Effectiveness Bank web site Focus on women
Supported by    Society for the Study of Addiction web site   Alcohol Change UK web site
IWD_logo_2021 International Women’s Day 2021

International Women’s Day is an annual nudge to think about how we can better serve women with drug and alcohol problems, including through bringing visibility to women’s experiences and needs.

Two new studies added to the Effectiveness Bank evaluate examples of women-only services. Through these entries we can gain insight into the threads of trauma running through participants’ lives and their substance use histories, and consider why services which do not acknowledge this in the design of their settings and operational policies may be inadvertently excluding and marginalising women as people who use drugs and as the potential recipients of drug use interventions.
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Entries highlighting responses to women’s needs
NEW Inside North America’s first women-only safer injecting facility
A women-only drug consumption room in British Columbia (Canada) was found to give service users a temporary reprieve from stigma, discrimination, gender-based violence, and drug-related harms. Although other drug consumption rooms in the area were open to people of any gender, women did not experience them to be ‘gender neutral’.

NEW Novel intervention designed to address drug use and PTSD in female street-based sex workers
The Drug Use in Street Sex worKers (DUSSK) feasibility study found that addressing trauma and substance use problems in tandem was an acceptable approach for reducing the drug use of street-based sex workers, but would not be an easy intervention to implement more widely. The severity of trauma disclosed by participants proved very challenging for service providers, suggesting that the integrated service could not yet meet women where they’re at.

‘We have to put out the fire before we rebuild the house’
How can trauma-informed care move from being a value or philosophy held by select practitioners to an organisational framework for delivering treatment and support? Practitioners in England discuss, drawing on their experiences of working with women who frequently report substance use problems alongside histories of trauma and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Further resources
Four years ago Drug and Alcohol Findings launched a collection in honour of International Women’s Day. This ‘mini-library’ showcases studies in the Effectiveness Bank catalogue that further our understanding of how sex and gender can influence the course of addiction and treatment, with a particular focus on women.

Our funder and collaborator the Society for the Study of Addiction has some excellent content to read, watch and listen to on International Women’s Day 2021, including the following:

• Professor Moira Plant talks about the history of women, alcohol and alcohol adverting. She starts in the 1930s when adverts began to focus on women, with some adverts suggesting that drinking alcohol could make you the “mainstay of the public library”. Moira then talks about how, in the 1960s alcohol advertising became more sexualised and reliant on increasingly destructive messages about how women ‘should’ look.

• As part of the qualitative methods conference series, Dr Polly Radcliffe delivers a lecture on pregnancy and substance use, exploring how pregnant women with substance use problems navigated the stigmatising drug user identity.

• Dr Sarah Fox explains why have we seen an increase in drinking and domestic abuse during COVID-19, and emphasises the need for services to be ‘trauma informed’.

Drug and Alcohol Findings co-editor Natalie Davies has written about the need for women-only and gender-responsive services in the context of an epidemic of drug-related deaths and an epidemic of violence against women for the Society for the Study of Addiction.

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The Drug and Alcohol Findings Effectiveness Bank offers a free mailing list service updating subscribers to UK-relevant evaluations of drug/alcohol interventions. Findings is supported by the Society for the Study of Addiction and Alcohol Change UK, and advised by the National Addiction Centre.