Women, Drinking, and Drugs

Many people have trouble dealing with alcohol or other drugs. Women can be especially vulnerable to these problems, and feel helpless or reluctant to seek help. They may be either chemically dependent or codependent, living their lives in an unhealthy attempt to take care of and control a chemically dependent person. Special programs for codependent and chemically dependent women can help them build happier and more confident lives.


Women with dependency problems are often judged much more harshly than men who act the same way. Women may also be less confident and less financially secure than men, and care more about emotional relationships. Unfortunately, abuse of alcohol or other drugs can destroy the very relationships women value most, as family and friends lose love and trust for the abuser. A woman may also lose her job if her work deteriorates. She may also experience health problems, including liver disease and infertility. She may endanger the lives of herself, her family and others, if she drives while intoxicated. And if she uses alcohol or other drugs while pregnant, she may cause permanent health and behavioral problems for her unborn child.

Drugs and Pregnancy

When a pregnant woman drinks or takes other drugs, her baby gets a high dosage of whatever she takes. Alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, street drugs and even over-the-counter remedies can all be harmful, even in very small doses. Drugs may increase the risk of premature delivery, stillbirth, miscarriage, or early death of the infant. They can cause sleeping problems, deformities and mental retardation. They can lead to learning problems, hyperactivity or poor coordination in the growing child. As little as one drink a week has been shown to increase the risk of stillbirth or miscarriage. There is no known safe dosage of alcohol, and many other drugs are equally dangerous. Even caffeine may be dangerous to unborn children.


If you are able to control your drug and alcohol use, don't use drugs to escape problems or gain confidence. Eat before or during drinking, and be moderate about the amounts of drugs you take.

If you are pregnant or "trying," don't use alcohol or "recreational" drugs. Consult with your doctor before using over-the-counter drugs or prescriptions.

If you have trouble controlling your drug use, or think you might be codependent, seek help from 12-step programs or health professionals who are knowledgeable about women's dependency issues. Your employee assistance program can provide you with referrals.

If you have special needs, such as for childcare, financial assistance, vocational training or emergency shelter, your health care provider, 12-step program office or local women's center can help you find programs that offer what you need.


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