Today a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators co-hosted a forum in the U.S. Capitol to examine the unique challenges posed to women suffering from addiction. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) convened the forum, which featured input and analysis from advocates, doctors, researchers, and women in recovery.
Studies have shown that women with histories of trauma are at a much higher risk for mental health problems and substance abuse. In fact, women are the fastest growing population when it comes to substance abuse -- with the rate of fatal overdoses of prescription painkillers and other drugs among U.S. women quadrupling between 1999 and 2010, according to the Center for Disease Control. Panel discussions on Tuesday explored these issues and how to best address them.
Whitehouse and Portman also today announced that they are working on legislation to address opiate addiction and support those in recovery by establishing programs to help states with physician and public education, prevention and treatment initiatives, law enforcement and criminal justice efforts, and overdose reversal programs. The legislation is still being finalized but will be introduced in the near future.
"With overdoses from prescription painkillers surpassing automobile accidents as the leading causes of death, we are losing daughters, sisters, and mothers at alarming rates," Whitehouse said. "Today's forum will feature panels on best practices, motherhood and addiction, and the role of trauma in addiction, rehabilitation, and recidivism in women. I want to thank all our panelists for joining us today." Speaking of the legislation, he said, "This issue is important to senators from every part of the country, and I look forward to working with all of them--and all of you--toward passage of this legislation."
"Substance abuse is wreaking havoc on families and communities all across the country, and it's a growing problem among women," Klobuchar said. "With more and more women suffering from addiction, we need to focus on developing treatment options that work for women and supporting proven tools in the fight against addiction so that we can reverse this devastating trend."
"About 18 American women die each day from drug overdose. This is an increase of more than 400 percent since 1999," Portman said. "The Women and Addiction forum is an opportunity to look past statistics and talk about solutions to better equip federal policies on drug abuse and addiction to help reach people, restore lives, and rebuild families and communities. I will continue to work for solutions to address heroin and opiate abuse and look forward to introducing legislation with Senator Whitehouse regarding this important issue."
"Addiction doesn't discriminate. Those with substance abuse challenges come from all walks of life, and the factors that lead to substance abuse among women aren't necessarily the same as the factors that lead to substance abuse among men," said Senator Ayotte. "By bringing together policymakers, women in recovery, and nationally-recognized researchers and practitioners, we can learn about how to approach this challenge in a comprehensive manner -- and craft policies that help women address addiction."
Joining the Senators to kick off the event was Michael Botticelli, Acting Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The forum featured panel discussions focusing on the following topics:
Women and Addiction: Treatment and What Works
Women, Addiction, and Motherhood
The Role of Trauma as a Factor Contributing to Addiction, Relapse & Recidivism in Women
The first panel featured Trista Froman, a Rhode Island woman who struggled with addiction as a teenager before turning her life around. She shared her story of addiction and recovery, and credited Women & Infants Hospital's Project Link as well as the birth of her children with helping her to stay on the right track. Miriam Hospital's Dr. Josiah Rich participated in the third panel and addressed the role of trauma in women's addiction and recovery.
Whitehouse and Portman hosted a similar forum in April on addiction and criminal justice.