Women addicts need customised treatment

Alcohol has a different impact on women and they need a different set of therapies to overcome their addiction
Alcohol has a different impact on women and they need a different set of therapies to overcome their addiction

Psychotherapist and chairperson of Green Valley Foundation Uma Mahendra Raj who runs Green Valley integrated rehabilitation centre in Visakhapatnam

A singer, a musician, an artist and a school topper, Vidya (name changed) is multi-talented. But her only problem is that she cannot accept failures. Her undying urge to retain the top made her use a stimulant drug to deprive her of sleep while preparing for exams. But when she discontinued the drug, health complications started cropping up. What followed was a series of medications as doctors prescribed to treat her anxiety, seizures and associated health and psychological issues.

Years later, she got married to a well-qualified professional who introduced her to alcohol. Though an efficient homemaker and a mother of three, her married life lost the charm it had in the initial stages. She considered the use of alcohol as a coping strategy to beat her loneliness and forget the pain she endured when her husband abused her. Unfortunately, her drinking habit has only made her feel lonelier and more depressed.

Gradually, her family members started distancing themselves from her. But life had better things in store for Vidya as she approached a de-addiction centre after 20 years of alcohol abuse and five years of chronic addiction. "More often than not, I used to have suicidal tendencies and it was terrible to overcome such thoughts," she confesses.

Today, Vidya is quite busy taking care of not only her children but also her sister-in-law's kids. She devotes a major part of her day playing guitar, piano and Veena and of course, reading books which she is fond of. Barring a few relapses, Vidya's life has changed dramatically as she finds peace in what she does.

On the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking observed on June 26, psychotherapist and chairperson of Green Valley Foundation Uma Mahendra Raj says that women have a different metabolism altogether compared to men and react differently to substance abuse. "They are more sensitive. Since most women are physically weaker than men, the recovery process also takes longer for them," explains Uma, who runs an integrated rehabilitation centre.

According to a national survey by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the notable differences in addiction between men and women are centred on cultural values, circumstances, family life, susceptibility, recovery and risk of relapse. "About 40 per cent of alcoholics are prone to depression. There is a need to break social stigma associated with those coming out in the open to seek help. They should be referred to rehab in order to bring them into the mainstream," suggests Uma.

"Family support plays an imperative part in treating women addicts as many try to avoid them," Uma elaborates, adding, "Improved surveillance such as stamping 'delivered' on the prescription slips would aid in restricting the access of stimulants repeatedly across the counters."

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