Two hundred and sixty-seven women were interviewed in a national survey examining the characteristics, treatment needs and treatment experiences of Australian women who had received treatment for their alcohol and other drug problems. More than half the women were mothers, of whom almost one-third had surrendered custody of their children. Polydrug use was the norm among these women, who in general had substantial experience with the legal system. A sizeable proportion of women had experienced physical and psychological health problems such as hepatitis, eating disorders, self-mutilation, suicide attempts and low self-esteem. The majority of the sample had a life-time history of physical or sexual violence. The implications of these findings are discussed and recommendations are provided for attracting and retaining women in appropriate services.