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

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

A young mother attending her children’s school functions and sports events might not be 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 who have spent time incarcerated for drug use. The proverbial soccer mom may resort to stimulants to keep up with a busy schedule, or Xanax to relieve the stress of multiple responsibilities.

Many moms who battle drug addiction are skilled at hiding the problem, thus extending the addiction over a period of years. In one article, a young mother’s drug addiction came to light after she was caught shoplifting; she ended up in a specialized treatment program. A desire to escape negative feelings, said the mother, motivated her use of addictive pain killers and other mood-altering substances. Because so few people expect a seemingly well-adjusted mom to be harboring a secret addiction, this mom’s problem went unnoticed for years.

A mom who feels pressured to excel at a career while raising children, and also to stay physically fit and attractive, may turn to stimulant drugs such as meth and cocaine. These drugs give them extra energy and reduce appetite, but the backlash effects can be devastating.

Mom’s who stay home to raise the kids may feel depressed and lonely during the day and start drinking wine to make the hours pass more pleasantly. Eventually they might move the hour they start to drink earlier and earlier in the day. They might binge drink on the weekends to “let off steam.”

Some might develop a problem after an accident or surgery. They might start to take prescription pain killers too often, or increase the dosage beyond what is recommended. Eventually they might turn to alternative ways to get enough pain killer, such as doctor shopping, forging prescriptions, or foraging through the medicine cabinets of friends and family. If it gets too difficult to get the prescription opiates, they may turn to illegal alternatives such as heroin.

For mothers who work outside the home, reports indicate that use of anti-anxiety medications and alcohol are rising as they attempt to balance work and home responsibilities. 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. Jacobsen said 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 taken away or career ruined.

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. Some experts believe they are seeing an increasing number of moms turning to drugs to relieve the anxieties and pressure of juggling multiple responsibilities. Many moms are simply experiencing overload.

Speaking about the problem is a critical step in getting mothers with drug and alcohol problems to seek help. Education will help spouses recognize signs of abuse and dependency. Some experts are saying more attention should be paid to the issue of drug addiction in mothers if any progress is to be made in getting women, and their families, the help they need.

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