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How Addiction Impacts Your Sex Life

3 Women Enjoying A Drink

The #WineMom and #WineOClock memes are held up as the type of lifestyle that women should want to achieve: you deserve to relax and unwind after a hard day, after all. 

But beneath the surface of this seemingly simple, humorous message that seeks to empower women to claim a space for free time, there’s the rest of the iceberg. 

And that’s the growing rate of alcohol consumption among women.

By some estimates, high-risk drinking among women has increased by over 50% in the last decade alone.

While substances like alcohol are traditionally used for relaxation purposes, or to enhance social and intimate situations, chronic use can have detrimental effects on health. 

Individuals with a substance use disorder may rely on substances to feel pleasure or arousal, or to cope with issues related to sexual dysfunction, intimacy, or other relationship issues. 

Here are just a few ways that a substance use disorder can have an impact on women’s sexual health over the long term: 

Alcohol: The Social Lubricant That Leaves You High and Dry

A drink or two may create a relaxing effect, which can augment arousal levels. 

Beyond a small quantity of alcohol, however, the opposite effect occurs, dampening an individual’s ability to experience pleasure altogether. 

Chronic alcohol use can have long-term effects, including decreased vaginal lubrication, dyspareunia (pain during intercourse), the inability to orgasm, and urinary and genital health problems.  

Opioids: Decreasing Pain for a Small Window of Pleasure 

Research suggests that opioid use, at least initially, may improve a condition called vaginismus. 

Vaginismus is when the muscles of the vaginal wall spasm during, or at the initiation of, penetration. 

While opioids may seem to improve pain during sex initially, the long-term trade-off is decreased sexual desire.

For example, morphine and heroin can impact hormones related to sexual development and functioning, which can reduce feelings of sexual desire and cause infertility. 

Diminished Libido Among Cocaine Users 

Cocaine has a reputation as an instant feel-good drug, but cocaine eventually decreases sexual desire and delays orgasm. The effect is worsened when combined with other substances, like alcohol. 

Additionally, cocaine use is associated with hyperprolactinemia, which can contribute to vaginal dryness, irregular periods, and other disruptions in the reproductive system. 

Enhancing Pleasure, Increasing Risk

Women may use substances to enhance pleasure or cope with intimacy issues. Long-term use may lead to negative physical effects. 

There are two other key physical consequences that women have to consider.

While using, women may engage in riskier behaviour, which can lead to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy. The likelihood of having sex without using condoms, or lack of access to birth control, increases.

Addressing Sexual Health in Addiction Treatment

Women with substance use disorders can experience shame and guilt around their sexual behaviour while using—a gender-specific addiction treatment centre can provide a safe space to discuss STIs or activities that an individual may have participated in while they “blacked out,” for example. 

Additionally, a gender-specific treatment setting reduces the barrier of discomfort that women may have in discussing these difficult subjects. 

For example, women using substances as a coping mechanism—to enhance pleasure, intimacy, or reduce pain—risk relapse if this dynamic is not addressed in treatment. 
A gender-specific addiction treatment facility allows women to receive support for challenges specific to their social conditioning and determinants.

We Can Help You

Ledgehill’s two facilities in Annapolis County, Nova Scotia, provide gender-specific treatment for men and women who need to heal in a peaceful, supportive environment free from fear or distraction. If you’d like to learn more about the addiction and mental health treatment programs provided by Ledgehill, enrol yourself in one of our programs, or refer someone else, please call us at 800-676-3393.

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