Why Do Young Women Abuse Drugs?

Substance abuse is a problem that affects women just as much as men. According to SAMHSA, 15.8 million women ages 18 and older have used illicit drugs in the past year. The same study found that 4.6 million women ages 18 and older have abused prescription drugs in the past year. Every three minutes, a woman is sent to the ER for prescription painkiller abuse.

For the first time, treatment centers are realizing that women have different motivations for using drugs and alcohol, and ultimately, different needs in recovery. That is why more treatment facilities are offering women’s only programs that address some of the key issues surrounding female addiction.

In this article, we are going to explore some of the reasons why women may abuse drugs and alcohol.

Mental Disorders

Mental disorders like anxiety or depression are more prevalent in women, and they are also a driving factor in substance abuse. Women may turn to drugs or alcohol to manage their anxiety or depression without getting proper help. The two conditions then feed off each other, and it’s almost impossible to stop unless intervention is given to both.


Women are more likely than men to have a history of sexual or physical abuse. Even if they don’t have abuse in their background, they are more likely to become the victim of sexual assault, particularly in college. These experiences can lead to PTSD, which can drive the use of drugs and alcohol. As a matter of fact, 55 to 99 percent of women in addiction treatment report a history of PTSD.

Early Puberty

Girls who develop earlier may be at an increased risk of using drugs because they want to feel older. Researchers from the University of Texas found in a 2013 study that students who had used cigarettes, marijuana, or alcohol in the past year had matured earlier than their peers. Experimenting with these drugs in the early teen years can lead to a more severe addiction later on.

Influential Relationships

Young males are more likely to get drugs from a stranger or acquaintance, whereas females are more likely to be offered substances from someone much closer to them, such as a boyfriend. If they feel a need to please their boyfriend or are in an abusive relationship, they may be led down the path of addiction.

It’s important to recognize the gender differences between men and women in addiction. If you are looking for a women’s only treatment program or would like to know more about one, call The River Source. We are proud to offer a women’s only treatment program in sunny Arizona.

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