Women May Need Gender-Specific Programs for Alcoholism Treatment
Women react differently than men to alcohol, and this means that they may respond better to gender-specific treatments for alcoholism, according to new research form the Rutger’s Women’s Treatment Project.
Dr. Elizabeth Epstein and Dr. Barbara McCrady tested whether couples therapy combined with alcohol therapy worked better than individual alcohol therapy alone for women enrolled in a program of treatment for alcoholism. Groups involved in both types of therapy reduced their drinking days by more than half, but the ones in couples therapy were more likely to drop out of the program.
Then the women in the study chose whether to enroll in individual therapy or female-specific therapy. The female-specific therapy was designed to instill self-confidence and assertiveness, reduce depression and anxiety, improve anger management, and help them develop friendships with sober people. This study is still on-going.
Dr. Epstein noted that women develop alcohol-related problems more quickly than men, even though they traditionally tended to start drinking at later ages. Older women do not process alcohol as well as younger people, which adds to their dilemma.
Today’s younger generation of women are drinking at earlier ages and to the same excess as men, so Dr. Epstein expects more women to be entering treatment in the future.
Dr. Denise Hein, a professor at City University of New York, studies the effect of trauma on women alcoholics. Her research indicates that trauma treatment is more effective if combined with a 12-step program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and may actually make things worse if women just undergo trauma treatment without such support.
She has also discovered that if you treat trauma issues first, a woman’s substance abuse level lessens. In most treatment centers, treatment goes in the opposite order. For this reason, some programs have recently developed specialized trauma and substance abuse tracks specifically for women, such as women’s treatment programs at The Ranch in Tenneesee.
This study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.