A new report finds a significant rise in the number of women dying from drug overdoses globally, while fewer women than men receive treatment for their addiction and are more severely punished for drug-taking.
The annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board finds governments do not pay enough attention to the huge and growing problem of drug abuse among women. The International Narcotics Control Board, which monitors implementation of U.N. international drug control treaties, says women get short shrift when it comes to the enactment of gender-sensitive policies.
INCB President Werner Sipp tells VOA one-third of global drug users are women, but only one-fifth receive treatment. He says there tends to be a gender bias against women, as they often are punished more harshly for drug-related offenses than men.
“We know that women are significantly more likely than men to be prescribed narcotics and anti-anxiety medications or we see that women are increasingly being arrested for drug-related crimes in some regions much more than men. They have even a disproportionate increase in drug overdoses,” he said.
The report notes HIV infections and mental health disorders are more prevalent among women who abuse drugs. It warns locking women up for drug crimes has a serious and detrimental impact on them and on their children and families.
Not just in rich countries
Sipp says drug abuse is a problem in both rich and poor countries, though data in African and Asian countries is scant. He adds women drug abusers are likely to have greater difficulty receiving the treatment they need in developing countries.
"I think in Africa, the stigma of women, the stigma, which women have to face is probably greater than for instance in Europe or in the U.S," he said. "A woman who is addicted does not dare to confess, to show that she is addicted because this might lead to very bad consequences in her community or in the society in general.”
The report calls for alternative measures to punishment and conviction for minor drug crimes among women. It recommends more investment in treatment and rehabilitation programs, education, and social integration.