Friday, August 24, 2007

Book Review (Part Three): Women Under the Influence

Rehab and the Working Mother

According to Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, more than 2.5 million women abuse or are dependent on illegal drugs. Women are almost 50 per cent more likely to be prescribed a narcotic or sedative, and teenage girls are more likely than teenage boys to abuse prescription drugs, with dramatic increases among 12 to 17 year old girls.

Statistics cited in Women Under the Influence, produced by the Center, show that while women convicted of drug-related offenses represent the fastest growing subset of America’s prison population, their representation in the drug rehab community has not kept pace. Fully three-fourths of these incarcerated women are mothers, and that fact is at the heart of the difficulties women face when they seek treatment.

Put simply, millions of women who need treatment for addiction to alcohol and illegal drugs do not receive it. This has been true throughout American history. Women were not admitted to meetings during the formative years of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and there is evidence that the 19th Century practice of performing hysterectomies on alcoholic women as a last resort quietly persisted until the 1950s.

AA soon opened its doors to women, who now comprise roughly one third of its membership. But when it comes to rehab centers, the treatment gap has not closed: “For women with small children, lack of childcare is a serious obstacle to seeking treatment…. For some women, fear of losing their children to the child custody system upon admission that they have a problem makes them apprehensive about entering treatment.”

Moreover, there are no universal standards of training, practice or accountability among the nation’s treatment providers, and women face differing approaches to their needs for child care, pediatric services, transportation, and the like. While older women have treatment needs that differ from girls and pregnant women, very few treatment centers offer programs designed specifically for older females.

If treatment is to become noticeably more effective for addicted women, “it must be readily available, tailored to fit the needs of the individual patient, and part of a comprehensive program that addresses associated medical, psychological, social, and economic needs…. Appropriate, research-based, and effective prevention efforts tailored specifically to the unique needs of girls and women are in desperately short supply.”

Women Under the Influence--purchase info


Owen Gray said...

It's troubling that so many women are addicted to illegal substances -- and that so many are mothers. I can guess at some of the reasons for this. But I'd like to know if there is more than anecdotal evidence to explain the statistics.

Dirk Hanson said...

Hi Owen:

Here's some citations for you--

"Three quarters of female inmates are mothers of at least one child; between 4 and 15 percent are pregnant when they enter prison"--Wellisch, J., et. al., "Jail: A found opportunity for intervening with drug-abusing pregnant women." JOURNAL OF CORRECTIONAL HEALTH CARE 1(1) 17-38

--"Women drug users are at increased risk for unprotected sex...and multiple sex partners." --Mott, F.L.,, "Linkages between sexual activity and alcohol and drug use among American adolescents." FAMILY PLANNING PERSPECTIVE, 20(3) 128-136 1988.

--"A recent study of pregnant substance abusers found that those who enrolled in a day treatment program tended to have more severe crack-related and other drug problems...and tended to have more children than nonenrollees." --Haller, D.L., et. al, "Factors influencing treatment enrollment by pregnant substance abusers." AMERICAN JOURNAL OF DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE, 29 (1) 117-131, 2003.

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