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Book: Women Get Hooked Faster On Drugs

For actress Jamie Lee Curtis, the problem was drugs, and for former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, it was alcohol and cigarettes.

Their experiences are part of a new book, "Women Under the Influence," that researchers hope will draw attention to the problems of the more than 30 million American female substance abusers.

High among those problems: a lack of studies and programs tailored specifically to girls and women, says the book, which pulls together more than 10 years of research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at New York's Columbia University.

Programs specifically for females are especially important because they become addicted faster than men and become ill with diseases like lung cancer and cirrhosis more quickly, the book says.

Yet "finding ... effective prevention and treatment programs for girls and women is infuriatingly difficult," said Joseph Califano Jr., a former U.S. health secretary who founded the center in 1992. "This book shines a light into the dark corners of this problem," he said.

Among the book's major points:

  • 32 million women smoke; 6 million are addicted to alcohol; 15 million use illicit drugs and/or misuse prescription drugs.
  • Daughters of smoking mothers are more likely to take up the habit than sons of smoking mothers.
  • 70 percent of women who use drugs or alcohol while pregnant don't tell their doctors.
  • 92 percent of women who need treatment for alcohol and drugs do not get it.

    "Law & Order" TV star and recent Golden Globe winner S. Epatha Merkerson opened up about her struggle with nicotine, saying, "I did the patch. I smoked on the patch. I did hypnosis."

    Richards called alcoholism "a slow, insidious, difficult and progressive problem" that she beat after her family and friends intervened.

    "You know you have a problem long before you seek a solution to it," Curtis said. "You think you can master it yourself."

    The book, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, was financed by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.

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