Characteristics of drug-abusing females with and without children seeking treatment in Helsinki, Finland

Sushil Basnet, Ifeoma N Onyeka, Jari Tiihonen, Jaana Föhr, Jussi Kauhanen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


AIMS: This study characterizes treatment-seeking female users of illicit drugs in Finland, and examines possible differences among women with or without children under 18.

METHODS: The subjects were 2526 drug-using clients from the Helsinki metropolitan area, who sought treatment at Helsinki Deaconess Institute between 2001 and 2008. A total of 775 (30.6%) were females with complete information regarding their parental status. Of these, 225 (29%) had children under 18. The proportion of women with children varied between 20% and 30% annually, except in 2006, when it peaked at 40.5%.

RESULTS: Women with children were more likely to be somewhat older (p<0.001), married or cohabiting (p<0.001), homeless (p=0.007), unemployed (p<0.001), and living with other illicit drug users (p=0.014), compared with those without children. Self-referral and referral to treatment by child healthcare services were more common among those who had children (p<0.001). A higher proportion of women with children reported use of opiates as the primary drug (p<0.001), and used them more often intravenously (p=0.001), and daily (p=0.007), during the previous month. However, polydrug use (p=0.607) and sharing of needles/syringes (p=0.945) were similar in both groups. Prevalence of hepatitis B and C (p=0.041 and p<0.001, respectively) were more common in females with children. Among women who had children, 34.2% had children living within the same household, 37.3% in foster care, and 22.7% elsewhere.

CONCLUSIONS: Women with children had more risky drug consumption patterns, and were more likely to live with other drug users; this creates an unhealthy environment for child rearing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-8
JournalScandinavian journal of public health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

© 2015 the Nordic Societies of Public Health.


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers/psychology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care/statistics & numerical data
  • Risk-Taking
  • Substance-Related Disorders/psychology
  • Young Adult


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