Women and Drug Use

Women and Drug Use

There are many stereotypes of women who use drugs. A woman might be considered hard and “macho,” sexually promiscuous, or silly and easily manipulated. Generally speaking, men tend to be more upfront about their drug use among their peers than women, who may want to avoid being judged. Some women find that it is difficult to talk about issues around drug use because it is hard to meet other women with whom they can relate and talk honestly.

Below are just some of the issues that a woman who chooses to use drugs might encounter. If there is an issue that you would like more information on or that we haven’t covered, please email us at women@dancesafe.org.

Body Image

All of us have, at some point in our lives, probably felt bad about the way we look, no matter what our individual size or shape. Issues about weight, especially, (whether we think we are too skinny or too fat) have probably affected most of us.

Some women report that using ecstasy and going dancing on the weekends helps them lose weight or stay thin. This may be true, due in part to strenuous exercise combined with a temporary loss of appetite. While dancing is a great form of exercise, and ecstasy can be great fun, using ecstasy every weekend in order to lose weight is likely to make you look tired and burned out, not thin and healthy.

If you are using drugs recreationally, it is important to help your body replenish itself.

  • Get lots of rest. If you are going out on the weekends, recharge your body and mind with enough sleep during the week.
  • Eat regularly and try to balance your diet. Cut down on junk foods and drink sufficient water while you are partying and during the week.
  • Exercise regularly. It will keep you in shape for all-night dancing and make you feel more energetic naturally.

Taking Ecstasy and not drinking enough non-alcoholic fluids can be extremely dangerous. Remember these rules to avoid heatstroke and dehydration:

  • Take regular rests throughout the night.
  • Wear lightweight clothes (no hat).
  • Sip small amounts of water/sports drinks regularly. Drinking too much all at once can be dangerous.

Self Image

Many women struggle with issues of self-esteem in their daily lives. They may be overly critical of themselves and feel that others also perceive them as “not good enough.” Some women have found that when they are using drugs they feel better about themselves. They may experience themselves as attractive, confident and sexy. This can become a problem if you become dependent on the drug to make you feel better about yourself.

If you are struggling with issues of self-esteem and drug use, you may want to consider counseling or finding a safe place where you can express your feelings. Remember that the awesome girl that you experience while you are high is still there in the mirror when you are sober!

Menstruating

Some women who use drugs find that their menstruation become heavier or irregular. They may even stop. Often, this results when a woman’s weight drops below her average or typical weight.

Weight loss occurs due to several factors that are affected by drug use:

  • An increase in physical activity.
  • Increased body temperature, which makes you sweat more.
  • A decrease in appetite.
  • An irregular or unbalanced diet.

If you are no longer menstruating, you can still get pregnant. If you are sexually active, use contraception. Condoms are most effective in preventing sexually transmitted diseases AND pregnancy.

Some important tips to remember if you are going to use drugs while menstruating:

  • Drink plenty of water. This will combat dangerous dehydration as well as help reduce the bloated feeling that can accompany water retention. Pee as often as you feel necessary!
  • If you are having a painful menstrual cycle, don’t use drugs to mask the discomfort. You will probably end up feeling worse in the long run. Go a little bit easier with yourself than you normally might.
  • Remember, wherever you are going may not have a sanitary dispenser. If you are menstruating or think you may be close, bring enough tampons/pads to make it through the night.

Pregnancy

Much research on drug use while pregnant indicates that while many drugs may not be harmful to the pregnant woman, they can be harmful to the fetus. Other drugs are both harmful to the pregnant woman and the fetus.

Many drug-using women have had a trouble free pregnancy and given birth to a perfectly healthy baby. However, if you do use drugs, you increase the chance of experiencing complications during pregnancy and/or with the healthy development of your fetus.

If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, it is important that you talk to your doctor or medical professional as soon as possible. It is important that you tell your doctor about ALL the drugs you are currently using. This includes alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, and prescription medications.

If you do not feel comfortable talking to your doctor about illegal that you find a safe setting to discuss these issues. You should have as much information as possible regarding your own health and pregnancy.

If you are concerned because you used drugs before you discovered you also speak to a medical professional. Most women discover their pregnancies early in the your doctor will probably tell you, if you stop using drugs as soon as you find out, there will be little risk to your fetus.

“I found out that I was pregnant two days after getting back from this huge out-of-state party. I had used E and pot and was worried about how that may have affected my baby. I talked to four different doctors/midwives during my pregnancy and they all reassured me that there was nothing to worry about as long as I was no longer using.”

If you feel that you want to stop using but are afraid you can’t, many programs that offer help and support to dependent drug users. The sooner you stop using the less risk you run of harming your fetus.

Breastfeeding

If you are nursing a baby, it is especially important to be aware of whatever you ingest, as much of it travels through your bloodstream into your milk. Some substances, such as caffeine, do enter your bloodstream but appear in breast milk in such low levels that you would have to consume very large amounts for it to affect your baby.

