Women make up approximately a quarter of all people with serious drug problems and around one-fifth of all entrants to drug treatment in Europe. They are particularly likely to:
- experience stigma and economic disadvantage, and to have less social support;
- come from families with substance use problems and have a substance-using partner;
- have children who may play a central role in their drug use and recovery; and
- have experienced sexual and physical assault and abuse and have co-occurring mental disorders.
In the European Union an estimated 35 million women aged 15 to 64 have tried an illicit drug at some time in their life. Generally the gender difference in overall drug use is smaller among young people and the gap appears to be decreasing among younger age groups in many countries of Europe.
Women make up approximately a quarter of all people with serious illicit drug problems and around 20 % of all entrants to specialist drug treatment in Europe. In some studies women have been found to be more likely to access treatment because of needs arising from pregnancy or parenting or the general tendency for women to more readily seek care. Other studies have found women less likely to seek specialised services than men because of stigma. Women may attribute their problems to physical or mental health issues and seek care in the physical or mental health sectors. The extent and nature of the treatment gap within different regions and sub-groups in Europe requires further study.
Women differ from men with drug problems in their social characteristics, consequences of substance use and in the development and progression to dependence. Women present unique concerns that are sex and gender-based, but many drug services are male-oriented.