In the 1990s, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), began sponsoring the Work Group on Women, Drinking, and Pregnancy, one of four work groups then supported by the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (ICCFASD). In 2018, the Work Group changed its name to the Interagency Work Group on Drinking and Drug Use in Women and Girls (IWG). Like its predecessor, IWG comprises representatives from multiple federal agency partners, academia, and health care provider organizations committed to improving access to high-quality alcohol prevention, treatment, and recovery services for women and girls.
Now, however, the vision and mission of IWG have been expanded to include access to mental health services and to services for all substance use disorders (SUDs), not only alcohol use disorder. Specifically, IWG envisions that in the near future all girls and women will have access to routine screening for mental health problems and disorders, alcohol misuse, and other substance misuse and SUDs, and to comprehensive and effective prevention, treatment, and recovery services for all mental health disorders and SUDs.
Members of IWG work collaboratively to develop and implement joint initiatives to improve the quantity, range, and quality of prevention, treatment, and recovery services for mental health and SUDs among women and girls across the lifespan. Because many of the issues relevant to these disorders have been understudied or entirely neglected in females, IWG members are committed to working toward expanding the research agenda so that it will provide the necessary information about women and girls. In addition, IWG is committed to providing mutual support for the development and implementation of agency-specific initiatives that advance this goal.
Recent activities of IWG include:
- 2017 National Conference on Alcohol and Opioid Use Among Women and Girls - The overarching goal of the 2017 National Conference on Alcohol and Opioid Use in Women and Girls was to review some of the key findings from current research on the causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of harmful alcohol, opioid, and other substance use among women and girls, and on best approaches to sustaining recovery. Equally important, organizers sought to identify important directions for future research and to provide a platform for the development of a coordinated public-private response to the current crisis in women's mental health; a response that is equally respectful of findings from the latest research on harmful substance use among women and girls and of the collective wisdom of practitioners, administrators, and policymakers serving on the front lines. Based on early feedback from conference participants, we believe that NIAAA, the conference planning committee (the Interagency Work Group on Drinking and Drug Use in Women and Girls) and our federal partners--the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Office of AIDS Research, and Office of Research on Women's Health, NIH, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration--were highly successful in meeting these initial goals and in providing a setting where stakeholders from diverse professional backgrounds could be energized and motivated to start new collaborations and to strengthen existing ones.
- White Paper on substance use among women and girls - IWG developed a white paper based on the 2017 National Conference proceedings. The white paper will be available on the NIAAA website in 2020.
- Virtual Issue of Alcohol Clinical and Experimental Research (ACER) - A product of the National Conference publications committee, this online issue of ACER is based on a review of the current literature encompassing all aspects of substance use among women and girls. The full issue was published in April 2019 and includes the cover article, “Alcohol and Women: A Brief Overview.”
- Quarterly Webinars on Mental Health Problems and Substance Use Among Women and Girls - Past webinars have focused on substance use among Hispanic women and girls, the prevalence of FASD, substance use among adolescent girls, how stigma affects women’s access to treatment for SUDs, and online research methods, among other topics.