Clinicians, Experts Team Up for C-HIT Forum On Women’s Addiction, Recovery

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Connecticut has seen a continued rise in opioid-related addiction among women, with more than 420 women dying of drug overdoses in 2015 and 2016.

To address the crisis and stir community discussion about prevention, intervention and treatment, the Conn. Health I-Team, in collaboration with Wheeler Clinic, will host a free community forum, “Working Women: The New Face of Addiction,” from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on April 6 at the New Britain Museum of American Art, 56 Lexington St., New Britain. The event is open to the public. Register here.

Jessica Smith

Nationally in 2015, 1.2 million women – 3,300 per day – started taking opioids, a rate 25 percent higher than men, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioids are a class of drugs that includes the illegal drug heroin, as well as powerful prescription pain relievers.

Women are more likely than men to have chronic pain and be prescribed opioid pain relievers, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. They also are more likely to be given higher doses, use them for longer periods of time, and become dependent on them more quickly than men, according to the society.

“The forum is an opportunity for the community to engage in meaningful dialogue about women and addiction and the unique issues associated with the epidemic,” said Jessica Smith, senior director of adult outpatient services at Wheeler Clinic and one of the event’s panelists. “There are common misconceptions about how and why women use opioids– more specifically, their pathways to addiction and into recovery.”

Patricia Rehmer

About 48,000 women died nationwide from overdosing on prescription pain relievers between 1999 and 2010 – a more than 400 percent increase, compared with a 237 percent increase among men, according to the society of addiction medicine.

In Connecticut, 1,646 people died of drug overdoses in 2015 and 2016, of which 423 were women, according to Chief Medical Examiner Dr. James Gill.

“It’s a growing problem, for sure,” said Smith. “The misuse of prescription pain

medication, specifically opioids such as Oxycodone, Percocet and Hydrocodone, is a primary factor.”

Additionally, heroin use is increasing at faster rates among women than in men, she said.

Addicted women have complex treatment needs, Smith said, and are best served by “a multimodal approach” that addresses the wide range of issues tied to opioid use.

Judith Stonger

In addition to the pain or medical problem that may have led them to opioids, women may face other problems – unemployment, loss of custody and relationship issues, for instance – as a result of their addiction.

In addition to Smith, panelists at the forum will include: Judith Stonger, vice president of prevention, wellness and recovery at Wheeler Clinic; Patricia A. Rehmer, senior vice president, Hartford Healthcare, and president of the Behavioral Health Network; and Annette Diaz, a woman in long-term recovery, doing peer work since 2009 and a Certified Recovery Support Specialist, Peer Coordinator at CHR.

Annette Diaz

The moderator is Angi Carter, senior web producer and metrics specialist, New Haven Register. Wheeler Clinic is a major event sponsor and and the Hartford Courant are media partners.

Register for the event here. Light refreshments will be served starting at 5 p.m., and free parking is available. Attendees receive free admission to the museum.

For more information, contact Lynne DeLucia at or 203-215-6373.




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