National Advocates for Pregnant Women

Facts about drug treatment


  • 48% of the need for drug treatment, not including alcohol abuse, is unmet in the United States. (1)

  • Women, particularly pregnant women and women with children, have been and continue to be underserved in the alcohol and drug treatment system. In addition to a lack of services, numerous barriers exist to treatment for women including stigma, lack of financial resources, lack of child care, fear of losing custody of children, fear of prosecution and experiences with violence. (2)

  • The private insurance industry does not support coverage for alcohol and drug treatment. Nearly one in five individuals who are referred by his or her physician for substance abuse treatment is denied treatment by insurance companies. (3)

  • Treatment availability for drug and alcohol addicted prison inmates has declined over the last decade. (4)

  • Treatment of addiction is as successful as treatment of other chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. (5)

  • Comprehensive treatment programs that do not separate mothers from their children help women and their families, work, and are cost effective. (6)

  1. A Woodward, et al., The Drug Abuse Treatment Gap: Recent Estimates, 18 HEALTH CARE FINANCING REVIEW, 5-17 (1997).

  2. LEGAL ACTION CENTER, STEPS TO SUCCESS 6 (May 1999); ); DRUG STRATEGIES, KEEPING SCORE, WOMEN AND DRUGS: LOOKING AT THE FEDERAL DRUG CONTROL BUDGET 16-17 (1998), Vicki Breitbart et al., The Accessibility of Drug Treatment for Pregnant Women: A Survey of Programs in Five Cities, 84 AM. J. PUB. HEALTH 1658 (1994); J. Marsh et al., Increasing access and providing social services to improve drug abuse treatment for women with children, 95 ADDICTION 237-47 (2000); L. Nelson-Zlupko,et. al., 1995. Gender differences in drug addiction and treatment: implications for social work intervention with substance-abusing women. 40 Social Work 45-54 (1995); Wendy Chavkin, Mandatory Treatment for Drug Use During Pregnancy, 266 JAMA 1556 (1991); Julie Petrow, Addicted Mothers, Drug Exposed Babies: The Unprecedented Prosecution of Mothers Under Drug-Trafficking Statutes, 36 N.Y.L. SCH. L. REV. 573, 604-06 (1991) (arguing for an increase in federal and state funding for drug treatment programs for women); Molly McNulty, Note, Pregnancy Police: The Health Policy and Legal Implications of Punishing Pregnant Women for Harm to Their Fetuses, 16 N.Y.U. REV. L. & SOC. CHANGE 277, 292-303 (1987) (discussing the lack of access to adequate health care); Wendy Chavkin et al., National Survey of the States: Policies and Practices Regarding Drug-Using Pregnant Women, 88 AM. J. PUB. HEALTH 117 (1998); See, also., 2 STATE COUNCIL ON MATERNAL, INFANT & CHILD HEALTH, 1991 SOUTH CAROLINA STUDY OF DRUG USE AMONG WOMEN GIVING BIRTH: PREVENTION AND TREATMENT SERVICES 2, 10 (1992) (reporting that "specific resources designed to meet the needs of women of childbearing age, especially pregnant women, are not widely available" and that lack of child care and transportation are seemingly insurmountable obstacles to treatment for many women); SUBSTANCE ABUSE & PREGNANCY WORK GROUP, A REPORT TO THE SECRETARY OF THE KENTUCKY CABINET FOR HUMAN RESOURCES AND THE LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH COMMISSION 17 (1994) (noting the lack of treatment services "especially those that provide specific services for pregnant women").

  3. National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse Columbia University, MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: NATIONAL SURVEY OF PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIANS AND PATIENTS ON SUBSTANCE ABUSE (New York, NY April 2000).

  4. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Substance Abuse and Treatment, State and Federal Prisoners, 1997 (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, January 1999), p. 10. (Among those prisoners who had been using drugs in the month before their offense, 15% of both State and Federal inmates said they had received drug abuse treatment during their current prison term, down from a third of such offenders in 1991. Among those who were using drugs at the time of offense, about 18% of both State and Federal prisoners reported participation in drug treatment since admission, compared to about 40% in 1991.

  5. A Leshner, Science-based views of drug addiction and its treatment, 282 JAMA 1314-1316 ( 1999) PRINCIPLES OF DRUG ADDICTION TREATMENT: A RESEARCH BASED GUIDE NIH Publication No 00-4180. Bethesda, MD; National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, printed October 1999

  6. See e.g., Stephen Magura et al., Effectiveness of Comprehensive Services for Crack-Dependent Mothers with Newborns and Young Children (1998) (discussing New York City's experience with the Family Rehabilitation Program and citing numerous studies describing how comprehensive, coordinated, holistic treatment successfully engage pregnant and parenting women); National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, FAMILY PRESERVATION AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE. (discussing research documenting benefits to families and children of family preservation efforts.; CENTER FOR SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT, PREGNANT, SUBSTANCE-USING WOMEN 6 (1993) (U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Servs. Publication No. (SMA) 93-1998; Claire McMurtrie et al., A Unique Drug Treatment Program for Pregnant and Postpartum Substance-Using Women in New York City: Results of a Pilot Project, 1990-1995, 25 AM. J. DRUG & ALCOHOL ABUSE 701, 701-02 (1999) (describing a comprehensive model of drug treatment for pregnant and postpartum women that included children and did not view relapse as a failure, concluding that it "seem[ed] to improve mother's lives, fetal drug exposure, and birth outcome significantly"). See also CENTER FOR SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT, PRACTICAL APPROACHES IN THE TREATMENT OF WOMEN WHO ABUSE ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS 124-26 (1994) (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Servs. Publication No. (SMA) 94-3006), (providing guidance to treatment providers to meet the specific needs of women with substance abuse problems).

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