Tell me about women and addiction


Further Reading

Hi Stanton. I’m researching the concept of addiction for a PhD titled ‘Women Writing Addiction’. Beginning with a narcoanalysis, and then extending what I believe to be a culturally defined concept that has much more to do with knowledge and power than ‘actual addiction’ to issues that specifically relate to the placement / displacement of women writing as a form of addiction and memory and looking at how addiction and literature inform us about that ubiquitous ‘OTHER’, I’m hoping to produce a work that may escape the pathologizing process of critical discourse. Can you suggest any way that I can avoid slipping back into a pathologizing model? Thanks!


Dear Jane;

My concerns about women and addiction may be more prosaic than yours, but here they are:

  1. Women are less likely to be addicted to illicit drugs and alcohol than men. They are more likely to be attached to prescribed psychoactive medications. The movement to uncover hidden women alcoholics has simply reiterated that women are 1/3 to 1/10 as likely as men to be alcoholic.
  2. A higher percentage of women than men alcoholics are of the “quiet” type. Nonetheless, a substantial proportion display the antisocial acting-out profile typical of male alcoholics (see the MAC Scale). In all societies, men drink more than women (see Kaye Fillmore). The lower their social status, the more likely women (like men) are to abstain, so that a majority of working-class women in the US are abstinent. However, there are more alcoholic women in the underclass than in the middle class (see Barbara Lex). The search for alcoholics among housewives (and now career women) is perverse, because having a home, family, money, and a career are antidotes to addiction.
  3. Women suffer more from affective disorders, particularly depression. They are also quite often beset by eating disorders. The bad news is that childhood and adolescent obesity continue to rise in the US. Moreover, adolescent women have become dramatically less physically active over the last decades, thus guaranteeing future generations of women whose lifestyles do not support the body types they desire.
  4. Perhaps I get closer to your concerns when I say that, in addition to depression, sedative and anti-depressant medications, and preoccupation with weight, women are oppressed by the medical solutions for these (which is, after all, the basis of anti-depressant use — now a generational experience for American women). Rather than liberating women, the model of Betty Ford (and Kitty Dukakis) is enslaving. These are vibrant and involved women whose subjugated themselves to their husbands’ careers because of their insecurities. When they encountered problems in these diminished roles, they inflated these to life-obstructing proportions, sought medical aid, and then dedicated themselves (with less success on Kitty’s part) to trumpeting the advantages of turning oneself over to doctors and treatment.

Best regards, Stanton

Stanton Peele

Stanton Peele , recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts by The Fix, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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