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Mainstreaming gender into policy and practice of substance use prevention treatment and rehabilitation

UNICRI Symposium

Lisbon -

The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) will deliver a Symposium on “Addressing vulnerabilities, increasing access to services: how to mainstream gender into policy and practice of substance use prevention treatment and rehabilitation” at the ”First European Conference on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies”, organized by the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and the Portuguese Government.

The Symposium aims to present the state of the art in the implementation of a gender-responsive agenda within drug treatment and recovery services in Europe, highlighting some countries' good practices and discussing emerging risks, obstacles and challenges to gender mainstreaming in this field.

Speakers include representatives from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction and the Council of Europe, as well as academic and research institutions (University of Athens and University of Malta) who will address gender inequalities and gender-responsive policies and practices in drug addiction treatment and recovery; gender vulnerabilities that may lead to drug use and preventing and treating the misuse of medicinal drugs

Widespread gender inequalities have a severe impact on access to care for substance use and dependence. Most strategies for drug prevention and recovery in the world are tailored to men and produce little or no impact on women. There is extensive evidence of the differences between women and men regarding substance use. Epidemiological studies show that even though women are less likely to initiate drug use than men, they start earlier and are more susceptible to develop an addiction. Women are also more vulnerable to drug-related pathologies, such as liver and cardiovascular diseases, and are more exposed to sexual abuse and violence, and to sexually transmitted diseases. Studies on gender differences in drug treatment also show that reasons why women and men seek help are often dissimilar, and that psychological, biological and social gender differences are important factors for the success of diverse types of treatment and for retention into treatment.

In many countries, including developed ones, women who use drugs are facing cultural, social and religious barriers and stigma that prevent them from accessing specific services, as well as the general social and health care system, where they could seek help for mental health or violence issues.

Immigrant women and LGBT people, face even higher barriers in accessing the social and health systems. They are frequently isolated and have no access to treatment in case of sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy control and practices connected to religious or cultural diversities. Finally, an epidemic of non medical use of prescription drugs (NMUPD) among women is emerging in Europe, with severe health and social consequences, posing challenges to the well-being of future generations. Overall, the Symposium aims to stress the need to better focus on mental health and violence issues, when considering treatment of women who use drugs.

For more information please contact: Alessandra Liquori O’Neil (, Alice Rena (