked faster and suffer the consequences sooner than boys and young men. ("The Formative Years: Pathways to Substance Abuse Among Girls and Young Women Ages 8-22" (PDF), National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, February 2003)
Men Still Lead Percentages, But...
It is true -- men are more likely than women to become addicts. In 2008, the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 11.5 percent of males ages 12 and older had a substance abuse or dependence problem, compared with 6.4 percent of females. ("Addiction In Women," Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School, 2009)
Harvard reports, "But in other respects, women face tougher challenges. They tend to progress more quickly from using an addictive substance to dependence (a phenomenon known as telescoping). They also develop medical or social consequences of addiction faster than men, often find it harder to quit using addictive substances, and are more susceptible to relapse. These gender differences can affect treatment."
What Must Be Understood
Joseph Califano, founder and chairman of CASA, reports the three-year CASA study found the following:
- Girls used cigarettes, drugs or alcohol to reduce stress or alleviate depression
- Girls were more likely to abuse substances if they reach puberty early, had eating disorders or were abused
- Girls were more likely to pick up these habits when they moved to a new community or a new school or to college
("Young Women More Susceptible to Addiction: Study," CBC News, February 7 2003)
Nora D. Volkow, M.D., the Director of National Institute on Drug Abuse says that women may be more vulnerable than men to particular consequences of drug abuse, including addiction. Volkow says, "This greater vulnerability may stem from gender-specific differences in motivations for drug use, differing sensitivities to drug effects, and a host of other biological and environmental factors. And while more research is needed, animal models and clinical studies alike suggest that females may be more vulnerable than males to the rewarding effects of drugs, which could increase their risk for dependence." (Sarah Wilde, "Are Females More Susceptible to Addiction?" www.associatedcontent.com, May 19 2010)
Women face unique challenges with abusable drugs. Today, women are encouraged to medicate symptoms of pain, fatigue and even moodiness, often with opiate-based drugs. Women who take prescription medications as a way to cope with physical and mental issues can fall into the trap of “accidental” addiction.