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A Glimpse into Why Only 1 In 5 People Who Are in Treatment for Drug Use Is a Woman

By Maawiya Mohammed

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), even though 1 in 3 people who use drugs is a woman, just 1 in 5 people who are in treatment is a woman. This means that only 25% of women who suffer from substance use problems get into treatment facilities.

Women who suffer from substance use dependency have more severe problems at treatment entry and thus require an array of services compared to their male counterparts. Women tend to have more problems which include trauma, mental health problems, and greater family responsibility and it is for this reason that they seek treatment for their substance use problems in mental health and counselling facilities rather than actual drug rehabilitation centres. UNODC says this is one of the reasons why the number of women in drug treatment facilities is low as documented in the “Substance Abuse Treatment and Care for Women: Case Studies and Lessons Learned Report.’’

Another reason attributed to fewer women being in treatment is lack of knowledge by people that women can get into substance use problems and the kind of treatment they require. We as a society tend to assume that women are affected by drugs and alcohol. Earlier we mentioned that women have more treatment entry problems than men and thus need specific treatment guidelines that are relevant to them and their problems. That is why most rehabilitation centres lack proper ways and treatment plans how to deal with female patients coming in.  

Additionally, the lack of enough women in power to champion issues like this is another reason. Although the times we are in now show women are starting to get a seat at the table in leadership, what remains is speaking up and putting these kinds of issues out there.

By addressing these reasons together with others, we will be able to get more women affected by substance use into treatment and hopefully end the issue of drug and substance use disorders.