African American women, Drug Abstinence, Marginalized Populations, Relationships, Transitional Housing Treatment



  1. Lopez, Alexa A. PhD
  2. Dressel, Anne E. PhD
  3. Deal, Emily MHS
  4. Krueger, Emma MS
  5. Graf, Maria MSN, PhD
  6. Pittman, Belinda PhD
  7. Schmitt, Marin MS
  8. Kako, Peninnah PhD, MSN
  9. Ochoa-Nordstrum, Brittany BA
  10. Mkandawire-Valhmu, Lucy PhD, MSN


Abstract: Traditional substance misuse treatments have not always taken women or marginalized populations into consideration. A holistic approach that addresses how drugs may be used to cope with trauma caused by violence, poverty, and neglect as well as employment of engagement strategies that connect populations with culturally relevant support systems are key, especially in treating African American women. As substance misuse rates rise among African American women, characterizing how this may influence or be influenced by relationships (such as with children, intimate partners, and social relations) is especially important in the context of effective treatment. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the themes surrounding substance misuse and close relationships among women previously enrolled in a transitional housing treatment program grounded in social support. Many women discussed how the program itself was an impetus in addressing not only their own substance use but also intergenerational substance use within their families. Women also noted how relationships with their children were vastly different pretreatment compared with during and after treatment, specifically emphasizing a positive improvement. Regarding intimate relationships, African American women learned to establish assertiveness and navigate healthier social relationships, all while sustaining drug abstinence. It is important to acknowledge the role of the healthcare professional in ensuring effective and culturally relevant treatment for African American women; nursing curricula should include evidence-based practice education and training on mental health and substance misuse specific to marginalized communities to more deeply understand the complex intersections of substance misuse, poverty, and social relationships in the lives of women.