Journalist Jenny Valentish investigates the female experience of drugs and alcohol, using her own story to light the way.
Her travels around Australia take her to treatment facilities and AA groups. Mining the expertise of leading researchers, she explores the early predictors of addiction, such as childhood trauma and temperament, and teenage impulsivity. Drawing on neuroscience, she explains why other self-destructive behaviours – such as eating disorders, compulsive buying and high-risk sex – can be interchangeable with problematic substance use.
In Woman of Substances, Valentish explores:
- The role of temperament: children who are unable to self-regulate their emotions or who have low resilience are at particular risk of problematic substance use.
- Impulsivity as a driver of problematic substance use. Studies have shown that while boys tend to be more impulsive, with girls, impulsivity is more directly connected to substance use.
- How heavy drinking in adolescence damages the quality of the brain’s white matter, and the effect of this damage on girls tends to be poor performance in spatial functioning (navigation, recognition, and observation of fine details). Boys tend to fare worse on focusing their attention.
- The role alcohol plays in women’s lives: stats from Hello Sunday Morning reveal that 50% of female participants normally drank after work, and 50% of those have kids. After-work drinking was found to be over two-and-a-half times more likely to be identified as an issue than weekend bingeing.
- How women’s drinking has surpassed those of men: a study found that by the end of the last century, men’s and women’s drinking were about equal, there is now evidence that women born after 1981 may be drinking at higher rates or in more harmful ways than men.
Valentish follows the pathways that women, in particular, take into addiction – and out again. Woman of Substances
is an insightful, rigorous and brutally honest read.
About the Author
Jenny Valentish is a regular contributor to the Sydney Morning Herald and the Saturday Paper, and former editor of Time Out Melbourne and Triple J’s Jmag. She grew up in Slough, a satellite town of London, and moved to Australia in 2006. She quit drinking in 2009, which sparked a desire to explore the drives behind addiction. She has a graduate certificate in Alcohol and Other Drugs from Turning Point/Monash University.