Improving the Health of Women with Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)

We support women with opioid use disorder (OUD).

Why is OUD a problem?

OUD is a type of substance use disorder. In OUD, opioid use leads to distress or impairment. This can be prescription or illegal opioids. OUD can result in serious health problems or death.

How has opioid use changed?

Opioid use and overdoses have gone up in recent years. HHS declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in 2017. The COVID-19 pandemic made it worse.

How does OUD affect women?

  • Women are prescribed opioid pain medications more often.
  • Women may become dependent on opioids after less time using them.
  • Mental and emotional distress can lead to dangerous opioid use among women.
  • A larger proportion of women with OUD have histories of trauma.

Review HHS’s Final Report: Opioid Use, Misuse, and Overdose in Women (PDF – 1.5 MB).

What’s the treatment for OUD?

Medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) is usually the first choice of treatment for OUD. Treatment may also include counseling.

To treat women, experts suggest coordinating services (responsive care coordination). This addresses all the needs women want to focus on. This helps women and their families.

How are you addressing the problem?

We worked with the HHS Office on Women's Health to develop Caring for Women with Opioid Use Disorder: A Toolkit for Organization Leaders and Providers (PDF - 5.8 KB).

What was the scope of the project?

In 2019, we did a literature review and held three meetings across three HHS regions. From this, we developed the Patient and Family-Centered Treatment and Care Coordination Model for Women Served by HRSA Programs (PDF – 426 KB).

In 2020, meetings focused on toolkit format and content. Federal and non-federal experts provided input. Experts included substance use treatment providers, researchers, community leaders, and others. The toolkit was the result of the two-year project.

In 2021 and beyond, we’re sharing the toolkit with organization leaders and providers. Any feedback we receive will keep the toolkit relevant.

What’s in the toolkit?

It provides tools for patient-centered, coordinated care. We organize the tools into three focus areas. 

The toolkit also includes a self-assessment for users. They can identify potential focus areas.

Focus Areas

  1. Shifting the culture around addiction and treatment.
  2. Engaging women with opioid use disorder in care.
  3. Creating and maintaining partnerships that support care coordination for women with opioid use disorder.

How do you define success?

Our success depends on organization leaders and providers using the toolkit.

How can I contact you?

Email us with questions or feedback.

Date Last Reviewed:  February 2021