Tuesday, November 14, 2000

Research Findings Hold Key to Treatment, Prevention for Women Addicts, Substance Abuse Funding News

Research Findings Hold Key to Treatment, Prevention for Women Addicts
By Pamela Appea
Substance Abuse Funding News, Treatment
November 14, 2000
Copyright 2000 by Community Development Publications

Researchers agree, in the future, gender-specific drug and tobacco prevention programs can be implemented to better impact abuse and addiction problems.

Gender matters in drug abuse, says Cora Lee Wetherington, chair of the National Institute of Drug Abuse’s Women and Gender Research group at a Society for Women’s Health Research Conference.

Scott Lukas, with Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital, studied chronic cocain addicts and found doing a woman’s luteal phase they may experience “very few” cocaine effects when the drug is sniffed.

The luteal phase is a stage of the menstrual cycle, lasting about two weeks, from ovulation to the beginning of the next menstrual flow.

Gender differences disappear when cocaine is administered intravenously, Lukas says. This and similar research could have profound effects for cocaine abuse dependence and eventual treatment, Lukas says.

The treatment approach has to be vastly different than the one currently in place, says Alan Leshner of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

It’s a myth women don’t abuse drugs, Leshner says. While the prevalence of drug use and addiction has “historically” been lower for women, Leshner says if someone offers drugs to a woman they are just as likely to use them and just as likely to become addicted.

Leshner cites a study on cocaine abusers, stating women are more likely to relapse because of negative events in their lives, while men are more likely to relapse due to a positive event or happening.

He adds typical drug treatment programs stress “confrontational” techniques and sequestering the patient from their family, sometimes for months at a time.

Women addicts often fear losing custody of their children, Leshner says. Further Leshner suggests a “non-punitive” drug treatment program that (on a case-by-case basis) aims to facilitate the “maternal” role, helping mothers keep frequent contact with their children.

“This is not rocket science,” Leshner says.

“This focus on the maternal role is a critical part of drug treatment.”

Info: Society for Women’s Health Research, 202/955-6922; http://www.womens-health.org/.