March is Women’s History Month, a month when women are especially celebrated for their strength, vigor and resilience. Coverage of women breaking records, closing the gender pay gap and opening small businesses are just a few of the top headlines inundating the media. However, the path many women travel to achieve these goals is often rocky. Dr. Lipi Roy shares some insight on the battles strong women face in light of addiction and how they find their road to recovery (How Women Experience Addiction Differently Than Men, Forbes, March 19, 2018).
Did you know that women can experience addiction differently from men? Until the 1990s, women were not even included in research on substance and opioid use. This thought – or lack thereof – sheds light on the historically male-centered outlook of medical research.
“Women experience addiction-related medical or social consequences faster than men, find it harder to quit and are more vulnerable to relapse,” Forbes reports.
Women are also more than likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed painkillers at higher doses than men and become dependent more quickly than men. Between 1999 and 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 48,000 women died of prescription-related overdoses. During those 11 years, prescription-related overdose deaths increased by over 400 percent among women, compared to 237 percent among men.
Today, a prescription from a trusted doctor is what often spurs opioid use. Dependency can be so strong due to chronic pain that eventually a higher dosage of narcotics is “needed.”
Take Joan Kimble, for example. Joan is a hard-working nurse, homeowner and mother of three boys. She also had extreme back pain and went to her doctor, who prescribed her with oxycodone. When her prescription ran out, she began self-medicating with heroin to treat her lingering pain. She eventually lost everything – including her oldest son.
Joan’s story falls in line with the Journal of Pain’s 2010 American Journal of Public Health study, which found that women are more likely to use opioids in an attempt to cope with emotional issues compared to men, who are more likely to use opioids as a result of legal and behavioral problems.
No matter the amount of success, everyone has their own challenges to overcome. Lady Gaga, who has a massive following and has been nominated for too many awards to count, recently revealed how for several years she coped with her pain and anxiety by using cocaine, marijuana and other drugs.
Do you know how to reach out to someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge? Mental Health First Aid teaches the skills to notice and support someone who may be experiencing a mental illness or addiction.
So many women are so dedicated to taking care of others that they sometimes forget to nurture themselves. When you know what to say and what to do for a loved one who might be living with a mental health or substance use challenge, it could mean the difference between life and death.
#BeTheDifference in the life of a friend or family member today. Find a Mental Health First Aid course near you.