Opioid use disorder (OUD) has received national attention for its serious impact on individuals, families, and communities.

The stigma surrounding OUD, even from healthcare providers, only increases the risk of serious complications, even death, for those living with it.

Women in particular have a high risk for severe complications. Regardless of age, race, or socioeconomic status, women experience opioid misuse at higher rates than men. They also experience a number of barriers to recovery:

  • Women tend to develop OUD at a younger age. This may make finding affordable treatment (and time for treatment) more difficult.
  • Women are more likely to be caregivers. They may not be able to find or afford child care for the time they’d need to be in treatment.
  • OUD can impair a person’s ability to work. Women with OUD may need financial support to receive and maintain treatment.
  • Women with OUD are more likely to be in relationships with people who also live with a substance use disorder. They may experience higher rates of physical and sexual assault.
  • Women living with OUD may experience other mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. This may create a barrier to treatment and increase motivation to self-medicate rather than find medical support.
  • OUD increases a woman’s likelihood of experiencing trauma, homelessness, and death.

However, when women seek or receive treatment through hospitalization, doctors are less likely to prescribe them medications like methadone, despite the fact that research shows medication-assisted treatment is highly effective in treating OUD.

Moreover, healthcare providers are three times less likely to prescribe naloxone, a life-saving medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose, to women experiencing an overdose.

Thankfully, there are a number of organizations working to combat OUD, support women, and provide assistance to families of individuals recovering from OUD. By increasing women’s access to child care during treatment, medication-assisted treatment, and mental health services, we can ensure recovery is possible for all women living with OUD.

Below you’ll find a list of charities doing incredible work around OUD by supporting research, treatment, and recovery. Despite the important work these organizations are doing, they’re not always in the charity spotlight.

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Harm Reduction Coalition

The Harm Reduction Coalition is a progressive, community-based organization that supports those experiencing OUD and other substance use disorders through education and advocacy efforts. The hallmark of the Harm Reduction Coalition is their commitment to healthcare for people with substance use disorders, an often marginalized group in healthcare.

Key issues include syringe access, overdose prevention, and communicable disease prevention. In addition to general harm-reduction efforts, the Harm Reduction Coalition works with mothers recovering from OUD to connect them to homes, job training, and parenting classes.

Eighty-nine percent of donations to the Harm Reduction Coalition fund advocacy and community-building activities, while 11 percent is devoted to program management and capacity building.

To donate and learn more, visit the Harm Reduction Coalition website.

Oxford House

Oxford House is a network of recovery homes that support people early in recovery from OUD. It’s a community-run, sober-living community focused on relapse prevention and transition back into drug-free life.

Oxford House has invited extensive peer-reviewed academic research to be performed on their success rate. A recent study determined only 13 percent of a cohort of residents experienced relapse in 2 years following their departure from an Oxford House.

Approximately half of Oxford Houses only house women. There are more than 60 locations that exclusively serve women with children, ensuring caregivers have access to treatment.

In 2018, 94.4 percent of donations and rent paid by residents contributed directly to Oxford House communities. Remaining donations (5.6 percent) were used to purchase and start new communities, as well as for salaries of Oxford House outreach workers. To donate and learn more, visit the Oxford House website.

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The American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence

The work of the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence (AATOD) targets access to treatment and overprescription of opioid medication. Most people who live with OUD are introduced to opioids through a prescription. Doctors prescribe women opioids at higher rates than men.

AATOD supports research into the prescription of opioids, promotes safe disposal of prescription opioids, and works with healthcare providers to prevent overprescription of opioid medication. AATOD addresses the lack of understanding of women’s issues in healthcare by promoting provider and public education around prevention strategies and risk management in women.

AATOD reports it uses 78 percent of funding for programs and advocacy initiatives and 22 percent for administration and salaries. To donate and learn more, visit the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence website.

Drug Free America Foundation

The Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF) has a toolkit for a variety of opioid-related issues. Their mission is to educate the public and make current research accessible.

DFAF shares opportunities for doctors to engage in OUD training, educating healthcare providers on responsible prescribing of opioids and treatment of OUD. A signature prevention mission of DFAF is educating mothers on the impact of using opioids during pregnancy and increasing their confidence in seeking help from a medical professional.