A balanced diet and lots of rest are vital to maintaining your health and providing your child with the right vitamins and nutrients. It is possible that using drugs may interfere with this. Some women choose to wait until they are no longer nursing to resume drug use. Some women choose to express breast milk while under the influence of a drug and discard the “affected” milk. This can be tricky to judge however, as it is difficult to know how long a particular drug remains in your bloodstream.

If you have questions about breastfeeding, contact: La Leche League

Contraception and STDs

No evidence suggests that illegal drugs interfere with oral contraception (e.g., the Pill); however, it is not known how contaminants or adulterants used to cut drugs may affect the Pill’s effectiveness. Having a drug-using lifestyle may reduce the effectiveness of the pill since its effect relies on consumption at the same time every day. This does not mean you should stop taking the Pill on the days you are going to use drugs; doing so will ensure that you are not protected against pregnancy. Remember too, if you vomit or have diarrhea, the Pill may not work.

Whatever form of contraception you are using, it is vital to also use condoms. Only condoms will help protect you against HIV, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Some women have reported that they are unable to become naturally lubricated after taking some drugs. This may cause friction and discomfort. You can make sex safer by using water based lube, such as KY Jelly or Astroglide, every time you use a condom. Do not use oil based lubes, such as Vaseline or baby oil, as these can damage a condom, making it ineffective.

Be prepared. Don’t assume your partner will provide the condoms. Even if you are not planning on having sex you never know what might happen at the end of the night! Don’t let your mood affect your good judgement about protecting against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

For more info on contraception, condoms, and sex positive information visit:

Sexuality

Some women say that drugs can heighten the pleasurable feelings of touching and kissing. Some women find it difficult to orgasm while under the influence of a drug.

You may feel like having sex more than you normally would. People may seem more attractive or interesting while under the influence of a drug. Remember, once the drug has worn off, the attraction may wear off as well.

Taking drugs may also lead to a loss of inhibitions. You may act more confident than usual and find yourself in situations that wouldn’t normally arise. If you would consider yourself a shy person normally but find yourself making out in the corner with someone you just met after taking drugs, try to think about how you are going to feel about your actions. Basically, try not to do anything tonight that you’ll regret or be embarrassed about tomorrow.

“When I first hung out with my boyfriend we were both on E. We were having a great time and really enjoying each other’s company. At the end of the night when he came back to my house, I decided I didn’t want to have sex with him (even though I was really into him!). I didn’t want to wake up the next morning and wonder if it was just because we were high. When we finally did have sex (sober) it was great because we already felt so close.”

For more info related to women’s sexuality:

Sexual Harassment

Respect is highly valued in the dance community. However, like everywhere else in the world, there are people who want to take advantage of situations. These people can be dangerous. Many women have had the experience of having to deal with someone trying to hit on them at parties, making them feel uncomfortable, or sometimes worse.

Remember, respect applies to yourself as well as to other people. Don’t feel shy about telling someone to back off if they are crossing your personal boundaries or making you feel uncomfortable. Trust your intuition. And don’t worry if they say you are “ruining their vibe.” They are probably ruining yours!

Many parties and events occur in isolated areas that are difficult to get to. There are several decisions you can make before you go out that can help keep you safe at the end of the night:

  • Try and set a ride up beforehand and agree on a meeting place and time.
  • A ride offered may seem great but would you normally get in the car with a stranger? If you don’t know the person, don’t risk it.
  • If you do want to go with someone you don’t know, try to take a friend along so you won’t be alone if things get weird.
  • Share a cab and get dropped off first.

For info on self-defense, sexual harassment, or support after an assault:

  • Rape Crisis
  • 1.800.656.HOPE (toll-free number that automatically connects to a local crisis center in your area)

Self-Respect

There are many situations that women who use drugs might find themselves in that men who use drugs might not. It is important not to devalue yourself if someone is treating you differently because you are a woman. The more you respect yourself, the more you will demand respect from those around you. The more you act with self-respect, the more you will force people to change their thinking about women who use drugs.

“When I hang out with my male friends who smoke pot, I either get treated as a ‘dude’ or as a ‘girl’ who needs to get taken care of. I just want to get treated normally. I was smoking with a group of male friends and I got up to go the bathroom and they all stood up! I was like ‘I can go to the bathroom by myself. I always do!'”

You don’t have to try and “keep up” with your male friends and match their drug taking. Women and men can take the same amount of the same drug and feel totally different. This is because women’s bodies are generally smaller than men’s and the effects of drugs may feel stronger.

If you are using drugs with a group, don’t feel pressured to use what others do. Keep your own pace. You use drugs to feel good, and it is important to remain in control of what you are doing.

Related Issues and Resources

Feminist.com
Hip Mama

This section of the DanceSafe website compiled by Rucha Powers using the following resources: “Get Set” produced by HIT, Liverpool reprinted 1999. “Is It Safe For My Baby” by Addiction Research Foundation, 1991. “Clare and Jose” series by Lifeline, Manchester 1994-1996.

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