Last week, I was honored to attend a bipartisan forum on women and addiction on Capitol Hill, hosted by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). The forum focused on the unique challenges women face while suffering from substance use disorders. In my remarks, I mentioned an alarming statistic regarding drug use and pregnancy in young women.
Almost one in five (18.3 percent) pregnant teens aged 15 to 17 reported using an illicit drug in the past month, compared to fewer than 1 in 20 (3.4 percent) pregnant women aged 26 to 44.[i] These statistics are even more alarming in light of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that the percentage of women succumbing to fatal overdoses involving opioids has risen much more sharply than that for men. From 1999 to 2011, the increase in deaths in women has risen over 400 percent, as compared to 265 percent in men.[ii] These statistics are deplorable, and for this reason, as outlined in our 2014 National Drug Control Strategy, the Obama Administration seeks to decrease drug-induced deaths by 15 percent this year through promoting strong nationwide policies that help improve access to evidence-based treatment, including medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders and much more.
This week’s forum also included discussions by other individuals who brought years of experience and education on this topic to the table. Subjects of discussion included lectures on the type of treatment most effective for women, substance use disorders and motherhood, and the role of trauma as a factor contributing to substance use disorders, relapse, and recidivism in women.
I hope to see more of these bi-partisan discussions aimed at reducing – and ultimately eliminating – the stigma associated with those suffering from or in recovery from substance use disorders. Even for people in dire need of substance use disorder treatment, stigma can be an insurmountable barrier to getting help. As a person in recovery myself, I am determined to help people get the treatment they need to live happy, healthy, and productive lives in recovery. The Obama Administration remains committed to reducing drug use and its consequences.
[i] SAMHSA. National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2011 and 2012. Unpublished special tabulations (September 2013).