On March 6, 2012, in recognition of International Women’s Day, Nova Scotia’s South Shore Health launched the short film “Women of Substance”. The film was created to highlight “the hidden epidemic” represented by women’s substance use. In North America, four times more women die from addiction-related disease than from breast cancer, but so often we are uncomfortable talking about it. The film, which is just over six minutes long, features the true stories of a number of Nova Scotian women, highlighting their experiences with substance use, abuse and recovery.
In recent years advertising of alcoholic beverages in Canada has shifted focus from men to young people and women as their target markets. Moreover it has become a social norm for women of all ages to drink at a similar levels to men. The most recent Canadian Addictions Survey, released in 2004, noted an increase in women’s drinking in every age category from youth to seniors.
The reality is that women’s physical make up is a lot different than men’s. As reflected in the National Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines, women cannot process alcohol as efficiently as men. This causes what is referred to as “telescoping effect” where alcohol impacts women quicker and causes greater health issues faster than for men.
The film also highlights that women are using substances to “self-medicate” in order to help them cope with past and present trauma. When it comes to dealing with trauma women differ from men in that they tend to internalize that pain and self-medicate through alcohol, other drugs or gambling.
by Leah Simon RN