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Are some women more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs?


  • Women who are depressed

  • Women who are isolated from other family, friends, and people
  • Women who have experienced rape or sexual assault and/or physical assault as a child or adult
  • Women who feel bad about themselves

  • Women whose parents had problems with drugs and alcohol
  • Women who have a husband, boyfriend or partner who abuses drugs and/or alcohol

  • Women who feel disconnected from others or have suffered great losses (like death of a family member, loss of a job, break-up of a relationship or marriage, loss of their health, loss of their house)
  • Women who tried or experimented with drugs or alcohol when they were young

Are women different than men in their use of substances?


  • Women are more likely to use legal drugs, such as alcohol or prescription drugs.
  • Women are more likely to get their alcohol and drugs from friends, boyfriends, family, or doctors than from dealers.
  • Women are more likely to use many substances, rather than just one, like alcohol.
  • Women use in isolation, by themselves, at home more than men.
  • Women often begin to drink or use alcohol and drugs after a traumatic event, like rape, battering, accident, loss of their house in a fire or hurricane.
  • Women are more likely to be in a relationship with a partner who uses drugs and alcohol too.
  • Because women have the primary responsibility for the children and the household, their addiction can cause more family disruption.
  • Women are more likely to be discouraged about getting treatment by family members.
  • Women have more problems with depression, anxiety, and changing moods.
  • Women have higher levels of shame and guilt about their addiction.
  • Women have more problems with feeling good about their bodies.
  • Women have lower expectations for what is possible for them in life.

How many women use alcohol and drugs?

  • At least 4.5 million women are alcohol abusers or alcoholics.
  • 3.1 million regularly use illicit drugs (like marijuana, cocaine, street drugs).
  • 3.5 million misuse prescription drugs. (Reid 1996)
  • 4% of pregnant women age 15 to 44 reported illicit drug use during the past month, 4.5% engaged in binge drinking (5 or more drinks on same occasion in 1 day), and 18% smoked cigarettes.
  • (Based on data from SAMHSA’s 2002-04 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health)

What are the signs that you might have a problem with alcohol or drugs?

  • You use more of the drug/alcohol than you said you would.
  • You have tried to cut down or stop drinking or using and have not been able to.
  • You spend a lot of time getting your drinks/drugs, using them, and recovering from them.
  • You begin to give up certain social or work or family activities because of your use.
  • Friends and family say something to you about your use.
  • You continue to use your alcohol or drugs despite bad consequences, like
    • Having a car accident while using
    • You need more of it to get high
    • Using while you are pregnant
    • Breaking the law to get money to buy drugs/alcohol
    • Using when it makes you late to work or school
    • Getting fired from work because of your use
    • Having unprotected sex when you use
    • Using while taking care of your children
    • Lying to family members to hide your use
    • Developing health problems related to use