The Burden of Living: What Are the Top 7 Causes of Drug Abuse in Women?


Men and women alike are at risk for becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. Studies are divided over which gender is more at risk. Cravings and relapses are also experienced equally by both men and women.

However, women have certain vulnerabilities that could cause them to turn to drugs that may not have such a frequent occurrence in men. Depending on where you live, there may be a help, though. For instance, there is a women’s treatment program Orange County that focuses on helping women treat their addiction and live a healthier life in recovery.

Why Do Women Abuse Drugs?

People abuse drugs for all sorts of reasons. For some, marijuana use as a teen serves as a “gateway” for stronger, more illicit drugs. For others, they grew up with alcoholic parents and got caught in the same cycle of abuse. The reasons may vary, but there are some events in a woman’s life that can lead to drug addiction later.

  1. Mental Illness – Mental illness is a very serious topic that is finally breaking out of secrecy and into the mainstream. However, it is still often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. An undiagnosed mental illness can cause a woman to turn to illegal drugs.
  2. Sexual Abuse – While it is true that men can and are sexually abused, women are highly more likely to be abused. Some estimates say that 1 in 4 women have been sexually abused at some point in their life. Drugs are often used to cope with the trauma of the abuse.
  3. Physical Pain – Ask any woman and she will tell you that doctors routinely ignore or brush off any physical pain she’s experiencing. Many who experience physical pain will tell you that doctors treat them like drug addicts when it’s time to refill their prescriptions. Some women may choose to buy drugs on the street over the humiliation of speaking to a dismissive doctor.
  4. Low Self-Esteem – Growing up, women are often told to “loosen up” and not be so uptight. Drugs, especially alcohol, are known to lower inhibitions and turn a woman who is usually shy and reserved into the life of the party. However, the party ends and the woman is left feeling worse than before, resulting in an ongoing cycle of abuse.
  5. Peer Pressure- Peer pressure is usually thought to involve teenagers. However, adults can be equally influenced by the pressure from other adults. Many women start using drugs because their significant other encourages them to create a connection with a partner.
  6. Too Much Stress – Life is stressful for everyone. However, society puts specific pressures on women that men do not face. Women are expected to be homemakers and caretakers to everyone. This is especially true in the current contradiction of a society where women are asked the question, “can women have it all?” and the answer can’t be no.
  7. Lack of Parental Figures – The debate of nature vs. nurture is over. Our childhoods do affect many aspects of our adult life. If a woman has casual parental figures who aren’t particularly interested in her life, she is more likely to seek comfort and acceptance elsewhere. Some women choose drugs as that outlet to fill that missing space.

How to Seek Help

As the saying goes, admitting that you have a problem is half the battle. If you or someone you love is showing symptoms of drug abuse, there are professionals waiting and willing to help. Some of the symptoms to look for are unexplained changes in behavior, sudden financial difficulties, and isolation. Many treatment centers are even run by former addicts themselves.