WOMEN: DRUG ABUSE ON THE RISE Today there is a subtle epidemic striking young American women: drug abuse. Drug use may begin as a seemingly recreational behavior, but the powerfully addictive substances that young people presently experiment with, have the potential to render a person addicted in an extremely short period of time. This epidemic is distinct from other illnesses, but is a disease every bit as deadly as cancer. A physical illness degrades a person’s body, but the mind is the primary source of illness for addicted women. Drug abuse, the excessive and damaging ingestion of substances, is a symptom of the disease of addiction. The mind is a key player in the way this disease destroys an individual, for it is the mind that tells an addicted person to continue using a drug even when it is wreaking physical havoc on the body. WOMEN: DRUG ABUSE AND ADDICTION Women use drugs initially for a variety of reasons, but those who make it a recurring behavior tend to be women who find mental escape in drugs. For troubled women, drug abuse is a way out. Whether the cause of mental unrest is depression, anxiety, past trauma, or any other condition, the high provided by drugs functions as a numbing agent which allows these women to distance themselves from painful thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, drugs never solve the problem – they only distance these women from it. Life may be more livable when they do not have to cope with constant internal struggle, but these issues to not evaporate. With time, they burrow deeper inside the psyche, making them more difficult to access and work through. Gradually, addicts develop a physical and mental tolerance to drugs. Physically, this means that the body becomes accustomed to the presence of a drug, redefining its normal state to include the drug. Therefore, the drug ceases to provide a “high,” and functions merely as a stabilizer. In order to get the same effect, the addict must use constantly increasing amounts of the drug. Mentally, a tolerance develops in the same manner, so that the addict does not achieve the same mental effect from the same dose. With most drugs, even increasing the dose will not provide an addict with the same effect they got from using it initially. The same principle that causes mental and physical tolerances to drugs to develop is also responsible for the phenomenon of withdrawal, another signature characteristic of drug addiction. Withdrawal is essentially mental and physical panic upon ceasing to ingest a drug that the mind and body have become accustomed to. Psychologically, withdrawal symptoms can be traumatic, and physically they can be dangerous and extremely painful. When an addict decides to get sober, withdrawal is the first barrier she must cross. Treatment facilities ensure that addicts have appropriate medical supervision during this period. WOMEN, DRUG ABUSE AND THE PSYCHE: Once substances no longer provide relief for addicted women, drug abuse leaves them to deal with their original mental issues as well as the added burden of addiction. Upon getting sober, the psychological problems that have been stuffed up for so long tend to come rushing out, which can be an incredibly overwhelming experience for a newly sober addict. In the case of traumatized women, drug abuse leaves much to be dealt with upon sobering up. Dual-diagnosis treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and drug addiction is necessary to ensure that memories of traumatic experiences that emerge are dealt with in a healthy manner. The sad fact is that drugs, often the self-prescribed medication of emotionally broken women, only make their suffering greater in the long run. However, addicts in recovery must understand that their drug use the only method of self-preservation they knew at the time. In recovery they must look forward and have no regrets, as their experiences led them to this point in their lives, the point at which they start anew. LOOKING FORWARD: RECOVERY The aim of successful treatment is to help people cultivate the emotional and mental stability and comfort that they attempted to create with drugs, thus enabling them to live happily and healthfully. This means reexamining many areas of life for women addicted to drugs. Drug abuse is often the most blatant problem, but it is seldom the only behavior that needs to be reformed. Chances are, there are other indulgent behaviors that provide a similar sense of escape for any addict. These are commonly things like risky sexual behavior, eating disorders, self-mutilation, compulsive gambling or shopping, and severe codependency. A successful drug addiction treatment program addresses these co-occurring addictions as well as the addiction to drugs. In order to become healthy, women must rid themselves of addictive thinking. It is not possible to do this while engaging in any addictive behavior. For women, drug abuse is often tied to issues of self esteem, body distortion, and physical and sexual abuse. Because these are vulnerable topics that relate to being or feeling intimidated or dominated by men, they are issues that can only be worked through in an all-female environment. Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women, located in Costa Mesa, California, is a 90- day drug rehabilitation program that helps women overcome not only their addictions to substances, but also co-occurring addictions and psychological conditions. Through a multidimensional treatment program comprised of structured therapeutic groups, individual counseling, 12-step work, life skills development, and uplifting social activities, Safe Harbor provides women with the opportunity to heal and grow. Safe Harbor Treatment Center sets itself apart from other programs of its kind by its incredibly tight-knit community. Safe Harbor’s residents, staff and alumni constitute a sisterhood of women in recovery from addiction, striving together for better lives. For all of these women, drug abuse is a memory that draws them together as they build happy and fulfilling lives. Any woman looking to leave drug addiction behind her and step into the future has a home waiting for her at Safe Harbor.