Treatment for Women Addicted to Heroin

poppy plantsWomen face unique challenges during heroin addiction treatment. Heroin is a powerful opiate. Addiction recovery demands professional support, personal strength and interpersonal connection. Rehab programs tailored to women’s needs provide such resources. They focus on the unique medical, psychological and psychosocial consequences of heroin abuse. These include pregnancy, sexual abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, and childcare concerns. Heroin rehab programs for women offer support and understanding. Women are free to heal in a safe, low-stress environment.

How Does Heroin Addiction Affect Women?

Heroin affects all areas of a woman’s life from her physical and mental health to her social and spiritual well-being. Gender influences how and why individuals use. The National Institute for Drug Abuse[1] lists some of the differences between heroin abuse patterns in men and women. These include the following:

  • Women typically use smaller amounts of heroin and for less time
  • Women are less likely to inject heroin than men
  • Women are more likely to respond to pressure to use from social groups or sexual partners
  • Women are more at risk for overdose death
  • Women are more likely to also use prescription drugs

Every addiction experience is unique. These facts reflect trends rather than describe every individual’s experience. However understanding trends helps individuals find help for themselves or their loved ones. It helps recovery professionals assess addiction situations and suggest initial treatment paths.

Women and Barriers to Heroin Addiction Treatment

Women face many of the same barriers to treatment and recovery as men. They also face additional challenges. The National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse[2] (NIAAA) explains that in general, “Women are more likely than men to encounter barriers that prevent them from seeking or following through with treatment.” Women-specific treatment helps individuals overcome barriers.

Financial Access to Heroin Addiction Treatment

Women may face unique financial or economic barriers to treatment. Many individuals turn to heroin after running out of money for or access to prescription opiates like oxycodone or hydrocodone. This means they begin heroin use already facing financial challenges. Even if users begin with savings and income, they quickly lose these. Heroin leaves many users broke or even homeless. They are unlikely to be able to maintain or find employment. They may not have insurance. Treatment begins to seem far away or financially impossible. If women are still employed or have individual insurance or access to government resources, treatment may be more affordable than expected.

Employer-provided insurance may cover treatment. Healthcare purchased through the healthcare marketplace must cover treatment. HealthCare.gov[3] explains, “Mental and behavioral health services are essential health benefits. All plans must cover behavioral health treatment, such as psychotherapy and counseling, mental and behavioral health inpatient services, [and] substance use disorder (commonly known as substance abuse) treatment.” Women may have greater financial support for treatment than expected. Treatment centers like The Canyon can work with your insurance provider on your behalf. We can verify benefits and make sure patients get the most coverage and most affordable care they can. If they do not have insurance, other options are available. Women can find recovery “scholarships.” Some facilities offer treatment on a sliding scale, adjusting price to match financial resources. Others are willing to work with women to create a manageable payment plan.

No matter a person’s financial situation, treatment is always cheaper than addiction. Treatment often includes job skills training and connections for employment after care. Treatment helps individuals find and pursue their passions. It can create a base for further education, better income, and regaining financial health. Treatment for women understands their unique financial challenges. It hopes to address this barrier to treatment and leave women healthier on all levels, including financial ones.

Physical Health as a Barrier to Heroin Addiction Treatment

Heroin has a devastating effect on a woman’s health. As mentioned above, it puts them at greater risk for overdose than men. Heroin is a central nervous system depressant that slows vital bodily functions. It slows breath rate, heart rate and metabolism. Taking too much of the drug leads to respiratory depression and cardiac arrest. This is even more likely in individuals with lower body weights, which women often have. Women are also more likely to be using additional substances. When heroin is taken with other depressants such as alcohol or prescription drugs, the risk of overdose is even greater. Even if a woman does not experience such a health crisis, heroin harms her body in many other ways. It can cause fertility problems. It Women experience respiratory infections. Intravenous drug use can lead to blood-borne illnesses like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Female heroin addicts are also subject to malnutrition, a weakened immune system and overall poor health. Restoring physical health is part of restoring overall health. It is part of addiction recovery. Treatment programs should offer professional medical care during and after detox. Women’s health specialists can work with other treatment providers to create a cohesive team invested in restoring physical, mental and social wellness.

Women, Family and Barriers to Heroin Addiction Treatment

Family problemsHeroin addiction poses serious hazards to pregnant women and their unborn babies. The American Pregnancy Association[4] explains, “Using heroin during pregnancy increases the chance of premature birth, low birth weight, breathing difficulties, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), bleeding within the brain (intracranial hemorrhage), and infant death. Babies can also be born addicted to heroin and can suffer from withdrawal symptoms.” Pregnant women may be afraid to get help for heroin addiction. They may worry they will lose their children. However treatment for women addicted to heroin includes access to medical professionals who specialize in prenatal and neonatal care. These individuals ensure the health and safety of mother and child. Treatment may include parenting skills classes and more specific training for caring for infants affected by early heroin exposure. Programs may offer childcare and connect women to childcare resources after treatment. Treatment helps women find recovery. It helps them be better, healthier mothers with healthy, safe children.

How to Begin Heroin Addiction Recovery

Women can overcome barriers to treatment. They can find recovery from heroin addiction. They can find mental, physical and emotional health. They can build futures and careers. They can create healthy, happy families. The recovery process begins with contacting a treatment center that offers specialized treatment for women struggling with heroin addiction. Treatment begins with medically supervised detox services. These ensure women’s safety and the safety of unborn or breast-feeding children. Treatment continues with therapy and self-discovery. Gender-specific treatment programs allow women to concentrate on the specific issues they face. They can take advantage of resources such as the following:

  • Individual counseling to address reasons behind early and continued substance use
  • Integrated treatment for co-occurring mental health issues
  • Therapy to build self-worth and rediscover passions and interests
  • Life skills and job skills training
  • Parenting classes
  • Peer group counseling sessions with other recovering women
  • Complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage or yoga

Recovery is different for men and women. It is different for each individual woman. The Canyon offers specialized, personalized care. We work with you to create a customized treatment program. Through individual counseling, group counseling and family therapy, we help you build the foundation for a healthy, balanced life. If you or a woman in your life struggles with heroin addiction, reach out and learn more today.


[1] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/substance-use-in-women/sex-gender-differences-in-substance-use. “Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Sep 2016. Web. 2 Feb 2017.

[2] https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh291/55-62.htm. “Gender and Use of Substance Abuse Treatment Services.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Web. 3 Feb 2017.

[3] https://www.healthcare.gov/coverage/mental-health-substance-abuse-coverage/. “Mental Health & Substance Abuse Coverage.” HealthCare.gov. Web. 3 Feb 2017.

[4] http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/illegal-drugs-during-pregnancy/. “Using Illegal Drugs During Pregnancy.” American Pregnancy Association. Jul 2015. Web. 3 Feb 2017.

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