Researchers find that causes for early drug use among females are abundant and widely different from the causes of drug abuse among young men. For example, young girls who experience early puberty are at a higher risk of using substances than peers who experienced puberty later. Boys who get into substances, on the other hand, usually do so because of peer pressure. Understanding the common causes of this pattern may help you support a loved one or identify early signs for intervention.
Why Are Girls So Susceptible to Substance Abuse During Adolescence?
A girl physically matures into a young woman between ages 10 and 21. These years are when girls form their self-identity, self-worth, and sense of independence. The adolescent years are critical to a young women’s physical and mental health because so much changes in these years and outside factors can potentially impact them significantly more than at any other time of their life.
When girls go through puberty, most become highly aware of how people view them. They may be self-conscious about all the changes they are experiencing physically, emotionally, and mentally, which can be confusing and difficult when they don’t understand what’s happening or don’t have an outlet to talk about it. This may lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drug or alcohol use. Social pressures from peers and family members may breed a strong desire to fit in. This transitional period is often associated with stress, confusion, and pressure, all of which are common causes for substance use.
What Are the Risk Factors for Substance Use Among Females?
The first and foremost risk factors for substance use among young females are stress and depression. For young girls, widespread body-shaming messages in the media-saturated society are one major source of dissatisfaction over one’s self-image. When these thought processes are allowed to take over, it is damaging to young girls. Many develop eating disorders during this time, aggravating or introducing depression, and even causing suicidal thoughts. Girls in this situation often have few resources for coping with the stress.
In general, teenagers tend to be troubled by low self-confidence. This problem can be compounded for young girls who find themselves in a culture that puts immense pressure on body image and popularity, like middle and high schools are wont to be. If it’s not a matter of body image, wanting to fit in or not be seen as, if not “cool,” at least not “lame” may drive initial experimentation with harmful substances. All these factors put adolescent girls with low self-confidence at higher risk for substance use disorder.
During these years, young girls are also susceptible to sexual harassment and abuse. Traumatic experiences may be another risk for adolescent girls. Some who have experienced abuse, whether physical, emotional, or sexual, can be at higher risk of self-soothing by using drugs and alcohol.
Social pressures, conflicts in the home, and academic pressures all tend to accelerate during adolescence compared to earlier years. Many young girls find communication with their parents or other caring adults difficult. The lack of communication in the family may lead to failure to detect early signs of substance use and addiction.
How Should the Recovery Community Better Care for Young Girls?
Adolescent girls are surrounded by an enabling environment where drugs, alcohol, vaping, and other kinds of substances abound. They are more vulnerable than adolescent boys to substance use. Biologically speaking, women tend to experience a faster transition from substance use to addiction. Early intervention is vital for this demographic.
Health professionals can implement proactive ways to screen young girls for mental health illnesses, such as depression and anxiety disorders. Educators and health professionals should advocate for more awareness about sexual harassment and abuse impacting adolescent girls. Schools should play an integrative role in referring female students to community resources.
While society as a whole should refrain from misrepresenting women’s body image, each of us has a role to play in combating body-shaming and other similar norms. Parents should help their young girls understand the transitional period they are in and make themselves or another trusted adult available for questions and help. Together, we can all work to fix the collective messaging that has exerted pressure and harm on adolescent girls.
How Do You Boost Self-Esteem for Young Girls as a Prevention?
The importance of adolescent years for a young girl cannot be over-emphasized. This is when her self-image and self-esteem are developed for the rest of her life. Parents need to play an active role in shaping a young girl’s self-image to reflect the counter-cultural belief in one’s self-worth. A parent’s unconditional support and love lay the most solid foundation for a child’s sense of self.
A parent also needs to be discerning when it comes to what a young girl experiences with the outside world. He or she should practice wisdom in selecting books and media resources that reflect a healthy outlook on life and women’s bodies. Oftentimes, if the parent yields to societal winds that objectify women with idealistic body images, the family’s culture becomes a source of pressure for a young girl.
Do you have a teenage daughter who struggles with substance addiction? Are you concerned about her progress recovering from the influence of drugs and alcohol? Young women are a unique demographic when it comes substance addicction. They are susceptible to many environmental factors that have unique influences on young girls. Although the path toward recovery can be challenging, no one has to make the journey alone. A recovery community is right around the corner at Laguna Shores Recovery. You will find that our licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists are committed to help you or your loved one reclaim sobriety and life. Our residential facility offers a range of treatments, including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, 12-step programs, and custom treatment plans. We also offer out-patient services addessing a range of mental health issues. Call us at (866) 906-3203. We are eager to see you recover and enjoy what life has to offer.