Female substance abuse

Female Substance Abuse Issues

Female substance abuse background. The rate of women with substance abuse issues is increasing. Women present with a unique constellation of risk factors and presenting needs, which may include specific needs in their role as mothers. Numerous integrated programs (those with substance use treatment and pregnancy, parenting, or child services) have been developed to specifically meet the needs of pregnant and parenting women with substance abuse issues. This synthesis and meta-analysis reviews research in this important and growing area of treatment.


We searched PsycINFO, MedLine, PubMed, Web of Science, EMBASE, Proquest Dissertations, Sociological Abstracts, and CINAHL and compiled a database of 21 studies (2 randomized trials, 9 quasi-experimental studies, 10 cohort studies) of integrated programs published between 1990 and 2007 with outcome data on maternal substance use. Data were summarized and where possible, meta-analyses were performed, using standardized mean differences (d) effect size estimates. 

Female substance abuse results

In the two studies comparing integrated programs to no treatment, effect sizes for urine toxicology and percent using substances significantly favored integrated programs and ranged from 0.18 to 1.41. Studies examining changes in maternal substance use from beginning to end of treatment were statistically significant and medium sized. More specifically, in the five studies measuring severity of drug and alcohol use, the average effect sizes were 0.64 and 0.40, respectively. In the four cohort studies of days of use, the average effect size was 0.52. Of studies comparing integrated to non-integrated programs, four studies assessed urine toxicology and two assessed self-reported abstinence. Overall effect sizes for each measure were not statistically significant (ES = -0.09 and 0.22, respectively). 


Findings suggest that integrated programs are effective in reducing maternal substance use. However, integrated programs were not significantly more effective than non-integrated programs. Future research directions are discussed, including methodology, study quality, and reporting practices.

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