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Addicted Moms - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Addicted Moms

CBS 11 News

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

The number of women ages 30 to 44 who report abusing alcohol has doubled over the past decade, while prescription drug abuse has sky rocked 400%, according to a federal study. But most addicted women hide their secret well – often, with disastrous results. Here to tell us more is psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Why would young successful women begin down the long road of addiction?

No one who becomes addicted intends to end up addicted. But substance abuse among young mothers is becoming an ugly reality since the stress on this generation of women has never been greater. Most importantly, no one ever considers that a busy, engaged mom in the prime of life may actually have a serious addiction. Here’s why:

More Stress, Less Time: More women with young kids hold down full time jobs and they are the most sleep-deprived part of our society. A sleepy brain is a stressed brain. Addictions begin when we use something to bridge the gap or take the edge off of your daily stress.

Escape Hatch: Substance abuse gives you an escape. Most abused drugs and alcohol create intense feelings of euphoria and pleasure. Self-confidence soars, energy expands and the worries and challenges of a busy life are gone.

Depression and Anxiety Epidemics: Depression is ten times more prevalent than it was fifty years ago and it strikes a decade earlier than it did a generation ago. Women have twice the rates of depression as men and addictions give them a temporary reprieve from their misery.

Women Drinking in Groups: “Girls Night Out” has become a national, normalized ritual in our society. But a whole lot of drinking also goes on during these female-bonding events.

Long Standing Problem: Most substance abuse begins in adolescence or in college when there is rampant binge drinking and the young woman carries the problem forward into her social life as a young mother.

Is alcohol addiction more dangerous for a woman than for a man?

Alcohol More Harmful for Women: Women get drunker faster than men, become addicted quicker and develop health problems related to abuse such as liver cirrhosis, hypertension, anemia and malnutrition.

Violence Tied to Substance Abuse: The link between sexual assaults such as rape and alcohol is well established. Seventy five percent of rapes and seventy percent of domestic violence involves alcohol.

Pregnancy Always an Issue: One out of five pregnant women uses drugs, drinks or smokes with irreversible damage to her unborn child.

Drinking Correlated with Eating Disorders: Many women are obsessed with their weight and prefer to drink rather than eat a healthy diet. Since 40% of American women are on a diet at any given moment, many women substitute alcohol for regular meals and good nutrition, and they end up harming their bodies.

Alcohol Poisons the Woman: The effects of alcohol on a woman’s body linger months after she stops drinking. In fact, studies find that alcohol damages a woman’s brain structure and function in lasting and measurable ways. Although women drink less than men, death rates among alcoholic women are almost 100% higher than among their male counterparts.

Are there stages to addiction?

Absolutely there are and the addiction progresses through very predictable steps as the woman surrenders her life to the addiction.

Internal Shift: The woman begins to turn toward behavior that is relieving her stress. Getting high is fun and it changes her mood for the better in the beginning. She denies how dangerous her usage is as she begins to betray others and herself with repeated use.

Lifestyle Change: A behavioral dependency on the alcohol or drug now emerges. Her life is altered to accommodate the addiction even if she becomes reckless and self-destructive. She moves deeper into the sabotaging behavior as she builds her life around getting high.

Her Life Destructs: The addiction has now taken over. The woman relies on getting high and ignores or rationalizes the destructive aspects of her behavior. At this point, nothing matters to the addict but the acquisition of the substance. The obsession with the addiction causes a trance state. People don’t matter, commitments don’t count, and honesty isn’t even a part of the conversation.

Cannot Stop: She believes that she cannot stop. New brain imaging technology now shows that there are significant changes in the brain that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning and memory and behavioral control. These changes compromise the brain architecture and cause the compulsive slide into addiction.

What can we do if we are worried about a woman in our life?

Whenever you see any kind of irrational, highly self-destructive behavior that just doesn’t add up, there is usually some kind of addictive behavior behind it. Secrecy, deceit, and the systematic betrayal of the trust of others are all hallmarks of this disorder. Addictions often manifest very differently in women than in men with addicted women reporting more depression, anxiety and low self esteem.

Make a plan, enlist a team of loving friends and family and intervene directly and quickly. Happily, addiction treatment is highly effective and lasting so be encouraged that you are saving her life. She’ll thank you for it once she is sober and safe again.

Sources:

The National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University: Report on Substance Abuse and the American Woman, June 1996

Women Under the influence, by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University omen under the Influence

Alcoholism Hurts Women Neuropsychologically Almost the Same as it Hurts Men: Deficits Linger Months into Abstinence, APA, January 20, 2002

Addicted Moms: Everybody Knows Somebody, WorkingMother.com

The National Institute of Drug Abuse, Drugs, Brains, and Behavior - The Science of Addiction"


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