Substance Use

For many women in the community, substance use is not problematic. However, for others, due to a variety of complex factors, substance use can result in significant harm. Substance use though cannot be understood only in terms of use; many factors contribute to why women develop addictions. For example, the majority of women who access our services have experienced violence in childhood and/or adulthood. And research consistent demonstrates the strong correlation between addiction, violence, and mental health issues. Further, familial histories of addiction and unhealthy family of origin dynamics also may play a role in women’s substance abuse. As a result, Amethyst works from the philosophy that we cannot “treat” a woman’s addiction in isolation; we must understand the context in which she has developed her relationship to substance use.

Women who use our bilingual services come from diverse backgrounds in terms of culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic status, age, and ability. While many people tend to think of “addicts” in very stereotypical terms, it is critical to recognize that addiction is not discriminatory; it can happen to anyone. Because of women’s unequal access to power in our society, alongside multiple and intersecting identities that also marginalize women, women often experience harsher judgement and consequence as a result of their use. Issues of unstable finances, housing, and employment, as well as lack of access to affordable childcare and transportation all impact women’s experience of substance use/abuse and recovery.

While women use many substances, the most commonly reported problematic substance among our clients is alcohol. Other substances that women report as problematic are cigarettes, marijuana, crack, prescription medications including pain medication and tranquilizers, cocaine, heroin and other opiates, and “club drugs” like ecstasy.

For more information about women and substance abuse, or to discuss the possibility of professional workshops, please contact info@amethyst-ottawa.org