The Drug Addict is Your Neighbor

If you picture a drug addict as a minority male, in his early 20s, living in a big city, think again.

The drug abuser you're most likely to meet is living in your neighborhood and looks just like you.

Some 496 people in Westfield were admitted to drug treatment centers last year due to drug abuse--and a third of them are white women. Of these women, 10 percent of them are over 50. And, 75 percent of them, over 30.

What are the drugs of choice? First, marijuana, followed by crack, cocaine and heroin. And all of the women who entered treatment had an alcohol abuse problem in addition to a drug addiction.

That's Westfield. Statewide, more than 28,300 women were admitted to institutions for substance treatment last year. That's an increase of 8,000 a year over an eight year period, by the way. And women are a growing segment of the addicted, rising from 20 percent of all abusers to 28 percent.

Obviously, drug use affects the family. Three out of five addicted women have children 18 or younger.

And the 670 pregnant women admitted into treatment last year were already parenting kids. These were younger women--63 percent of them under 30, as opposed to 36 percent on non-pregnant women. There were also less educated--half hadn't completed high school. And, they were poorer--97 percent of them were unemployed--and more than half had no income.

State statistics show that 3,491 adolescents were admitted to treatment centers last year. A quarter of them were female and a quarter of them were under 16. Even scarier is the fact that almost half (46 percent) of students surveyed in grades seven through twelve had tried a drug other than alcohol or tobacco. Marijuana, inhalants, psychedelics, cocaine.

But, let's focus on women. This week, several moms involved in The Moms Project came to the State House to prove that addiction can be overcome. They came telling success stories, about kicking the habit, getting jobs, getting custody of their children. So we know it can be done.

The statistics they shared were astounding, with women becoming a growing segment of drug addicts. Nationally, at least 4.5-million are alcohol abusers; 3.5-million misuse prescription drugs; 3.1-million regularly use illicit drugs; 21.5- million smoke cigarets.

Today's daughters are 15 times likelier than their mothers to have begun using illegal drug by age 15. And, each year, women give birth to 500,000 babies who have been prenatally exposed to illegal drugs. Over the past 10 years, 16,000 children contracted the AIDs virus in the wombs of their mothers, most of whom were infected by their or their sexual partner's injection drug use.

The results. Increased child abuse and neglect, with abuse showing increase from 1.92-million cases in 1985 to 3.14 million in 1994. And, a rise in the numbers of women in federal and state prisons, from 12,331 in 1980 to 59,878 in 1994. Alcohol is implicated in 75 percent of rapes, 70 percent of domestic violence. A greater percentage of alcoholic women than men die from alcohol-related accidents violence and suicide.

All materials copyright 1997 - 2014