01 March 2022

A system designed for women?


Understanding the barriers women face in accessing drug treatment and support services.

Women face many additional barriers to engaging drug services than men. And women from different communities have very different needs, depending on ethnic minority groups, the complexity of their needs, whether they are young or old and so on. This report explores the landscape of support available to women who use drugs, their experiences of treatment and ultimately, how services can be improved to support these women.

This report includes perspectives from the lived experiences of women and the frontline staff who support them. Through interviews, roundtable discussions, comprehensive surveys, and literature reviews, the report examines the interplay of factors shaping women's treatment journeys. We heard how women use drugs differently to men: women were more likely to be introduced to drugs by a partner and women's use often began out of “necessity”, as a coping mechanism.

The report aims to improve our understanding of what interventions and models of support are most effective in engaging and providing treatment that fits women's needs, and that women want to engage in. To do this, we put the voices and experiences of women at the heart of this work.