POPSART: Woman of Substances, Journalist Jenny Valentish investigates the female experience of drugs and alcohol.

Many people love a drink in fact they will indulge at least once a week in a session of binge drinking or occasionally in some Class A’s, their habit is recreational and generally the individual gets on with their life relatively unhindered with some help from a Berocca and a Nurofen. But for others the use of alcohol and drugs can turn into a life threatening addiction that is uncontrollable and terrifying. For woman the impacts of drug and alcohol abuse are made even more difficult because very little research has been done on the subject.

Interview with Jenny Valentish at her book Launch at Avid 

In her new book Woman of Substances Journalist Jenny Valentish investigates the female experience of drugs and alcohol, using her own story to light the way. In her own words she herself is “Back from the brink, I am the case study but the book is mainly research about what is the female experience of substance abuse and treatment.”

Jenny went onto talk about the difference between men and women’s substance abuse “Women use substances as a form of agency if you haven’t had much control over your body or over your life it’s a tempting way to express that control, also women tend to self medicate more, they might use them for fun(drugs) but they might also use them to keep anxiety down or to cope. Once you get into the really problematic end of things there is things like sexual assault, sometimes in the first instance there’s sexual abuse, it’s a very different story.

According to Jenny 20% of people who use drugs regularly will become dependent and the tipping point of knowing you have a problem is when your using drugs entirely to be a better version of yourself, “I can’t leave the house without popping this pill, I cant talk to anyone unless I have meth.”

Jenny’s journey to recovery took time and many attempts and treatments including AA, an outpatient service and a blog to do a new thing everyday as a way to find new hobbies because if you have had one hobby for the past twenty years you’ve got to reconnect with the things you enjoyed as a kid.

As Jenny says everyone’s way out is completely different some people find solace in a 12-step group, other spirituality, some might need medical treatment, or just be completely abstinent.

Drawing on neuroscience, she explains why other self-destructive behaviours – such as eating disorders, compulsive buying and high-risk sex – are interchangeable with problematic substance use.

Valentish follows the pathways that women, in particular, take into addiction – and out again. Women of Substances is an insightful, rigorous and brutally honest read.

Woman of Substances: A Journey into Addiction and Treatment is published by Black Ink Books. To purchase, click here.


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