It is well documented that women face significant barriers when attempting to access treatment services for drugs and alcohol. The experiences of Irish women tell a similar story.
Despite the rising number of women reporting drug and alcohol use in Ireland, they are less likely to attend drug and alcohol treatment services than men.
Earlier this year, the Supporting Women to Access Appropriate Treatment Study was launched to explore why this is the case. The study focused on women attending drug and alcohol services in the Dublin suburbs of Ballyfermot and Tallaght.
All of the women involved in the study wanted to engage with drug and alcohol treatment. However, challenges such as age, stigma and a lack of childcare facilities acted as barriers.
More than three quarters of the women surveyed expressed feelings of shame, stigma, and judgement due to drug use.
Many women also feared attending drug and alcohol services, or even disclosing their situation to service providers, because they felt there was a potential threat of losing custody of their children. One woman said: “I’d be afraid that the kids would get taken off me if I went to someone and told them how bad it was.”
In most cases, a delay in accessing appropriate treatment led to women reaching ‘rock bottom’ before seeking support.
So, what improvements can be made to treatment services for women in Ireland?
The study suggested that improved residential treatment centres with onsite childcare facilities would go a long way to helping mothers to access drug and alcohol treatment.
Researchers also suggested that recovery in Ireland is currently focused strongly on abstinence. They said it is important to take a more holistic view of recovery that focuses on health, relationships, education, employment, and self-care across individual, community and societal levels.
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