The Potential Barriers for Women to Achieve and Maintain Long-term Recovery

In the month where we marked International Women’s Day 2021, we have decided to focus another blog on women and addiction. For this blog, we will be concentrating on the potential barriers women face to not only access addiction treatment to achieve recovery but also to maintain long-term recovery.

In our previous blog, we discussed the narrowing gender gap with substance abuse, the physical and psychological impact of addiction on women, as well as some specific areas of concern. However, women in recovery also face potential barriers that are unique and distinct to them in comparison to their male counterparts. These potential barriers are:


Traditionally, women have been viewed as the gatekeepers and caregivers of families, playing the pivotal role for their family to live their lives well. Any hint of substance abuse or addiction historically, would be deemed selfish and would be considered as putting a substantial burden on your family. Unfortunately, as a result of this, the shame, criticism and guilt associated to addiction can be far greater for women, and even more so for Mothers and can be a barrier for women seeking addiction treatment. Even though in 2021, society is a lot more accepting of these issues, the stigma still remains for many women today preventing them from getting the help they need.


One of the major barriers to women accessing treatment is being a Mother. When the vast majority of fathers are accessing addiction treatment, they don’t need to worry about who will take care of their child as the mother is ordinarily available to do so. In contrast to this, women are a lot more likely to have primary responsibility for their child which acts as a significant barrier to attending treatment. Even if the treatment is a community-based programme, rather than a residential programme, mother’s will often have more difficulties attending sessions due to their commitments and responsibilities as a mother. In addition to these reasons, mothers have the fear of losing their children as they are worried of social services getting involved if they were to admit their substance abuse issues acting as another barrier to treatment.


One of the main aims of International Women’s Day earlier this month was to raise awareness about gender equality. It’s hard to believe that in 2021 gender inequality still exists, but unfortunately it does and is a barrier for accessing treatment and also maintaining a life of recovery. In comparison to men, women are a lot more likely to experience economic barriers to addiction treatment. With gender pay gaps just one factor, there is a higher chance of women earning less of an income which limits their financial resources available to access the treatment they need.


A women’s biology is also a potential barrier to achieving and maintaining long term recovery. In general, women appear to be more vulnerable in terms of their physical health to the adverse effects of alcohol and drug misuse in comparison to men. In relation to alcohol, studies have shown that alcohol-related health problems may develop earlier with women than men, in particular liver diseases after consuming lower levels of alcohol than men. Equally with drugs, dependency rate can develop much quicker with women than men and women are a lot more likely to suffer from physical health issues. The reasons for these issues are partly down to biology. Ordinarily, women have a proportionally higher ratio of fat to water than in men, and therefore makes it more difficult for their body to dilute the alcohol or substances. In addition to this, women’s hormones come in to play. Hormones affect the quantity and pace of absorption and can be another reason why effects can be stronger on women’s physical health even if they are consuming equal amounts to men. This all makes women a lot more susceptible to craving their specific drug of choice and triggering a relapse.


While men are more likely to experience traumatic events within their lifespan, it has been found that women are twice as likely to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD following on from a traumatic event. Women who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are on average 1.4 times more likely than women without PTSD to develop an addiction of some form.


Studies show that almost twice as many women in comparison to men, experience some form of depression. Eating disorders, anxiety and Postpartum depression in particular are common for women. When you combine this with an addiction it can be a potential barrier to long term recovery and triggering relapses.

Despite all these barriers, it’s vital to note that every single day, women are taking that difficult first step to recovery and reaching out asking for help. It’s that first step that is the hardest, but it’s the first step to recovery and a healthier enjoyable life. At Tabor Group, we are here to help you take back your life.


If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, get help today. We can help you recover in a healthy, friendly environment and beat your addiction. Do not hesitate to contact one of our counsellors today for information by calling +353 (21) 488 7710 for Cork or +353 (1) 639 2962 for Dublin, or alternatively you can email us at info@taborgroup.ie. We can help you.