Women and Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine PowderWomen face issues with cocaine abuse and addiction. Some use the drug by itself while others combine it with alcohol, marijuana or other drugs. Many women are taking the first, brave step forward and asking for help. They are regaining control over their lives and their health.

Is Cocaine a Problem for Women?

Illicit substance use is a growing problem for women. Men are typically more likely to use illicit drugs than women, as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services[1]reports, “In 2007–2009, 11.4 percent of adult women aged 18 years and older reported using an illicit drug within the past year, compared to 17.0 percent of adult men.” However this gap is smaller when it comes to stimulants like cocaine. Psychiatric Clinics of North America[2] reports, “Rates of stimulant use are similar among men and women.” Women use cocaine. Stimulant abuse and addiction is a problem for all genders. It requires gender-specific and culturally-competent treatment. The Canyon offers this compassionate, personalized care.

Why Do Women Use Cocaine?

There are many reasons individuals use drugs. These vary by gender, age, personal history, environment and more.  Some women use cocaine for extra energy. Others use the drug to feel more comfortable in social situations. Some use it to stay awake and accomplish more at work or at home. Still others use for an escape from emotional pain or mental health symptoms. No matter the reason, cocaine use is a problem. It quickly takes over. Any seemingly positive effects disappear. Women begin to experience health problem, financial concerns, and developing or worsening mental health issues. If cocaine is creating problem in your life or the life of a woman you love, show your support. Connect her to treatment resources. Call The Canyon to learn more about options for intervention, treatment and family therapy.

How Does Cocaine Affect Women?

Women respond differently to stimulant drugs. Abuse may be a larger and faster-developing problem for women. One reason for this is the role hormones play in how cocaine affects mind and body. They influence how women experience drug use and addiction. As the Department of Health and Human Services explains, “The reinforcing effects of stimulants may be strongly influenced by women’s hormonal milieu. Basic and clinical studies show that estrogen increases, and progesterone decreases, the reinforcing effects of stimulants for women. In response to cocaine administration, women have been found to report increased subjective feelings of high and increased heart rate during the follicular phase, when levels of estrogen are high and progesterone levels are low.” Addiction has biological roots. These roots may include risk factors such as hormone levels.

Biology continues to play a role women’s lives after cocaine abuse ends and recovery begins. Harvard Health Publications[3] explains, “Women more quickly develop dependence on stimulants, and are more prone to relapse after quitting the habit…Hormonal fluctuations may increase cocaine cravings during certain times of the menstrual cycle. Preliminary evidence also suggests that women may experience more intense craving than men do when exposed to cues that remind them of cocaine.” Women need extra support to prevent relapse. This may involve specific relapse-prevention skills training. It may involve scheduling more aftercare sessions with a therapist. Biology and hormone levels aren’t the only factors influencing cocaine use in women. Personal history, family and more impact how a woman experiences addiction, the treatment barriers she faces and the personal strengths she can draw on. The Canyon makes sure every woman receives the individualized care she deserves at the intensity level she needs.

How Can Women Find Health After Addiction?

Treatment must be tailored to a woman’s unique addiction experience. The Department of Health and Human Services shares, “Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be as effective in treating stimulant use disorders among women as among men. Studies using naltrexone to reduce cocaine use,and bupropion to decrease methamphetamine use, indicate that these pharmacotherapies may be more effective for men than for women.” This is just one example of how differences in men and women affect how addiction should and shouldn’t be treated. Biology is just one of many factors contributing to addiction development. It is just one of many factors that needs to be identified and addressed in treatment.

Cocaine abuse is a real and present problem for men and women. No one is alone in their struggle for sobriety and recovery. Professional and peer support is always available through evidence-based treatment programs like those at The Canyon. Addiction is a universal disease. This does not mean it is an identical experience. Everyone has their own addiction story. Everyone has their own treatment path. Women face unique personal, environmental and biological recovery challenges. The Canyon offers personalized treatment for cocaine addiction that creates a comprehensive base for long-term health.


[1] https://mchb.hrsa.gov/whusa11/hstat/hshb/pages/205idu.html. “Illicit Drug Use.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2011. Web. 13 Feb 2017.

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3124962/. “Substance Abuse in Women.” Psychiatric Clinics of North America. 28 Jul 2011. Web. 13 Feb 2017.

[3] http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/addiction-in-women. “Addiction in Women.” Harvard Health Publications. Jan 2010. Web. 13 Feb 2017.

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