Women of Substance, produced by South Shore District Health, Nova Scotia


A woman on the path to recovery holds a sign stating “I am worth so much more than a bottle of vodka”. On the FASD Prevention website, the short film Women of Substance, produced by Nova Scotia’s South Shore District Health, highlights “the hidden epidemic” of women’s substance use. In North America, four times more women die from addiction-related disease than from breast cancer, but so often we are uncomfortable talking about it. This 6-minute video features the true stories of a number of Nova Scotian women and their experiences with substance use, abuse and recovery. The film draws attention to the frequency of women using substances to “self-medicate” in order to help cope with past and present trauma. It highlights two key gender-based issues:

  • Women are more likely than men to internalize the pain of trauma and to self-medicate through alcohol, other drugs or gambling.
  • There are gender differences in metabolizing alcohol and substances through the digestive system and liver. The immediate impacts of alcohol and substance use in women are stronger and play out more rapidly as major health issues.

The video does not employ “shock-value” images. The women interviewed look like everyday people, emphasizing that substance abuse knows no social or economic boundaries. The video focuses on the social infrastructures, community networks and relationships that these women are building to support their recovery and efforts to maintain a healthier life.