Time was, addiction was largely a man's issue. The stereotypes of alcoholics and skinny homeless street users have always largely been male. But drug use among women – from prescription pain medications to hard street drugs – has been steadily increasing over the past few decades, and detox and rehab programs are recognizing the need to address addiction issues that re unique to woman. Women addicted to heroin span all age groups and demographics. But a majority of them are between 20 and 50. Many are mothers, frequently single, and some are pregnant. These circumstances, among others, demand special attention from rehab programs. Women Addicts and the Family Addicted mothers affect their children. Many women addicted to heroin are raising children alone, frequently in poverty. Their addiction can dominate the family, and compromise their ability to care for children and keep them safe. Children may find drugs and drug paraphernalia in the house and harm themselves. Unsupervised, they may wander away. Unstable living situations put them at risk. For an addicted mother to enter rehab, her children must be cared for. Enter a variety of social service agencies that may end up working with an addiction rehab program to create a treatment plan that supports the family. Relatives – especially parents – may also become closely involved if they care for an addict's children too. Women's Health and Heroin Addiction When an addict is pregnant, red flags rise. Heroin addiction treatment centers working with women addicts need to be aware of the effects of heroin use during pregnancy and work carefully with pregnant addicts dealing with withdrawal. Drugs typically used to help the detox process and ease withdrawal symptoms, such as clonidine and methadone, may not be appropriate. Addicts of either gender often neglect nutrition and self-care. For women addicted to heroin and other drugs, that's a problem both for the addict herself and for her children. Babies born to addicted mothers face higher rates of complications ranging from congenital defects to being born addicted themselves. And, because heroin addicted mothers may not follow doctors' recommendations about diet and self-care during pregnancy, babies may have lower birth weights. Addicts also risk premature birth, stillbirth and a higher rate of miscarriages than women who are not addicted. Like their male counterparts, women who use injected drugs like heroin also face the risk of diseases such as HIV and various kinds of hepatitis, along with other viruses that can affect not just their own health but that of their infants. A successful heroin rehab program for women needs to be aware of these issues and find ways to work with them to help women beat addictions. Counseling Issues for Women Heroin Addicts In addition to the physical differences between women's and men's addictions, emotional issues differ too – and an addiction treatment program dedicated to women takes these differences into account in the counseling and other kinds of rehab services they offer. Like men, women heroin addicts suffer from guilt, shame and feelings of low self-esteem. They may have poor coping skills and problems with daily living. But for many women those problems also extend to their families. Those feelings of guilt and shame may be magnified if children or other family members have suffered because of the addiction. Women may struggle with feelings that they aren't good mothers or that they're responsible for a miscarriage. Family support helps all addicts, and many rehab programs take that into account with services aimed at helping relatives understand and cope with their loved one's problems. That helps the rehab process, too. For women struggling with addiction, family support can play an even greater role. Restoring relationships and finding drug-free ways to connect with friends and loved ones can be an essential part of recovery for women addicts. Kicking an addictive drug like heroin isn't easy for anyone. But women heroin addicts may face special challenges, both physically and emotionally. That's why addiction treatment centers and rehab programs that are able to address their unique circumstances and needs have the best chance of helping them succeed in recovering from their addiction.
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