Print this page


The British system for the assistance and care in the addictions field: a study visit to the services provided in Nottinghamshire (UK):

With a view to develop a set of European Guidelines on integrated treatment for women with problems associated to drug consumption, Irefrea Italy, with the financial support and cooperation of Nottinghamshire County included in the activities of the “Women and drugs” thematic platform a cycle of study visits between the platform's partner cities. As a result, between February and March 2010, a number of exchange visits were organised involving the three European states: Italy, England and Germany. This article provides some notes and thoughts on the effectiveness and efficiency of Nottinghamshire County's Addiction Services System that was visited in March 2010 by Italian and German professionals.

Outcomes of the first four-years study on women in treatment in the UK.

A detailed study of statistics about women in treatment in England released by the National Treatment Agency in March 2010 reveals that far fewer women are entering treatment for heroin addiction but more women are successfully completing treatment for drug dependency.

Women make up over half the adult population in the UK. However, only a quarter of the adults in drug treatment programmes are women. On the face of it, there is a striking shortfall, and which has existed for some years. One of the consequences of having more male addicts in the system is that there is legitimate concern it is not suitable for women. The authors of the report state that quantitative data presented indicate that, at a national level, women are proportionally well represented in drug treatment programmes throughout England, and that services reflect the specific needs of women and their changing patterns of drug use.

The report, Women in drug treatment:

what the latest figures reveal  shows a 19 per cent fall in the number of adult females under 30 entering heroin programmes over the last five years. On the other hand, numbers of cocaine and crack addicts seeking treatment have increased over the same period, but the study also shows that the numbers of women entering treatment overall fell four per cent in four years.In addition, the authors state that the numbers of women problem drug users successfully leaving treatment having overcome their addiction almost doubled and the number of women dropping out of treatment has fallen by well over a third in four years.

Women and drugs – a problem about which we still do not know enough?

Women represent almost a quarter of the population using drugs in Europe, estimates the EMCDDA, which also recognises that “whilst most drug services are designed with male drug users in mind — as they are the predominant client group — it is widely accepted that drug policy and programme effectiveness is enhanced when sex differences are acknowledged and the different needs of women and men are addressed”.
In a recent publication entitled “Women’s voices” the same EMCDDA identifies, from a collation of qualitative research in Europe, some of the most relevant issues regarding women using drugs.



The DCDII expert group on “Women and drugs” has compared those findings with data coming from a questionnaire on drug use among women and responses at the city levels, which was administered to the cities members of the DCDII “Women and drugs” thematic platform and for which responses have been collected during the period February – June 2009.
There is clear overlapping between some of the findings from the EMCDDA and the DCDII cities’ views on the problems affecting women drug users, in particular:
There is a strong element of stigma affecting women drug users in all countries examined and this makes it generally difficult for women to access drug services.
Women drug users have often histories of deprivation and abuse, including domestic violence.
There is a clear focus on the role of women as mothers and a delicate interaction between mothers’ access to treatment and child care/protection. Many women are still scared of accessing drug services for the fear that their children would be taken away from them.
The DCDII “Women and drugs” thematic platform will now look into existing European literature and good practice on the area of working with women with a drug misuse problem and will start developing the initial index of the guidelines which will be the main output of this thematic platform.
Cities members of the platform will meet in autumn with the DCDII expert group on “Women and drugs” to analyse together the responses to the questionnaire and provide input into the guidelines. We will look in particular into how we can better learn from each others’ experiences and further develop this through the organisation of study visits.