In summer 2017, my fellow lab mate and I were on the task of collecting data and blood samples from different rehabilitation centres of drug addicts. Soon after paying a third visit in rehab, we realized that we couldn’t get a single sample from any female, that was the requirement of completing our cohort study for Masters research thesis. Later on, we decided to particularly target females in our next visit, I remember the struggle we have been through for almost 6 consecutive months only to realize that either there was no female entry in the rehabs or if there was, they were not willing to disclose the identity and providing us with the data or sample. Moreover, when we tried to publish our paper in a peer-reviewed journal and it came back with the reviewer’s comments highlighting the lack of female samples in a cohort study, we returned the paper with the comments of our cultural differences and stigma attached with the female drug addiction in our society. I have researched some of the facts and published data related to female addiction in Pakistan. Some of the facts are:
1. Report of UNDO
A report published by UNODC and Ministry of Narcotics Control Pakistan in 2013, shows that women represented 22% of the absolute number of drug addicts. It is tragic that regardless of 22% of drug addicts being females, just 1% can look for professional help from rehabilitation centres. This is because of social restrictions and the dread of being shunned by society.
2. Drug addiction as a trend
Drug addiction has become a trend in youth recently, and in females, it is progressively expanding and it is common equally among youngsters in urban and provincial schools. The report published in 2018 by Pakistan Narcotics Division expresses that among the drug addict females almost 53% were educated while indicating the possible accessibility of drugs in campuses of university and colleges, the report asserted government officials to take preventive measures. The report further emphasized the need for plans to rehabilitate women who are a victim of drug abuse.
3. Women and the Stigma of drug addiction.
Women are especially socially stigmatized if they try to report their drug-related issues and look for treatment. There is also a lack of separate recovery places and treatment opportunities for female in our society. The primary constraint of research on female drug addiction is the absence of female participants, their willing participation would have given a chance to investigate further the components related with the drug misuse and sociocultural aspects related with treatment issues.
4. Perceived stigma and Mental health
Perceived stigma related to drug abuse plays a huge role in mental health issues in women as well as their family members. It is common to criticize and stigmatize drug use in overall Pakistan since this stigma of drug misuse accounts for the loss of reputation, shame and discrimination in the family as well as in society. In Pakistan where women are already helpless, and drug abuse issues are considered as social shame that’s why people abstain from discussing it openly. They also refrain from seeking professional help, so it is fundamental to help and treat female drug addicts.