Addiction and recovery

As a part of our funding, we are required to ensure that each pregnant woman who seeks or is referred for and would benefit from substance use disorder services is given preference in admission to our program. We also are required to give preference to treatment as follows:

  • Pregnant women injecting substances
  • Pregnant women with a substance use disorder
  • Individuals injecting substances
  • All others meeting our admission criteria

Are some women more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs?


  • Women who are depressed
  • Women who are isolated from other family, friends, and other people
  • Women who have experienced rape or sexual assault or physical assault as a child or adult
  • Women who feel bad about themselves
  • Women whose parents had problems with drugs and alcohol
  • Women who have a husband or boyfriend or partner who abuses drugs and alcohol
  • Women who feel disconnected from others or have suffered great losses (like death of a family member, loss of a job, break-up of a relationship or marriage, loss of their health, loss of their house)
  • Women who tried or experimented with drugs or alcohol when they were young

Are women different than men in their use of substances?  


  • Women are more likely to use legal drugs, such as alcohol or prescription drugs.
  • Women are more likely to get their alcohol and drugs from friends, boyfriends, family, or doctors than from dealers.
  • Women are more likely to use many substances, rather than just one, like alcohol.
  • Women use in isolation, by themselves, at home more than men.
  • Women often begin to drink or use alcohol and drugs after a traumatic event, like rape, battering, accident, loss of their house in a fire or hurricane.
  • Women are more likely to be in a relationship with a partner who uses drugs and alcohol too.
  • Because women have the primary responsibility for the children and the household, their addiction can cause more family disruption.
  • Women are more likely to be discouraged about getting treatment by family members.
  • Women have more problems with depression, anxiety, and changing moods.
  • Women have higher levels of shame and guilt about their addiction.
  • Women have more problems with feeling good about their bodies.
  • Women have lower expectations for what is possible for them in life.

How many women use alcohol and drugs?

  • At least 4.5 million women are alcohol abusers or alcoholics.
  • 3.1 million regularly use illicit drugs (like marijuana, cocaine, street drugs).
  • 3.5 million misuse prescription drugs. (Reid 1996)
  • 4% of pregnant women age 15 to 44 reported illicit drug use during the past month, 4.5% engaged in binge drinking (5 or more drinks on same occasion in 1 day), and 18% smoked cigarettes.
  • (Based on data from SAMHSA’s 2002-04 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health)

What are the signs that you might have a problem with alcohol or drugs?

  • You use more of the drug/alcohol than you said you would.
  • You have tried to cut down or stop drinking or using and have not been able to.
  • You spent a lot of time getting your drinks/drugs, using them, and recovering from them.
  • You begin to give up certain social or work or family activities because of your use.
  • Friends and family say something to you about your use
  • You continue to use your alcohol or drugs despite bad consequences, like
    • Having a car accident while using
    • You need more of it to get high.
    • Using while you are pregnant
    • Breaking the law to get money to buy drugs/alcohol
    • Using when it makes you late to work or school
    • Getting fired from work because of your use
    • Having unprotected sex when you use
    • Using while taking care of your children
    • Lying to family members to hide your use
    • Developing health problems related to use