How the War on Drugs Impacts Mothers with Addiction

Since America’s war on drugs mandatory sentencing law in 1986, incarceration of women has skyrocketed 400% and 800% for African American women. 80% of women in prison have substance abuse problems. 66% of incarcerated women have minor children.

Mothers who seek drug rehab, face a ‘Sophie’s choice’ dilemma with few options for treatment that includes childcare. When a child is removed to foster care, they become unintended victims bouncing from foster home to foster home and may age out as legal orphans. Only 20% of mothers reunify with their children in the foster care system.

In an effort to help mothers the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration gave start-up funds for 35 comprehensive family-based residential treatment programs in 1991. Center Point, which is featured in Moms Living Clean, was one of the first programs in the United States to provide gender specific treatment. Today, in 2010, there are less than 100 family-based programs in 36 states.

Drug and alcohol addiction is an international problem leading to dire consequences for individuals, families and society. Global relevance of the issues surrounding mothers who use drugs is evidenced by treatment programs that have sprung up in other countries. For example: The Glasgow Women’s Reproductive Health Service in Scotland was founded by pediatrician, Dr. Mary Hepburn, in 1990. Dr. Hepburn has been an adviser for the World Health Organization and set up a reproductive health service program for disadvantaged women in Moldova. The Sheway Program in Vancouver, British Columbia was established in 1993, and also has extensive support services for mothers with substance use issues.

In 2000, professionals from various clinics and researchers in Italy, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Austria and Greece convened in Venice to gather information for a research programme on the Risk Factors in Infancy and Adolescence. It was supported by the European Commission. Outcomes from their research were published in a book Women Drug Abuse in Europe. They found that “…inadequacy of services is definitely a problem which should be investigated in greater depth with prevention in mind.”

Moms Living Clean will continue the international dialogue around issues of mothers with addiction and provide a viable alternative to help mothers worldwide. The women’s personal stories in the film will validate and encourage women to seek recovery, educate social service providers, law enforcement and judges, and promote funding of family-based substance abuse treatment programs.