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SAMHSA’s Award-Winning Newsletter
November/December 2008, Volume 16, Number 6 

A Call to Action

“When we look at our data, we find that 6.9 million women are needing but not receiving treatment,” said H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., M.P.H, CSAT Director. Approximately 94 percent of these women felt no need for treatment.

Speaking at the opening plenary, Dr. Clark cited data from SAMHSA’s 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health to emphasize the seriousness of the problem.

“We have 118,000 individuals on the waiting list for treatment services,” he said. “Those are of concern, but they are overshadowed by 6.5 million women not seeking care and not perceiving a need for care.” The chart also shows 319,000 women who feel they need treatment but make no effort to get services.

Disparities: Women and Treatment Needs

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pie chart: Disparities: Women and Treatment Needs
Source: NSDUH 2007. Past-Year Perceived Need for and Effort Made To Receive Treatment among Women Aged 12+ Needing But Not Receiving Specialty Treatment for Illicit Drug or Alcohol Use.

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Calling the problem a conspiracy of silence, he urged treatment providers to reach out to the 6.5 million women whose voices are not being heard.

“These women are not knocking on your door,” Dr. Clark reminded the audience. “We have to reach out to the silent ones and address the internal denial, external denial, and community denial.”

Reasons women give for not making an effort to get treatment include not knowing where to go, negative effects on their job, and no health insurance. More importantly, of those women who need treatment many say they are not ready to stop using.

What’s the best treatment venue for women? “We need to work together to figure that out,” said Dr. Clark.

“We believe in recovery that includes health, wellness, and quality of life, not simple abstinence. The path to recovery is different for everyone — one size does not fit all.”

— Dr. H. Westley Clark, Director
SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment

Reaching Out

“This conference is a call to action,” said Susan E. Foster, M.S.W., a plenary speaker from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. “The most powerful recommendation we can make is to get this information into the hands of America’s women and girls.”

“First, we need a public health campaign,” Ms. Foster said. “We need to educate people that addiction is a chronic disease and to understand the gender differences that accompany it just as we do heart disease and cancer.”

“As part of this campaign, we need to break apart risky behavior from drug dependence. Risky drug and alcohol use is a public health problem,” said Ms. Foster. “It’s about changing behaviors.” On the other hand, she noted, addiction is a medical issue that often requires a number of ongoing behavioral, pharmacological, and recovery support services.

“Part of the disease of addiction is to deny it,” Ms. Foster said, noting that women avoid getting treatment, and health care providers are not trained to see substance abuse issues. “What we need is high-quality, gender-specific substance abuse treatment.”

Research shows that girls turn to substance abuse for different reasons than boys do. Girls are more likely than boys to self-medicate to relieve anxiety and stress. “And regarding mental health issues,” said Ms. Foster, “girls are more likely to have anxiety, depression, and eating disorders than boys are, and these conditions often co-occur with addiction.”

  Women, Addiction, & Recovery  
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Conference Coverage & Related Stories

  Returning Veterans  
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Women in the Military: Overcoming Challenges

From mental health issues to sexual harassment—what’s being done to help.

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Veterans & Major Depressive Episode: New Data

Last year, more than 300,000 veterans experienced MDEs.

  Suicide Prevention  
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New Media Increase Options

Virtual suicide prevention efforts are helping.

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Lifeline Answers One Millionth Call

Milestone for SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

  Training Manuals  
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This Treatment Improvement Protocol training manual offers basics on successful detox.

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Medication-Assisted Treatment

This Treatment Improvement Protocol training manual discusses treatment for opioid addiction.

  Data on Youth  
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Inhalant Use & Depression

Some adolescents are three times as likely to start using inhalants—find out why.

Mental Health Settings: New Data

Do young people get mental health services at school more often than at specialty treatment centers?

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Out-of-Home Treatment

Effective treatment options for young people.

  Also in This Issue  
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2008 Science & Service Award Winners

For best practices, 29 organizations honored.

Grant Updates

Awards announced.

Staff in the News logo

Advisory Councils

Five new members for SAMHSA’s Advisory Councils.

Treatment Line Gets National Attention

Oprah promotes SAMHSA’s substance abuse treatment line as a resource.

The Voice Awards logo

Voice Award Nominations

You have until March 2009 to cast your vote.

Primary Care Settings

Mental health may improve with treatment location.

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