Rehab Centers for Women: Gender-Specific Addiction Treatment

Last Updated: July 2, 2021

Authored by Roger Weiss, MD

Women struggling with substance abuse face a number of unique issues based on sex (biological) and gender (cultural). Differences in biology and the cultural roles of men and women influence a person’s battle with drug or alcohol abuse. Recovery centers dedicated to women have therapists and medical personnel who are trained to deal with female issues such as menstruation, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. In addition, they address some of the reasons for abusing drugs that are unique to women, such as weight control, self-esteem, body image issues, as well as the fear and stigma attached to addiction and mental health conditions.
Women-only drug abuse treatment addresses the biological, social, and environmental factors that influence the reason for using illicit substances. They also consider the motivations for seeking treatment, the choice of recovery center, and the most effective treatment. Finally, the repercussions of not obtaining treatment in a female are also taken into account.
Women with a substance use disorder have unique needs in terms of recovery. A number of factors affect a female’s recovery from substance abuse, such as financial independence and the availability of childcare during the process. Read on to find out how gender-specific drug rehabilitation can help you or a woman in your family or friend circle.

Rehab for Women: Taking the First Step Towards a Healthy Lifestyle

Women on Group TherapyAn estimated 16 million adult American women use illicit drugs. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are some stark gender differences between men and women across various age groups in terms of frequency of use and the primary substance of abuse. For instance, compared to men, women can become addicted after abusing a smaller amount of the drug for a shorter period of time. The response of the female body to drugs is also different. Sex hormones can increase a woman’s sensitivity to certain drugs. Females have stronger drug cravings and are more likely to relapse after rehabilitation due to the influence of the menstrual cycle.

The heart, blood vessels, and brain in the female body experience more effects than the male body. Drug overdose from certain illicit substances is more dangerous in females. Domestic violence and other social issues put women at greater risk of substance abuse. Women are prone to mental health disorders due to divorce, child custody, or death of a partner, all of which can trigger alcoholism or drug abuse. Women are also more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and panic attacks when using addictive substances. Gender-specific rehabilitation facilities have trained professionals to address all these issues.

Women’s Treatment Centers: Who Can Benefit?

There is no doubt that the rate of addiction is higher in men than women. Yet, an increasing number of women are suffering from substance use disorders and the gap between the sexes is gradually closing. Millions of adult American females use street drugs, misuse prescription medications, or require treatment for excessive alcohol use.
Should a woman seek treatment at a women-only drug rehab? What do rehab centers for women offer that can help with substance use disorders? The truth is that gender plays a significant role in determining whether addiction treatment will be successful.
Women-only drug rehab is suitable for females who:

  • Have had previous troubled relationships with men (for example, sexual assault, domestic abuse)
  • Feel more relaxed and comfortable sharing with women
  • Enjoy the camaraderie of peers with similar life experiences and outlooks
  • Find a gender-specific addiction treatment program more safe and welcoming
  • Wish to keep custody of their children during addiction recovery
  • Want to focus on related topics, such as parenting, self-esteem, and body image
  • Have coexisting mental health issues (dual diagnosis rehab for women)
  • Have supportive partners who are willing to participate in couples’ therapy
  • Want to avoid relapse by addressing unique gender issues not covered by traditional methods

Women only treatment centers offer individually tailored addiction recovery programs that meet a woman’s specific physical and emotional needs as well as her place in family and society.

Alcohol and Drug Rehab for Women: Addiction Treatments That Work

Woman struggling with alcoholismThe treatment approach for females with substance use disorders is different due to sex and gender differences. With some drugs, women progress more rapidly than men from first use to full-blown addiction. In addition, females experience more severe withdrawal symptoms and have a different response to treatments. For example, nicotine replacement patches or gum are not as effective in females as they are in males.
Many women are afraid or embarrassed to seek treatment for substance abuse due to the social stigma or fear of legal repercussions. It is not uncommon for women to avoid addiction treatment due to lack of availability of childcare or help with home and family responsibilities.
Drug rehab programs for women address their unique needs such as providing parenting classes or childcare. The staff at these facilities is trained and sensitive to a female addict’s issues. They provide physical, emotional, and social support. Childcare and family involvement, as well as vocational assistance, are included in most programs. SAMHSA has a number of gender-specific resources for women, children, and families.
Some of the treatment methods at rehabilitation centers for females include faith-based programs, non-spiritual programs, and holistic programs. A holistic rehabilitation center, for example, may be situated at a scenic location and offer organic meals, physical activities such as hiking and swimming, massage therapy, alternative treatments such as acupuncture, and music, art and other experiential therapies. Faith-based rehabilitation programs for women offer a spiritual perspective to addiction recovery. Certain 12-step programs, such as Celebrate Recovery, are both gender- and addiction-specific and can benefit females with a dependence on drugs, alcohol, sex, compulsive behaviors, and eating disorders.

Recovering from Substance Abuse: What Happens at Drug and Alcohol Rehab for Women?

