Stress in Girls May Contribute to Addiction Problems
Girls handle stress - and the anxiety and depression that stress generates - differently than their male counterparts. In fact, stress is one of the most commonly reported factors leading to substance use and abuse for women, and for relapse to substance abuse even after long periods of abstinence.
Why is this so? Stress in early life - or even during the prenatal period - can damage an area of the brain that controls mood regulation, which can predispose to depression and anxiety. And previous research suggests that that these disorders can lead to drug use. A further complication is that circulating female hormones such as estrogen might increase pleasurable response to drugs and precipitate the desire to continue drug use. This means that once girls try drugs, they may be more likely to become addicted more quickly than boys - and find it harder to recover and stay drug free.
More research is needed to understand more fully how gender and environment contribute to the development of substance use disorders. For now, it's critical for parents of girls to recognize how stress - and the development of anxiety and depression - can contribute to drug use. If your child is struggling with anxiety or depression, it's important to consider therapeutic treatment.