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

We support women with opioid use disorder (OUD) and their healthcare providers by providing resources and tools for patient-centered, coordinated care.

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. OUD is a chronic medical disease. OUD is treatable.

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. People with OUD often also use other substances.

How Does OUD Affect Women?

OUD can affect women differently than men:

  • Women are prescribed opioid pain medications more often.
  • Women may become dependent on opioids after less time using them.
  • Women with children can face challenges in getting treatment.
  • 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 MB) 

What Is the Treatment for OUD?

Medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) is usually the first choice of treatment for OUD. Treatment may also include counseling. Withdrawal management alone is not as effective as MOUD with coordinated services.

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 MB) (OUD toolkit).

What was the scope of the project?

In 2019, we did a literature review and held 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, we held additional meetings with federal and non-federal experts to gather input on OUD toolkit format and content. Experts included substance use treatment providers, researchers, community leaders, and others. The OUD toolkit for organization leaders and providers linked on this page is the result of this two-year project.

Since 2021, we have shared the OUD toolkit with organization leaders and providers. Any feedback we receive will keep the OUD toolkit relevant.

What Is in the OUD Toolkit?

It provides tools for providers and their organizations to deliver evidence-based, patient-centered, coordinated care. We organize the tools into three focus areas. 

Focus Areas

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

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

How do you define success?

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

How Can I Contact You?

Email us with questions or feedback.

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