Office of National Drug Control Policy

Women and Treatment

With the rising prevalence of female substance abuse, more women are in need of treatment. In 2007, 32.3% of the approximately 1.8 million admissions to drug/alcohol treatment in the U.S. were female admissions. Because women are more likely to be victims of physical or sexual abuse, which contribute to drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and criminal activity, there is a growing needfor more gender-specific substance use treatment services for women.  Effective substance abuse prevention and treatment for girls and women requires crafting programs to address the specific risks and consequences of substance use that are more frequently associated with females. 

The 2011 National Drug Control Strategy acknowledges the high substance abuse rate of females and works to reverse this trend. The Strategy specifically stresses the need to create more treatment centers that address female-specific challenges. Seeking treatment for drug addiction poses hurdles specific to women because many treatment programs are designed for and used mostly by men, and many women must weigh competing family concerns against the need for substance abuse treatment.

As many traditional treatment programs do not allow for the inclusion of children, a woman may be torn between the need to care for her dependent children and the need for treatment. Involvement with the child welfare system also complicates a woman’s decision to seek care, because admitting to a substance abuse problem may lead to involvement with the criminal justice system and/or the loss of custody of children. This must change; women should not feel torn between seeking treatment and caring for their families. There are many model family-based treatment programs around the country that prove families do not need to be separated in order for them to achieve success in treatment and recovery. 

ONDCP is also committed to working with our interagency partners, both through the Interagency Working Groups established by our office and through external partnerships, to address the needs of dependent women and their children.  ONDCP supports interventions that are gender-responsive and trauma-informed, including sentencing alternatives to incarceration, expansion of family-based treatment, improved conditions of maternal incarceration, and increased support for programming focused on parent-child relationships during a mother’s sentence.

Director Kerlikowske and Tina Tchen--the First Lady’s Chief of Staff and Director of the White House Council on Women & Girls--visited a drug treatment center in Orlando that serves women and their dependent children. During their visit, Director Kerlikowske and Tina Tchen received a tour of the facility and listened to clients talk about their journey to recovery. The facility is operated by the Center for Drug-Free Living.

Prevention for Teens – National Media Campaign

ONDCP's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign utilizes a blend of paid advertising and public communications in its brand, Above The Influence, which empowers all teens to reject drugs and any other negative influence in their lives. By embracing challenges that more frequently affect teen girls, the Media Campaign facilitates healthy decisions to reject drugs. The Abovethe Influence messaging highlights short-term and long-term social and health consequences, has national reach, involves multiple channels, and engages teen girls in print, television, radio, and online messaging.


The following web sites have been developed for individuals who are concerned about a loved one's drug use:

SAMHSA offers a treatment facility locator service to aid in identifying treatment programs throughout the country. Using the Treatment Facility Locator site,  individuals can search for programs/facilities in their area and can also identify facilities that offer special programs for females. This information can also be obtained by calling 800-662-HELP (4357).

The following web sites have been developed for individuals who are concerned about a friend’s drug use: