Stress, discord contributes to addiction in women

Pune: High levels of stress coupled with a sense of loneliness have emerged as contributing factors for growing cases of drug and alcohol addiction among married educated women, a study says.

The study conducted between 2005 and 2011, covering 371 women addicts at four de-addiction centres here, says apart from alcohol, anti-depressants and sleeping pills too were found to have been used by the subjects in their struggle to overcome domestic stress and marital discord.

According to Mrunalini Chitale, Chairperson of the city based Baya Karve Women`s Study Centre (BKWSC), women in the age group 31 to 40 comprised maximum cases in the study which pertained to women between 18 and 60 years of age, having undergone de-addiction therapies at the four centres.

"Out of 371 cases, 173 women (48.63 percent) were homemakers. Around 28.8 per cent women covered in the study had academic degrees. The percentage of married women was about 55," she said adding that stress, marital discord and stigma of divorce appeared to be some of the factors leading to addiction.

Ashwini Tambe, one of the BKWSC activist who conducted the survey, aimed at creating an awareness about addiction among women, said, "failure to open up and release pent-up emotions was one of the factors that made these educated married women to take to alcohol and pills. The case studies at de-addiction centres also revealed that in some instances, what started as a social drink slowly turned into addiction. Similarly, old prescriptions of anti-depressants and sleeping pills were used repeatedly without consulting the physician who initially recommended it".

Concerned relatives and family members had experimented with quacks and witchcraft to de-addict the women after accepting the reality of addiction and subsequently approached the recognised de-addiction centres for indoor therapies with varying durations between three weeks to three months, she noted.

"We also came across cases in which on insistence from the husband to keep company, the wife agreed to occasional social drinking and later on became addicted to alcohol while her partner continued to be a moderate social drinker without addiction," said Tambe.

The cases covered under the study included both salaried higher and lower middle class women as well as adolescents. Extra-marital affairs and a sense of loneliness were found to be emotional factors that landed some in the red zone of addiction with an overriding feeling of self-pity.

The BKWSC members` interaction with de-addiction experts at the various centres pointed to a reluctance on part of the addicts to seek professional help. "We found that those afflicted by addiction develop a tendency to hide their addiction from the rest of the family instead of seeking help as they have a tough time accepting the reality that they need help. In some cases, family members resorted to methods like starvation, physical abuse and witchcraft to wean away the addicts," said Chitale.

Stating that it is an ongoing study to highlight women`s problems, she said, "the objective is to create empathy and spread awareness about de-addiction among women".