Treatment Issues for Aboriginal Mothers with Substance Use Problems and Their Children
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In many cultures, approximately one third of people with drug dependence are women of child-bearing age. Substance use among pregnant and parenting women is a major public health concern. Aboriginal people have some of the highest rates of substance abuse in Canada, increasing concern for detrimental health impacts, including those for women and their children. For many women, substance abuse offers a means of coping with trauma, such as childhood abuse, partner violence, and, for Aboriginal women, the intergenerational effects of colonization. In this paper, we review treatment issues for Aboriginal mothers with substance use problems and their children. We discuss gender-specific issues in substance abuse, the need for women-specific treatment, the impact of substance abuse on children and parenting, the additional risks for Aboriginal women and children, and the need for integrated programs (those that integrate pregnancy-, parenting-, and child-related services with women-specific addiction treatment). We describe New Choices as an example of an integrated program, review research on existing treatment for Aboriginal mothers with substance use issues, and describe Sheway as a promising integrated program for Aboriginal women with substance abuse issues and their young children. There are few treatment programs specifically for Aboriginal mothers with substance use issues and their children and very little research on their effectiveness. Based on our review of existing evidence, we offer recommendations for future research and practice.
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