Author: Gary Jackson

Why Do Women Face More Stigma for Substance Addiction?

It also shows that negative perceptions of drug use exist in mainstream as well as drug-using worlds, and these perceptions often create barriers for women attempting to recover. Informed by the literature, this study examined the lives of 20 women who used methamphetamine and other illegal drugs with the goal to understand every stage of their drug use, and with particular focus on barriers to recovery. Using a qualitative method known as “grounded theory” (Charmaz, 2006), the study examined how female drug users begin using drugs and how they strive to achieve a sense of normality while facing stigmatization as current or former drug users. Being stigmatized marginalizes the discredited individual from mainstream society, and stigmatization by social services is often viewed as an attempt to exert social control (Palamar, Halkitis, & Kiang, 2013). Focusing on the stigmatization of drug users within society, Radcliffe and Stevens (2008) examine the categorization of “junkies,” which refers to long-term drug users. The authors find that “junkies” are stigmatized even within treatment services.

One article (3%), however,
illustrated that there may be contexts in which MWUD experience greater drug
use-related stigma (described below) [57]. The overarching analytical theme for this
synthesis explored how gender serves to shape manifestations of drug use-related
stigma. These descriptive themes
capture unique facets of the intersection of gender and drug use-related stigma, but
these themes were not mutually exclusive and there were instances in which they
overlapped and intersected (See Tables 3 and
​and44). The current study was drawn from a larger parent systematic review of the
global scientific literature on substance use stigma conducted in accordance with
Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA)
guidelines (Liberati et al., 2009).

3. Qualitative Thematic Synthesis

In this study, we interviewed nine individuals and conducted two focus groups with eight other women who had been released from jail within the last 12 months about the challenges faced by drug users leaving jail. This report describes women’s perceptions of the difficulties they faced upon release and the factors that eased their transition from jail to home. Incarceration stigma is expressed through a punishment rather than rehabilitation approach to drug use, a view of drug users as “criminals,” zero tolerance for any use (or relapse), and a disdain for therapeutic interventions or compassion for those with drug addictions. The resultant criminalization of drug use means that relapse to drug use is the primary reason for a revocation of parole and return to prison for women. [31] The stigma can be internalized by those who use drugs as shame and guilt [27] which may exacerbate mental health problems, increase the risk for relapse, and result in low self-esteem.

  • Finally, women’s stories clearly illustrated how they felt poorly treated because of their status as a drug user, and the challenges women face finding the services they need are compounded by the quality of their interactions with service providers.
  • The study reported high rates of alcohol, cannabis, opioids, injection use as well as the use of solvents, which was hitherto unreported in Indian women.
  • But being that I came out with no ID, nothing, no money, nothing, I went right back to selling dope.
  • Additionally, the study team worked together to discuss the
    coding and analysis process, the translation of concepts from different studies, the
    comparison of codes within code categories, and the grouping of codes into
  • Also, notably, across all quantitative measures, item content
    reflects PWUD as a homogeneous archetype, and does not reflect the dimensions by
    which gender might shape how drug use stigma is experienced (e.g., in the context of

Four articles (4%
did not report participants’ age, gender, or race/ethnicity. Nearly half (3;
43%) of the articles reported participant gender, though none of these moved past a
binary measurement of gender. See Table 3 for
the full analysis of the interpersonal perspective qualitative articles. The majority of the interpersonal perspective articles (15; 55%) were
from North America, with fewer from Europe (4; 15%), Australia (3; 11%), Asia (3;
11%), and Africa (1; 4%). Nearly all of the interpersonal perspective articles reported participant gender
(26; 96%), though only 1 of these 27 articles (4%) moved past a binary measurement
of gender to include persons who are transgender.

Substance use in women: Current status and future directions

Once potential participants for the study were located or made contact through the study phone number, Boeri discussed the study time commitment, how the interview would be conducted, anonymity and confidentiality issues, and reimbursement for their time. Theoretical sampling was used to insure a diversity of participant experiences, as well as to focus on recruitment of specific kinds of users that emerged from ongoing analysis of the data. While researchers affirm that once a woman initiates treatment there are no significant differences between the treatment process for men and women, women can benefit from gender-specific treatment because they feel more comfortable. If a woman with a substance use disorder is also a victim of sexual or domestic abuse, they’re more likely to have a better outcome as part of a gender-specific sub-group during treatment. Some researchers suggest that women with substance use disorders may not even seek treatment if women-only treatment programs are not available.

The two focus groups were held at the offices of the NCSL, and interviews were held at a time and place convenient to the participants. The focus groups and several interviews were conducted by the first author of this study and the rest of the interviews were conducted by the fourth author, who was at the time of this study an undergraduate student at San Francisco State University. The interview and focus group guides were semi-structured, with a prepared list of topics and questions related to pre- and post-release experiences, particularly related to drug use, access to housing and healthcare, employment, and family/relationship issues. However, interview and focus group participants were also encouraged to share their own stories and to engage in a meaningful conversation with the interviewer, or with other participants in the focus group and its facilitator.

1. Study Selection and Characteristic.

The findings support other research showing that new relationships in social environments are important factors to consider when trying to help former drug users maintain drug-free lives (Boeri, Gibson & Boshears, 2014; Moos, 2007; Zschau et al. 2015). The findings presented here add to the literature by highlighting the impact of stigma on women and how continued stigmatization hinders recovery efforts. Typically, treatment services focus on changing the individual through formal social control, but there is much less focus on changing their social environment. The findings of this in-depth study, with its focus on all stages of drug use progression, show that women need a link to mainstream society and social bonds that help motivate them to believe they can “fit in” and be normal without drugs. Simply trying to change who they are will not allow them to integrate into new social networks that provide this sense of belonging and acceptance.