Ghosh, A., Jerkovic, D., Ignjatova, L.A. et al. Drug policies’ sensitivity towards women, pregnancy, and motherhood: a content analysis of national policy and programs from nine countries and their adherence to international guidelines. Addict Sci Clin Pract 18, 53 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13722-023-00410-0
Background and objectives
Substance use in women is associated with unique psycho-social and physical vulnerabilities and poses complex challenges during pregnancy and motherhood. Gender-sensitive drug policy which considers the needs of women and their children could address these concerns. The objectives of this study were: (1) to systematically explore national-level drug policies’ sensitivity and responsiveness to women, pregnant women, and children; and (2) to examine the adherence of drug policies with international guidelines for gender sensitivity in drug policy.
The research team was diverse professional backgrounds and nine countries. A summative content analysis of national drug policy documents, action plans, and strategies was performed. Specific documents focusing on women, pregnancy, and children were analysed. Specific themes and how frequently they appeared in the documents were identified. This quantification was an attempt to explore usage indicating the relative focus of the policies. A thematic map was developed to understand how national-level drug policies conceive and address specific concerns related to women who use drugs. We adapted the UNODC checklist for gender mainstreaming to assess policies’ adherence to international guidelines.
Twenty published documents from nine countries were reviewed. The common themes that emerged for women, pregnancy, and children were needs assessment, prevention, treatment, training, supply reduction, and collaboration and coordination. Custody of children was a unique theme for pregnant women. Specific psycho-social concerns and social reintegration were special themes for women, whereas legislation, harm reduction, research, and resource allocation were children-specific additional themes. For women-specific content analysis, special issues/concerns in women with drug misuse, need assessment, and prevention were the three most frequent themes; for the children-specific policies, prevention, training, and treatment comprised the three most occurring themes. For pregnant women/pregnancy, prevention, treatment, and child custody were the highest occurring themes. According to ratings of the countries’ policies, there is limited adherence to international guidelines which ensure activities are in sync with the specific needs of women, pregnant women and their children.
Our analysis should help policymakers revise, update and adapt national policies to ensure they are gender-responsive and address the needs of women, pregnant women and their children.