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Competency 4: Prevention

Addiction Disorders in Women

Treatment Considerations

The Institute of Medicine2 recommends that any health care provider who encounters a woman who is abusing alcohol consider:

  • Brief intervention therapy
  • Counseling regarding the risks of prenatal alcohol exposure
  • Referral to more formal alcohol abuse treatment

For women who drink during pregnancy, comprehensive clinical women-specific treatment programs may be needed. The literature on gender differences among individuals who abuse substances clearly demonstrate that women’s experiences with substance abuse are different from those of men. Consistent gender differences are found in5:

  • Predisposing factors contributing to the development of substance abuse
  • Patterns of substance abuse
  • Context in which substance abuse begins and continues
  • Problems and consequences resulting from substance abuse
  • Co-occurring problems and issues interacting with substance abuse
  • Access to substance abuse treatment
  • Experiences while in substance abuse treatment
African American boy sitting on exam table in doctor's office. Doctor smiling and touching the boys nose

Critical treatment components for women include5:

  • Gender-sensitive program climate
  • Educational seminars targeting gender-specific issues
  • Medical and health services addressing women’s concerns
  • Child-related services, including collocation of children
  • Family-focused services
  • Educational and vocational services
  • Training programs to enhance women’s effectiveness in interpersonal and survival skills
  • Legal assistance
  • Programs addressing issues of sexuality and intimacy
  • Relationship counseling that challenges socialized gender role assumptions
  • Programs to address trauma and victimization in childhood and adulthood

Women-specific alcohol and drug abuse services may include the following modalities and services5:

  • Individual or group counseling, such as brief interventions, cognitive-behavioral therapy, mentoring, and therapeutic communities
  • Family therapy
  • Crisis intervention
  • Referral to self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Relapse prevention
  • Parenting skills training
  • Case management
  • Information and education about the effects and risks of alcohol consumption

SAMHSA has an online treatment facility locator that can be used to identify appropriate programs and facilities.

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