The survey found that among the 102 previous female patients treated at Caron, the main legal reasons for initiating treatment were prescription drug and alcohol abuse. And 55 percent of the women who were addicted to illegal drugs happened to be using heroin.
These women’s relationship with prescription drugs started out innocently enough -- 70 percent stated they were initially given a legal prescription for a physical or emotional problem.
However, for a majority of women, mental health issues became a major factor in how they began to struggle with addiction. Most women stated that depression, anxiety and a “critical internal voice” helped push them into addiction. Their top stressors were family and romantic relationships as well as work.
Some of the more surprising survey results are related to the characteristics of women who sought treatment for addiction. The results show that 65 percent of women were ages 36 to 55, and 61 percent of the former patients had a household income of at least $100,000. More than half of these women also have children.
Despite these women suffering from addiction, they still felt the need to act like “superwomen.” In fact, half of the women still took care of their children, 40 percent volunteered for the PTA, 61 percent still had a job while addicted, and 74 percent still made sure they looked presentable.
Erin Goodhart, a clinical supervisor of the Primary Care Women's Unit at Caron Treatment Centers, said in an email that 50 percent of the women in the survey abused prescription painkillers, while 75 percent abused alcohol.
She said that many women start out taking medication as prescribed, but eventually they become dependent on it to manage conditions like anxiety, chronic pain and insomnia. Oftentimes people struggling with addiction also have issues with self-regulation and self-esteem.
“Women progress more quickly in their disease of addiction than men do before the need for treatment is recognized,” she said. “When a woman suffers from the disease of addiction there is a lot of shame associated with her chemical use.