A new report from Trinity College has found that there is an urgent need for the expansion of gender-sensitive drug and alcohol treatment approaches that support the needs of women.

26 Jun 2021

The ‘Supporting Women To Access Appropriate Treatment (SWAAT) Study’ was launched by Minister Frank Feighan, Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well-Being and National Drugs Strategy.

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The number of women reporting drug and alcohol use in Ireland is rising but research tells us that women are less likely than men to attend drug and alcohol treatment services.

The aim of the Trinity study was to gain an insight into the experience of women with drug and alcohol treatment needs in the greater Dublin areas of Ballyfermot and Tallaght. Researchers noted that literature focussing on women accessing treatment remains relatively scant, particularly around their rationale for not attending treatment; this study aims to address this knowledge gap.

There are gender differences in the way that men and women experience substance use initiation, addiction progression, substance use consequences, treatment access and treatment outcomes. While accessing substance use treatment can be difficult for both men and women, women consistently under-present to substance use treatment services.

It is estimated that less than 10% of American women aged between 18-44 years receive treatment services when needed. In Ireland, most people who use drugs are treated in the community and only three in ten people accessing services for substance use are female. It is likely that the small number of women receiving substance use treatment is related to sociocultural factors hindering women from accessing treatment. These factors can include stigma, economic disadvantage, maternal responsibilities, low-levels of family support and the inability of services to respond to their complex needs.

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