ADDICTION: THE GREAT EQUALIZER Drug addiction is a chronic disease that, if untreated, destroys the lives of those it affects. The disease of addiction pays no mind to gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or any other outside identifier – it affects people from every walk of life. Despite the fact that these identifying factors do not decide who becomes an addict, they can subtly influence the way that addiction affects a person. In the case of gender, the differences are pronounced. Drug and alcohol addiction has a detrimental effect on both men and women, but the specifics are distinct, making drug rehab for women a separate endeavor than drug rehab for men. THE FEMALE ADDICT Women who have a long history of drug abuse generally have not led easy lives. Studies indicate that 70 percent of such women have suffered physical or sexual abuse, some of which may have led indirectly to the initial use of drugs, and other of which may have resulted from the unhealthy lifestyle that tends to come with drug addiction. Low self-esteem and depression, which are also prominent in women who abuse drugs, are similar in that they manifest as both causal agents and consequences of drug abuse. Women also report more often than men that one or both parents suffered from drug addiction or alcoholism. The psychological impact of living as a female drug addict is extreme, and is something that female addicts have the opportunity to work through in drug rehab for women. Physically, the female body is at a disadvantage when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Research shows that women become addicted to certain drugs, such as crack cocaine, much more quickly than men. On a basic level, women tend to be smaller than men, meaning that the same amount of drugs or alcohol will cause more destruction in the female body than it will in the male body. Furthermore, the female body is comprised of a significantly larger percentage of fat cells, which store substances for long periods of time, increasing the damage sustained by the body. Physical consequences of long-term drug use in women commonly include poor nutrition and low weight, and often span to serious medical conditions like high blood pressure and heart rate, and infectious diseases like hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS. DRUG REHAB FOR WOMEN Too often, drug-addicted women do not receive the help they desperately need, in part because the prospect of entering drug rehab for women can be intimidating. Women often feel that they have responsibilities they would be neglecting by going into treatment – they feel bound to the home by their role as a wife or mother. They may also fear rejection by spouses or boyfriends who continue to use drugs, oftentimes the very people who introduced them to their lifestyle of drug abuse. As with all addicts, coming out into the open as a person who needs help feels vulnerable, and poses the risk of judgment by friends, family, coworkers and community members. Though the disease of addiction is grave, and it is difficult to admit to needing help, women who have lost control over their lives due to drugs and alcohol have the chance to start over by entering drug rehab for women. Safe Harbor Treatment Center, located in Costa Mesa, California, utilizes a multilateral approach to help drug-addicted women get their lives back. Through a combination of structured therapeutic groups, individual counseling, 12-step meetings, and opportunities to cultivate healthy life skills, Safe Harbor’s treatment program allows women to heal and reinvent themselves. GENDER-SPECIFIC TREATMENT: WHY IT WORKS BEST Until recently, it was presumed that drug rehab for women was essentially the same process as drug rehab for men. The body of individuals seeking drug treatment tends to be 60 percent male and 40 percent female, which makes it tempting to generalize programming to suit both sexes, defaulting to the male perspective. Refusing to acknowledge aspects of addiction that are exclusive to women makes women feel that certain emotions and ideas that are not openly discussed are cause for shame. By neglecting the opportunity to talk about the female experience of drug addiction and alcoholism, treatment programs give women the impression that issues like abuse, eating disorders, and sex and love addiction are separate problems. This is not the case. All unhealthy behavioral patterns are linked to the disease of addiction, a disease which causes unhealthy modes of thinking and action. Safe Harbor Treatment Center aims to fully embrace its role as a drug rehab for women and women only. Safe Harbor’s treatment program addresses not only substance abuse, however the multitude of ways that addictive thinking can sabotage a woman’s life. In most cases, addictive thinking shows itself early in life, long before a woman ingests her first drink or drug. Group and individual therapy sessions help women to identify early patterns of unhealthy thinking and behavior, helping them to understand that the disease of addiction needs to be treated from the roots up. It is only by acknowledging and working through core issues that thought patterns can be reformed, and it is only by reforming thought patterns that a woman can hope to eliminate drugs from her life forever. Successful drug rehab for women does not stop abruptly after the completion of a 30 or 90 day program. A continuing relationship with mentors and peers that a woman grows close to in treatment will help her stay sober as she begins to transition back into the real world. The majority of women who complete Safe Harbor’s 90-day program of drug rehab for women choose to move into one of Safe Harbor’s sober living homes until they accomplish a year of sobriety. The sober living program allows women to move back toward a normal lifestyle, taking on employment, schooling, and other responsibilities, while maintaining a familiar support network. As life changes drastically it is more important than ever to have these constant elements of strength in recovery. A NEW LIFE AWAITS… When a woman decides she has had enough of the degradation drugs and alcohol have caused, she can find help, hope and companionship in a women’s drug rehabilitation program. At Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women, a sisterhood of women who strive to overcome the disease of addiction together. Any female addict who wishes to better her life will find that she has a place in the family.