Before the pandemic, women already faced significantly more barriers to treatment for addiction than their male peers. The increased stress caused by COVID-19 due to fears of uncertainty, financial insecurity, isolation, and staying at home with children took a disproportionate toll on women. As women tried to cope with this stress, the number of women struggling with substance use disorder (SUD) increased without addressing the pre-existing barriers to treatment. These are the women COVID is leaving behind.
Why Women Face More Barriers to Treatment for Addiction
There are more barriers to treatment for SUD for women than men. The first reason for this is the shame and stigma placed on women by society due to their roles as women, mothers, and nurturers. Culturally, many people view it as unacceptable for women to drink or use drugs. However, they accept the same behaviors in men simply because of the expectations placed on women.
Additionally, women face tangible barriers to treatment that differ from men, including:
- Pregnancy and parenting
- Disparity in finances, employment, and insurance coverage
- Co-occurring eating disorders
- Higher rate of co-occurring depression and mood disorders
- Significantly higher rates of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Triggers related to sexual abuse or assault
- Need for trauma-informed care
There was little to no help for women in addressing these barriers prior to the pandemic. When the number of women with addiction increased, the barriers remained the same, meaning more women were impacted by these barriers.
The Disproportionate Amount of Stress for Women Caused by COVID-19
The stress caused by COVID-19 affected everyone. Many people lost loved ones, there was much uncertainty, and social isolation was also a universal source of stress. However, women were more impacted by these factors and had additional factors that affected them disproportionately as well.
Women were tasked with taking on multiple roles of caregivers, educators, breadwinners, cooks, cleaning people, and more. Moms were the ones who kept everyone entertained, fed, and helped everyone else cope, even when they did not know how to cope themselves. Often, it was women who were trying to work, homeschool kids, and entertain younger children simultaneously, all from home.
The role many women took on during the pandemic put them at greater risk for anxiety and depression. Much of the physical and emotional burden of COVID-19 rested on the shoulders of women.
Why Women Coped With Substances During the Pandemic
With stress, nowhere to go, and no other way to cope, many women turned to alcohol or other substances during the COVID-19 pandemic. For women who were completely isolated, there was no one to stop them from drinking and no reason not to drink. They did not need to be anywhere, did not need to drive, and may not have had to be awake at a particular time. For some women, drinking became a pastime, with drink recipes shared online and alcohol ordered with groceries each week.
Most women who drank or used other substances used these substances to cope with the stress of a global pandemic. They drank to deal with the uncertainties, loss, financial hardships, and the burdens of around-the-clock childcare and education of their children on top of work and running a household without any help. This method of coping too often led to SUD.
The Women Who Feel Trapped With Addiction After COVID
Although the pandemic has become less volatile, and we are all far less isolated, plenty of women feel trapped with the addiction they developed during the isolation period of COVID-19. For these women, all of the barriers to treatment still exist, as well as some of the added difficulties of COVID-19, such as the still-changing masking and social distancing requirements in various cities and counties. Many of these women also struggle with anxiety or depression and may not know how to access treatment for SUD or co-occurring mental health disorders.
Helping Women Left Behind After the Pandemic
For these women who used substances to cope during COVID-19 and now have addictions, they need help from society by letting them know it is okay to seek treatment. They need help from family and friends to remove the barriers that keep them from getting the help they need.
Many programs will cover the costs of treatment for those who need financial assistance. Friends and family can help by offering child care for mothers who need support. Helping women find the right treatment for them where they feel safe and can get the gender-specific treatment they need can be life-changing. No one needs to be left behind.
There are women who are being left behind by COVID. They are women with addiction who used substances to cope with the disproportionate stress handed to them by the global pandemic. Facing more barriers to treatment than their male peers, these women need additional support from friends and family and help to find the right treatment to help them heal. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women is a detox and residential treatment center for women with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. We help remove the barriers to treatment for women by providing trauma-informed care and treatment for co-occurring eating disorders. Our Costa Mesa, California facility is located between the balmy beaches and soothing mountains and is a peaceful refuge for healing. What are your barriers to treatment, and how can we help remove them for you? Call us at (714) 581-3974 today.