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Stigmatization of Female Drug Users An Abominable Act

Bashir Turawa

Females who use drugs are usually stigmatized, there by separating them from the normal society.

Social Stigma, according to Wikipedia is “the disapproval of, or discrimination against, a person based on perceivable social characteristics that serve to distinguish them from other members of a society. Social stigmas are commonly related to culture, gender, race, intelligence, and health.”

Stigmatization of female drug users is the act of discriminating against the female gender due to drug use/abuse.

According to research, 34.8 million women aged 15 to 64 are reported to have ever tried an illicit drug, compared with 54.3 million men.

“Women and men who use drugs differ in various aspects which includes social characteristics, consequences of substance use and development and progression to dependence (Tuchman, 2010); and women present unique concerns that are sex and gender based (NIDA, 2016). Despite these differences, many drug use interventions are male oriented (EMCDDA, 2009).”

Women use drugs as a way of self-medicaion. This is mostly common to pregnant or menstrusting women. A woman undergoing menstruation could use any drug not sanctioned by a medical personnel just to get over her menstrual pain. A pregnant woman may choose to use any drug within her reach to get over pains which are attached to pregnancy.

A woman who suffers heartbreak or emotional blow may see drug as the only way to getting over her worries, there by making drugs her companion.

Research shows that stigmatization does not in any way stop drug use, rather it further serves as opportunity to go more into drugs since the society is not encouraging. A stigmatized female may use drug to keep her company since she feels rejected by the society.

Women who use drugs face many issues in the society than men because it is the general belief of the society that only the consumption of drugs by the male gender is close to normal. When a female use drugs, she is totally discriminated from the normal society. In fact, some societies do not believe that female drug users exist. When they encounter one, they assume such female is suffering from mental illness.

Experiences of stigma are common among women who use drugs because they are often perceived as contravening their roles in the society. For instance, a mother or caregiver who use drugs may be completely separated from her child while a male drug user is still seen living in the normal society just because his drug use is perceived normal.

Services provided for drug use management and control are gender biased. Service providers give more attention to a male drug user than the female. It’s time they believed that female drug users even face more serious issues than the male.

Drug control services should create environments that are welcoming, non-judgemental and non-discriminatory for female drug users.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), “anonymity and non-punitive policies would encourage women to seek care by removing fear of negative reprisals.” This means that the identity of female drug users should not be revealed in order to avoid societal condemnation. Also, drug use by a female shouldn’t be the cause of punishment or harassment.

Drug use interventions for pregnant women should address broader needs and provide interventions in areas that include drug use, gynaecological/obstetric care, infectious diseases, mental health and personal and social welfare (EMCDDA).

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