Addiction and Moms: Numbers Rising, But Many Keep Problem Secret

Posted on October 3rd, 2012

A young mother attending her children’s school functions and sports events doesn’t create the typical picture of a person with a drug addiction, but it’s an alarming and growing reality, say experts. Recent articles have highlighted moms who have had children removed from the home or spent time incarcerated for drug use, often resorting to drugs as an attempt to cope with long lists of stressors and responsibilities.

Many moms who battle drug addictions may show unpredictable periods of addiction and recovery and are skilled at hiding the problem, thus extending the addiction over a period of years. In one article, a young mother who was caught shoplifting saw her drug problem come to light, and eventually reach its resolution through a specialized treatment program. A desire to escape negative feelings, said the mother, led her toward addictions to painkillers and other substances.

The problem lasted several years, says the mother, because it’s not something people are comfortable addressing in conversation and most don’t expect a successful mother to be harboring such a secret. The pressures to be a source of support for their children and husbands, to remain an active member of the community and to maintain a high state of physical health can be overwhelming and can open the door to stimulant drug use like methamphetamines or cocaine.

Other mothers who have become addicted to drugs find that the problem begins with medications for depression, anxiety or a surgery or injury – and then the addiction escalates, including anti-psychotics or prescription pain medications. For mothers who work outside the home, reports indicate that use of anti-anxiety medications and alcohol are rising as they attempt to balance multiple workloads.

Federal studies indicate that the number of women in their 30s to middle 40s who have abused alcohol has increased twofold over the past ten years, and prescription drug abuse levels have jumped several hundred percent. Licensed mental health professional Heidi Jacobsen treats women who are working through prescription drug abuse at a Florida center. Jacobsen said in reports addressing the problem that many women are reluctant to talk about their addiction or look for help for fear of letting down their spouses and children, or fears of having their children or career taken away.

The situation of helping drug-addicted mothers is complicated on many levels. Children living in the home suffer emotional consequences and may be neglected. Financial ruin can be a consequence, as can separation or divorce from a spouse. Psychologically, some experts believe increasing cases of moms with drug addictions may result from pressure to remain strong and in control, when on an emotional level, many moms are struggling with overwhelming levels of daily pressures.

Speaking about the problem is a critical step, and some reports are asking for the subject of drug-addicted mothers to receive similar levels of messaging and attention as conditions like breast cancer.

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