International Women’s Day: Women & Addiction
This week we celebrate International Women's Day, and while the occasion is an opportunity to celebrate female achievements, it also highlights the many inequalities women still face. Our Deputy Clinical Director of Treatment Services, Dr Shalini Arunogiri, writes about the barriers women encounter when it comes to addiction and treatment, and how a Turning Point program is helping women find their voice.
In Australia, women account for less than a third of treatment episodes in public alcohol and other drug treatment services. Yet, we know that the gap between the men and women is narrowing. Middle-aged to older women are the only population group with rising rates of alcohol use. Rates of treatment-seeking for methamphetamine use have also tripled in the past decade (compared to a doubling in rates for men).
Women are clearly more vulnerable to a range of addiction-related social risk factors compared to men. Higher rates of childhood trauma are observed in females compared to males, including childhood sexual abuse; in adulthood, women rather than men experience the vast majority of intimate partner violence. Experiences of pregnancy and parenting expose women to biological, psychological and social risk factors, including substantial grief, loss, guilt and shame through interactions with the child protection system.
Stigma is a major barrier for women seeking help for addiction. We see higher rates of engagement for women on telephone or online counselling, where anonymity can be preserved and there is less risk of judgement.
For women who seek help, we need treatment services to be adaptive, responsive and non-judgemental. At Turning Point, we were recently supported by the Victorian Women’s Trust to deliver the Women’s Voice project - a study that examined what women want from treatment services. We were particularly interested in speaking to women who were at risk of homelessness, as we know this is a group that struggles to get the help they need. The project was a fantastic opportunity to hear what works for women, and we look forward to implementing their feedback into the services we deliver.
Other programs that we continue to deliver to support women living with addiction include:
- The COPE program: a trauma-focused integrated psychological treatment program for women with PTSD and co-occurring addiction
- The Ready2Change program, which offers flexible telephone-based counselling, with after-hours appointments for individuals who work or have parenting commitments
- The AOD Pathways program, helping individuals and families to navigate the treatment system
- Only by raising awareness of these issues can we begin to bridge the inequality gap. Turning Point is proud of the work we are doing, and will continue to do, to improve outcomes for women living with addiction.
Only by raising awareness of these issues can we begin to bridge the inequality gap. Turning Point is proud of the work we are doing, and will continue to do, to improve outcomes for women living with addiction.
- Download The Women's Voice Project - the Barriers & Challenges Infographic [14.6KB DOCX]