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Why Women Abuse Substances

Sexual Abuse, Eating Disorders Are Risk Factors

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Updated February 12, 2006

Updated February 12, 2006
Women begin abusing alcohol and drugs for different reasons than men do and may have more situations in their lives that trigger substance abuse, according to research by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

According to the book "Women Under the Influence," which is an exhaustive 10-year analysis of substance abuse among girls and women, girls and young women are likelier than boys and young men to abuse substances in order to lose weight, relieve stress or boredom, improve their mood, reduce sexual inhibitions, self-medicate depression, and increase confidence.

Women in substance abuse treatment are more than five times likelier than men (69 percent vs. 12 percent) to have been sexually abused as children and girls and women are likelier than men to suffer eating disorders, both of which are major risk factors for substance abuse, CASA reports.

Women studied by CASA were more likely than men to say their heavy drinking followed a crisis, such as miscarriage, divorce, unemployment or recent departure of a child from the home.

Older women are likelier than older men to self-medicate with alcohol and prescription drugs in order to deal with loneliness, financial insecurity or loss of a spouse.

Source: The above information is from the 292-page book, "Women Under the Influence," the result of 10 years of research by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University funded by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, is published by The Johns Hopkins University Press.

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