Substance abuse: How patriarchy is stopping women from getting help

While it is commonplace to see families rallying behind a man with addiction, the same addiction in women invites reproach and denial by family. Illustration: Eunice Elizabeth Dhivya

Forty-year-old Latha*, who was admitted to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), a psychiatric facility run by the Tamil Nadu government, had a tough time returning home after treatment. Initially, she was being treated for psychotic issues and after repeated questioning, her family admitted that she was addicted to alcohol. After treatment, her husband was unwilling to take her home as he didn’t want to be ridiculed by society, while her parents couldn’t come forward to support her due to poverty. The doctors at IMH had to counsel him several times before he agreed.

Latha’s battle with addiction and the response to it from her near and dear ones reflect why there are very few women seeking help for their addiction.

Prevalent, but swept under the rug

Studies say despite the prevalence of substance abuse among Indian women, causes like fear of stigma, unavailability of gender-based de-addiction centres and lack of support from family, prevent many from seeking help.

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