The co-operation Group to combat drug abuse and illicit trafficking in drugs (Pompidou Group) has published a first-ever study (The Gender Dimension of Non-Medical Use of Prescription Drugs (NMUPD) in Europe and the Mediterranean Region) that identifies women as a “high risk category for NMUPD” and reveals prescription drug use as “clearly higher for women across all age groups and time periods”.
The 17 countries surveyed – Cyprus, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malta, Morocco, Serbia, the Netherlands, Tunisia and Wales – showed an “important gender dimension of NMUPD” according to Professor Marilyn Clark of Malta University, project coordinator of the research, which was funded by the Italian government (Department for Anti-Drug Policies, Presidency of the Council of Ministers) under the direction of Elisabetta Simeoni, Permanent Correspondent for Italy and Gender Equality Rapporteur.
Although not a complete survey of populations consuming NMUPD, this first-ever study to focus on the gender dimension of NMUPD is based on a secondary analysis of data available in 17 countries as reported by experts.
Study findings include:
• Use of prescription drugs is higher for females than for males in the general population.
• Girls tend to use more NMUPD than boys.
• The most common source of prescription medication comes from a doctor, but followed by “a friend or relative” indicating relative ease of acquisition.
• Trauma and violence may be causal factors for NMUPD among women.
• Some countries (Germany and Serbia) reported higher fatal overdoses related to the use of mental health drugs (psychotropic) for females than for males.
• Not all participating countries have a system in place to register number of prescriptions for psychotropic substances.
• Most countries address NMUPD in national drug policies, but no standardized monitoring for their use exists in Europe or in the Mediterranean region.
• Prescription drug use increases with age: the 30s represent a “more likely” risk period.