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Women and Addiction

1 Your Role
I want to learn about treatment options for:

2 Basic Information
The Person is:
years old

graduated high school

3 Condition Information
Caron Treatment Centers accepts patients aged 13 years or older. For more information on services available to those 12 and under, please learn more about Caron's Student Assistance Program.

Women & Addiction

In the US, 5.7 million women[1] suffer from an alcohol use disorder. Additionally, 15.8 million women have used illicit drugs in the past year.[2] Contributing factors differ from those affecting men. A recent survey of Caron’s former female patients found anxiety (65%), depression (67%), and a critical internal voice (69%) contributed greatly to their struggle. 

Women & Substance Use[3]

  • Women use substances differently than men, such as using smaller amounts of certain drugs for less time before they become addicted.
  • Women can respond to substances differently. For example, they may have more drug cravings and may be more likely to relapse after treatment. This could be affected by a woman’s menstrual cycle.
  • Women may be more likely to go to the emergency room or die from overdose or other effects of certain substances.
  • Women who use certain substances may be more likely to have panic attacks, anxiety, or depression.

Women & Alcohol[4]

  • Excessive alcohol use accounted for an estimated average of 23,000 deaths and 633,000 years of potential life lost (YPLL) among women and girls in the United States each year during 2001–2005.
  • Binge drinking also is a risk factor for many health and social problems among women and girls, including unintended and alcohol-exposed pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and breast cancer.
  • Binge drinking is reported by one in eight U.S. adult women and one in five high school girls.

Women & Prescription Drugs[5]

  • About 18 women die every day of a prescription painkiller overdose in the US, with more than 6,600 deaths in 2010.
  • Every 3 minutes, a woman goes to the emergency room for prescription painkiller misuse or abuse.
  • Nearly 48,000 women died of prescription painkiller overdoses between 1999 and 2010.
  • Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased more than 400% since 1999, compared to 265% among men.
  • Women are more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed prescription painkillers, be given higher doses, and use them for longer time periods than men.

Women & Treatment

  • Women are less likely to seek treatment that men, citing fear of social stigma, involvement in violent relationships and lack of adequate childcare[6]
  • Women 18 + who met criteria for needing treatment, only 11.2% actually received it.[7]
  • Women in programs that offer services tailored to their unique needs have higher retention rates, show reductions in substance use and report fewer barriers to care.[8]

Read more about these issues 

[1] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Table 5.8A—Substance dependence or abuse in the past year among persons aged 18 or older, by demographic characteristics: Numbers in thousands, 2013 and 2014. Web.

[2] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; 2014. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4863. NSDUH Series H-48. Web.

[3] "Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use." National Institute on Drug Abuse. 01 Sept 2015. Web.

[4] "Vital Signs: Binge Drinking Among Women and High School Girls — United States, 2011." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 13 Jan. 2011. Web.

[5] "Vital Signs: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses - A Growing Epidemic, Especially Among Women." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 01 July 2013. Web.

[6] Andrews CM, Cao D, Marsh JC, Shin HC. The impact of comprehensive services in substance abuse treatment for women with a history of intimate partner violence. Violence Against Women. 2011;17(5):550–567. [PubMed]

[7] Results from the 2012 national survey on drug use and health: summary of national findings. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; 2013. NSDUH Series H-46, HHS Publication 13-4795.

[8] Grella CE. From generic to gender-responsive treatment: changes in social policies, treatment services, and outcomes of women in substance abuse treatment. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2008;40(suppl 5). [PubMed]