Drug Policy for the Future

Linda Montanari

Linda Montanari is a health sociologist and is working since 2000as principal scientist at the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction in the public health unit- support to policy sector.

At the centre she is coordinating the areas of gender and drugs, prison and drug and comorbidity. Since some years she is focusing particularly on the implementation of a gender perspective in drug monitoring and, together with the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe and other international organisations, she has set up a European group on gender and drugs and coordinated the organisation of the gender and drugs conference in November 2022 as side event to Lisbon Addiction conference. She closely followed the work of the Swedish presidency work of the Council of the EU in the six months of their mandate.

Few bullet points on presentation

  • The drug phenomenon has often been addressed as gender neutral, whilst in fact there are substantial differences in drug use behaviours and its correlates between women, men and people of other genders.
  • Available data on gender and drugs are still scarce and refer to men and women.
  • Men and women differ in drug use pathways, from drug use initiation to problems related to their drug use.
  • EMCDDA data show the large gender gap in drug use and drug related problems with increasing male to female ratio with more intensive forms of drug use.
  • However, variations exist by country and age, with signs of narrowing gender gap among your n generations.
  • Different signs are also identifiable in drug related infectious diseases and drug related deaths data.
  • Women and men both tend to start their drug use during adolescence; some risk factors are common between the two sexes, including childhood adverse experiences, although sexual abuse represents a more frequent risk factor among girls than boys.
  • Women and men face different consequences of drug use, with women more exposed to gender-based violence (GBV), social disapproval, stigma and unemployment and men more often incarcerated and with longer duration in prison[1].
  • Women who use drugs face specific challenges when they become pregnant; and they are still the main responsible of children’s care.
  • Some groups of women deserve specific attention, including women involved in sex work, pregnant women, women who are mother, women in prison, migrant women and women from ethnic minorities, homeless women.
  • Little is known regarding LGBTQIA+ and drugs; some recent data from web survey has been analysed, but it is necessary to improve evidence in order to plan appropriate interventions.
  • It is necessary to implement a gender perspective in drug field at different levels, from analysis to implementation and evaluation, by:
    • systematically include sex disaggregated data in the drug field;
    • address gender barriers and identify facilitators to treatment for specific groups, particularly for women who have greater difficulties in accessing treatment;
    • consider the role played by gender in boys and men who use drugs;
    • address the issue of LGBTQIA+ and drugs use;
    • move from guidance and recommendations to actual changes in drug policy planning, implementation.

[1] EMCDDA (2021), Prison and drugs in Europe: current and future challenges, Insights No. 25, Lisbon.