Women and Drug and Alcohol Use Disorders: Compounding the Picture with Severe Mental Illness
Heidi J. Wehring, Gina Perez, Lisa Dixon and Deanna L. Kelly
Affiliation: University of Maryland School of Medicine, Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, PO Box 21247, Baltimore, MD 21228, USA.
Keywords: Gender, substance use disorder, severe mental illness, women.
Substance abuse and addiction are a major burden to society, both in financial costs and public health. Biologic
and psychosocial differences in substance misuse exist between sexes. These differences influence the prevalence,
presentation, comorbidity, and treatment of substance use disorders and suggest that a tailored and personalized approach
should be developed specifically for women. Likewise, mental illness in women who also have a substance use disorder is
common. This understudied and undertreated population represents a population that is vulnerable to poor mental and
physical health outcomes. This paper will briefly examine the importance of addressing treatment specifically tailored to
women and will discuss the further implications of substance abuse in women who have severe mental illness. Future
pharmaocologic and psychosocial treatments should be tailored for women, particularly those who are dually diagnosed.
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