Ninety percent of DFAF’s budget is dedicated to education. The other 10 percent goes toward fundraising and management and operations costs. To donate and learn more, visit the Drug Free America Foundation website.

Gearing Up

Women recovering from OUD can get active through Gearing Up, an organization that partners with treatment centers and correctional facilities to provide bicycling events for women currently undergoing or transitioning out of inpatient treatment or incarceration due to substance use.

Gearing Up volunteers support rides and spin classes that focus on the physical, mental, and social benefits of riding a bicycle. Gearing Up also helps women purchase bicycles for regular exercise or as transportation.

The organization partners with academic institutions to determine the efficacy of their programming. Research demonstrates that rides and educational opportunities benefit the physical and psychosocial health of women who participate.

Fifty-nine percent of Gearing Up’s budget is dedicated to programs and projects; 27 percent to business development and fundraising; and 14 percent to program management. To donate and learn more, visit the Gearing Up website.

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Amy Winehouse Foundation

The Amy Winehouse Foundation focuses on prevention and treatment of OUD and other substance use disorders in young people. It offers in-school prevention programming, a treatment center, and music therapy.

Additionally, the foundation funds community projects and works to educate teachers, parents, and volunteers who regularly work with youth. The foundation stresses the importance of supporting young women and serves women between the ages of 18 and 30.

The Amy Winehouse Foundation spends 75 percent of donations on programs, 15.5 percent on fundraising and development, and 9.5 percent on program management. To donate and learn more, visit the Amy Winehouse Foundation website.

Moms United to End the War on Drugs

This organization is dedicated to sensible drug policy. Moms United focuses on harm reduction, syringe exchange, and sentencing reform. They seek to educate the public and policymakers using current research as well as their personal stories.

The work of Moms United encompasses policy change and stigma reduction. They provide guides for those interested in advocating to lawmakers to increase syringe access, provide more therapeutic outlets for those experiencing OUD, and decrease incarceration for drug-related offenses.

More than 80 percent of donations go to advocacy initiatives and community education, 12 percent goes to fundraising, and 8 percent goes to administrative work. To donate and learn more, visit the Moms United website.

North America Syringe Exchange Network

One impact of the opioid epidemic is the potential transmission of serious infection as well as wounds from overused syringes.

While there are an increasing number of community-based syringe exchange programs thanks to the hard work of harm-reduction advocates, these organizations often have difficulty finding 501c(3) nonprofit status and funding their work.

The North American Syringe Exchange Network (NASEN) supports 378 community-based needle exchange programs through their purchasing network, loan assistance, and research initiatives.

Eighty percent of NASEN’s budget is devoted to buyers’ club management and harm-reduction advocacy, while 20 percent goes to program management, outreach, and employee salaries. To donate and learn more, visit the North American Syringe Exchange Network website.

Project Lazarus

The mission of Project Lazarus is to decrease death due to opioid overdose. Their work encompasses a number of key issues in addressing OUD, including naloxone training and access, responsible medication disposal, access to recovery services, and school-based education.

Project Lazarus works to educate women on the impact of opioid use while pregnant, particularly neonatal abstinence syndrome. This occurs when a newborn experiences withdrawal due to opioid exposure in utero.

Seventy percent of donations to Project Lazarus fund programs and services, 27 percent goes to program management, and 3 percent goes to fundraising. To donate and learn more, visit the Lazarus Project website.

Shatterproof

Shatterproof is dedicated to ending addiction. Their primary initiatives surround access to care, quality of care, and public education. Shatterproof aims to end the stigma around substance use disorders and make treatment more accessible in legislature as well as in communities.

Additionally, Shatterproof works to combat overprescription of opioid medication, particularly to women, who have a higher risk for overprescription. The organization also advocates for treatment of pregnant women experiencing OUD, who may avoid prenatal care due to fear of mistreatment from healthcare providers.

Shatterproof uses 81 percent of donations for education and awareness programming, 5 percent for advocacy programs, and 14 percent for events, development, and administration.

To donate and learn more, visit the Shatterproof website.

OUD is a serious disease. By supporting the work of charities like these, you can make a difference in the lives of those affected by OUD.

If you or someone you know is experiencing OUD or another substance use disorder, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) for free, confidential treatment referral 24/7.