There are several challenges to providing addiction treatment to drug-abusing women. Women-only recovery centers are designed to combat these difficulties and treat a number of addictions, including alcohol, marijuana, street drugs, and eating disorders. These facilities offer both short- and long-term treatment programs ranging from 28- or 30-day rehabs to 60- or 90-day programs.
Inpatient women-only rehabs allow the client to stay in a 24-hour drug-free environment and focus on the treatments and recovery. This reduces the chance of relapse. The intensive therapy at such facilities provides all the tools a woman needs to beat addiction and get back on track to a healthy lifestyle. Outpatient rehabs for women allow a woman to continue devoting time to her home and family and to maintain a daily routine. The risk of relapse is higher as the client continues to be in contact with potential stressors and triggers and have access to alcohol or drugs.
Therapists and doctors offer confidential treatment at women-only drug rehabs. Except in emergencies, the patient’s information cannot be released without a signed consent. The following steps occur during addiction treatment at gender-specific recovery centers:
Intake: This consists of entry into the inpatient facility or the initial session at an outpatient center.
Detoxification: This is a gradual removal of drugs from the system under medical supervision with monitoring of withdrawal symptoms.
Rehabilitation: During this period of active treatment, women receive individual therapy as well as group sessions with others of the same sex who are facing similar issues.
12-Step Program/Continued Outpatient Therapy: This is a relapse prevention measure in which a woman continues receiving support to avoid going back to drug or alcohol use.

Rehab for Pregnant Women: Keeping Mother and Baby Safe

Drug rehab for pregnant women addresses some serious health risks in a woman who is expecting, including an increased risk of miscarriage. Women who use tobacco, marijuana, prescription pain pills, or street drugs while pregnant are at a two to three times higher risk of stillbirth. Substance abuse leads to health problems in the mother, for example, hypertension, seizures, and migraines, which can affect the baby. If a woman regularly uses illicit substances during her pregnancy, her baby may suffer from withdrawal symptoms as part of neonatal abstinence syndrome after birth. Some of the effects of substance abuse by a pregnant female include:

  • Birth defects
  • Developmental delay
  • Low birth weight
  • Microcephaly (small head size)
  • Premature birth
  • Stillbirth
  • Sudden infant death syndrome

Certain medications help reduce the effects of opioid abuse by pregnant women. With the use of these medications, although the baby still suffers from some withdrawal symptoms, the outcome is considerably improved. Therefore, it is important to begin addiction treatment during the pregnancy.
Operation PAR (parental awareness and responsibility) is an alcohol and drug treatment agency that offers comprehensive services for pregnant drug abusers, including maternal health, detoxification, counseling, and social support.

Rehab for Women with Children

New mothers who use alcohol or illicit drugs put the health of their baby at risk. Certain substances, such as nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, and some medications, are secreted into the breast milk. Unfortunately, not much is known about the effects of drug exposure through breastfeeding. Scientists do know that tobacco use during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth, birth defects, miscarriage, and sudden infant death syndrome. Drugs have a damaging effect on the developing brain’s ability to learn. Drug-exposed babies and children are, therefore, at considerable risk of mental disability.
Mother and child addiction treatment programs offer a safe and caring place for substance abuse recovery. These facilities allow women to continue to live with their children. They offer gender-specific services that are customized to each woman’s needs. Amity, Inc. of Tucson, Arizona, for example, offers a NIDA-funded residential project with proven success in helping court-enrolled drug-abusing females and their children.

Finding Women’s Rehabilitation Centers

A number of factors influence the choice of a women-only addiction recovery center. The cost of treatment is an important consideration and depends on the length of the program, inpatient versus outpatient, amenities and treatments offered, and the availability of federal funding. If a woman has a family to care for, a women’s drug rehab near her home makes more sense. However, if a woman is facing problems in the current location, a move away for treatment at a women’s recovery center can offer the fresh start and focus she needs.
There are luxury or executive women’s rehabilitation centers that offer a range of amenities for both comfort and practicality. In addition to highly-rated addiction recovery programs, these centers offer things, such as Internet access, allowing a businesswoman, for example, to continue working. Some behavior addiction and drug rehabilitation centers for women offer top-class amenities, such as gym, massage therapy, customized meals, and fine linen, ensuring that addiction treatment is obtained in the best of comfort.
Are there any free women’s rehab centers? How to find a women’s rehab near me? A good place to start is the SAMHSA Treatment Services Locator or State-Wise Directory. State-funded rehabilitation programs and Christian-based treatments offered by the Salvation Army are other options for individuals for whom the cost of alcohol or drug addiction treatment is too much.
If you or someone you love could benefit from women-only drug rehab, call our free helpline (888)-459-5511 for more information on treatment for drug addiction or alcoholism. Advisors are available to answer your questions, give you more information on addiction treatment for women, and direct you towards an alcohol and drug-free lifestyle. Calls are always confidential and secure.

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Published on: May 3rd, 2018

Updated on: July 2nd, 2021

About Author

Roger Weiss, MD

Dr. Roger Weiss is a practicing mental health specialist at the hospital. Dr. Weiss combines his clinical practice and medical writing career since 2009. Apart from these activities, Dr. Weiss also delivers lectures for youth, former addicts, and everyone interested in topics such as substance abuse and treatment.