• Article

Research on women with substance use disorders Reviewing progress and developing a research and implementation roadmap

BACKGROUND: Research on women with substance use disorders has expanded, yet knowledge and implementation gaps remain.

METHODS: Drawing from topics discussed at the 2017 meeting of InWomen's in Montreal, Canada, this article reviews key progress in research on substance use among women, adolescents, and families to delineate priorities for the next generation of research.

RESULTS: The field has seen significant accomplishments in multiple domains, including the management of pregnant women with substance use and comorbid psychiatric disorders, caring for neonates in opioid withdrawal, greater inclusion of and treatment options for LGBTQ + communities, gendered instrumentation, and gender-focused HIV interventions for adolescent girls and women. Women who use alcohol and other drugs often experience other comorbid medical conditions (chronic Hepatitis C and HIV), contextual confounders (intimate partner violence exposure, homelessness, trauma), and social expectations (e.g., as caretakers) that must be addressed as part of integrated care to effectively treat women's substance use issues. Although significant advances have been made in the field to date, gender-based issues for women remain a neglected area in much of substance abuse research. Few dedicated and gender-focused funding opportunities exist and research has been siloed, limiting the potential for collaborations or interdisciplinary cross-talk.

CONCLUSION: Given renewed attention to substance use in the context of the burgeoning opioid epidemic and shifts in global politics that affect women's substance use, the field requires a strategic rethink to invigorate a pipeline of future research and researchers.


Meyer, J. P., Isaacs, K., El-Shahawy, O., Burlew, A. K., & Wechsberg, W. (2019). Research on women with substance use disorders: Reviewing progress and developing a research and implementation roadmap. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 197, 158-163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2019.01.017