Objectives: In view of the large numbers of female opiate users in Dublin this study
examined gender differences among opiate users. Participants were either in
treatment, drug-free, using methadone or still using heroin. The study predicted
differences on core issues relevant to female drug users, the introduction and use of
heroin, the treatments undertaken and choices, and family circumstances
Method: This study took place between May and July,2004. This was a
between participants design(two tailed). The independent variable was gender. The
dependant variable was information of participants' history of heroin use, parents' use
of alcohol and drugs, their children, education and their views of treatment. Data was
collected by means of a questionnaire. All participants had used heroin.
Results: Data was collected from 77 (40 male, 37 female) participants who
took part in this study. This study found no significant differences between gender on
treatment choices or treatment sought. However, significant differences (p<0.05)
were found in that females started heroin older than males, that females were first
injected by their partners, that females used heroin differently, that females spent less
money on heroin, that females had mothers who were addicted to drugs or alcohol,
that females were the principal carer for own their children, that their partner had
used heroin, that they left school later, and that they had a shorter period of injecting
history before attending a treatment centre.
Conclusions: It would appear that stigmatisation of females drug use has
decreased. This study highlighted that distress is a factor that plays a part in the onset
of heroin use for females. An interesting result was that females stayed longer in
formal education and > 50% attended regularly until they were over 17 years of age.
A worrying concern is that females have had a mother that was addicted to alcohol or
drugs and therefore their model of the mother may have failed. This study also
supported evidence that the male partner had a role in the females' use of heroin by
introducing the female to injecting heroin.