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The 4 Most Commonly Abused Drugs Among Women

women and drugs

Men are more likely than women to use almost all types of illicit drugs. In general, men have higher rates of drug use and dependence than their female counterparts. And yet – women are just as likely as men to develop a drug addiction. Women are also more susceptible to cravings and drug relapse.

In previous blogs, we have discussed the gender differences as they pertain to drug abuse, the effects of drug abuse, and the unique obstacles each gender faces in young adult drug rehab. One lingering question that may be on your mind, however, is regarding the types of drugs abused by each gender. In particular, you may be wondering, which drugs are most commonly abused by young women?

If you suspect your loved one is using drugs, it is important to understand which substances she may be abusing and which can pose the most danger to her health. Below are four of the most favored drugs of abuse among females and the detrimental effects they can bring to women of all ages.


Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in the United States, particularly among the female population. It is no wonder why: Alcohol is legally and socially acceptable. Women claim it makes them feel more confident, outgoing, and sociable. For this reason, alcohol consumption is most common among young women in their 20s and early 30s and those who are unmarried.

The problem with alcohol consumption among women is that many do not realize if and when their drinking has turned into life-threatening abuse. Women develop alcohol addiction much more quickly than men. They have less water and more fat in their bodies, causing alcohol to remain in their systems longer than men’s. Women also have low levels of the enzymes that break down alcohol, causing them to absorb higher levels of the substance at faster rates than men.

Stimulants (Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Adderall)

Women are equally as likely to abuse stimulants as men, however, their abuse tends to spiral out of control and become more regular over time. For this reason, women are more likely to become addicted to stimulants like Cocaine, Methamphetamine, and prescription drugs such as Adderall.

Women often look to stimulant drugs as a means to lose weight. Stimulants like cocaine cause profound metabolic changes in the body and suppress a person’s appetite. Women also claim to use stimulant drugs as energy enhancers. They claim that methamphetamines, for example, help them to more productive with work, home care, and child care.

Benefactors of stimulant drugs believe that they will lose weight or maintain their energy long-term. In reality, these effects only promote dependence on the drugs and lead to destructive consequences on female health. Women suffer more damage from stimulant abuse than do men.

Depressants (Xanax, Klonopin, Valium)

Depressants are a category of prescription drugs most commonly classified as benzodiazepines (or “benzos”) and minor tranquilizers. They are called “depressants” for their sedative qualities, as they are used to calm anxieties, ease stress, and promote a regular sleep cycle. They slow brain function and produce relaxing effects for users, however, are intended for short-term use. Depressant drugs are extremely addictive if taken regularly.

Depressant drug abuse has long-been dominated by female users – and largely a result of doctor’s orders. Two out of every three tranquilizer prescriptions are given to women. This is likely because women are more often diagnosed with co-occurring disorders associated with panic and anxiety.

Depressants include drugs like alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), and diazepam (Valium). Back in the day, Valium was the most commonly abused depressant – in the 1960s, it was known in the as a “Mother’s little helper.” Today, Xanax abuse is most common.

Because depressants like Xanax are so commonly prescribed, the dangers of dependency often get lost. What many women do not realize is that the “lows” experienced when not using are signs of withdrawal, and withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be life-threatening for tolerant users (this is not the case with most other addictive drugs).

Opiates (OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet)

Women are also more likely than men to receive prescriptions for opioid drugs like Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin. This is partly because they are more likely to experience physical conditions that cause chronic pain (such as endometriosis).

Opiate drugs, also known as prescription painkillers, are of the most addictive substances available to women today. A person can develop a dependence to these drugs in as little as two days; a physical opiate addiction typically develops within four weeks; and for women, the process is especially speedy.

Women are more likely to experience the negative effects of opiate drugs than men. They are more likely to receive emergency treatment for opioid addiction and abuse. Specifically, research has shown that a woman goes to the emergency room for prescription painkiller abuse every three minutes.

It is clear that the most commonly abused drugs among women are also the most commonly prescribed. Prescription drug abuse has evidently taken over the female drug using population in the United States, and it is a growing concern. Although current statistics show that more men abuse drugs, prescription drug abuse is most prevalent among young females aged 12 to 17. What does this say for the future? What does this say for our daughters, our siblings, our students and loved ones?

By understanding the types of substances most commonly abused by women, we are better able to inform drug treatment initiatives. We are better able to offer young women the attention and care they deserve from a women’s treatment center. For more information or immediate assistance for your loved one, call Turnbridge at 1-877-581-1793 today.