There is much evidence that women are abusing substances and drugs. However, there is also considerable evidence that supports women prevention, treatment and reduction of harm and development of the research policies on substance addiction. There is also a need to understand the extent and the impacts of substance abuse among males and females, and among a diverse group of girls and women (Fisher & Harrison 2005). The BC Centre for Women’s Health and Excellence and the Canadian Centre for Resources have gathered information and developed resources to summarize the different ways through which substance use and abuse differs among different groups of women.

Substance abuse by female sex workers is quite a complicated issue, given the existence of the stigma born that is carried by them. The media portrayal of the prostitutes that are drug addicts gives the notion that the drug abuse and sex workers are irrevocably and probably linked to the urban environments. For instance, the sex workers are positioned as vectors for contagion and other criminal activities, such as robbery and drug trafficking, and also moral decay. Therefore, there are a lot of policies geared towards the elimination of the sex workers on the streets to ensure the safety of the communities and the cleanliness of the streets. The implications of regarding sex workers as a public nuisance and a threat to the healthy social wellbeing of the society has to be minimized (Price & Sokoloff 2004). The environmental constraints on the sex workers limit the efforts of the sex workers in accessing health services and the safe working environments. It can be explained by the fact that the means for accessing medical care and completion of treatment on substance abuse presents many challenges for the sex workers. It can be linked directly to the stigma attached to substance misuse and sex workers.

 The sex industry is a diverse industry with most of the sex workers being the immigrants and the women coerced to such trade. The influx of people from different countries could be due to the existing cultural barriers in the access to other services. There are different pathways that lead to people having commercial sex work.

Sex, Drugs, and Their Risk to Health

 Risks for health are strongly associated with drug abuse. These diseases include the acquisition of sexually transmitted diseases through clients and pimps and other factors connected with the use of drugs. Different sexually transmitted diseases such as bacterial, fungal, and viral diseases can be transmitted through the use of the injections and unprotected sex (Obot 1993).

The children born by the drug users and the sex workers can face special risks and discrimination resulting from their parent’s addiction to drugs or their profession. However, the point of discrimination can be relieved through potential sources of resilience created to support the parents’ health, as well as that of the child, bonding economic situations and other environmental factors. Children of the drug users suffer from cognition developmental delays which are neglected and abused due to the prenatal and the postnatal parents’ addiction to drugs. A recent research demonstrated that approximately 15 percent of the sex workers occur on the streets with approximately other 85% of the sex workers conducted within venues such as the massage parlors and the exotic dance clubs. In a study carried out in Canada, HIV/AIDS dominates within the urban centers with the sex workers as the major contributors of the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (Weitzer 2000). Approximately 95% of the research participants in a study carried out in Canada was sex workers which reported drug dependency. 


 A sex worker is an individual who earns a living through the provision of the sexual services. Sex workers can sometimes be used to mean the same notion as a prostitute, though most of the scholars claim that individuals providing services in the sex industry such as the erotic massage therapists, dancers, and actors of adult films would prefer to be called commercial sex workers. Street sex is quite different since it not only involves search for money but also a quest for basic needs, such as food and accommodation. Those who peddle sex, primarily for basic needs, are called survival sex workers. In addition, some street sex workers also practice sex peddling to get drugs. The previous research conducted on sex workers has focused primarily on the sex workers and substance misuse as well as the effects of the sex workers on illicit drugs and drug related illnesses. The street workers represent the smallest and the most significant group of the sex workers with an approximate percentage of 10-20. The street workers employed for this study were selected from both the street and non-street venues, which gives a more complicated picture of the relationship existing between, sex work and substance abuse.

Furthermore, in a research conducted recently on 100 sex workers, inclusive of the massage parlors and the escorts identified addiction to drugs as a problem. The women drawn primarily from the escorts and the massage parlors reported a current or past addiction to drugs. The street workers tend to use highly addictive drugs such as heroin and crack. They also have a tendency of using these drugs more frequently than the indoor sex workers (Palmer 2011). For instance, in a study carried out to determine the extent of drug use among street workers and indoor sex workers found that the indoor sex workers used fewer drugs in terms of quantity and frequency in comparison to the street sex workers. Although the difference in the frequency and the quantity of drug use amongst the different categories of the sex workers merits a consideration in the policies and development of the control policies, it is clear that, in most instances, sex and substance abuse are mutually reinforcing. Furthermore, since sex peddling places and brothels are associated with different drugs and alcohol, most sex workers have fallen victims to drug use.

 Based on the previous research, the literature suggests that sex workers use the substances as a means of coping with the fact of having to prostitute. Some misuse drugs prior to entering the sex industry and use the sex industry as an effort to cope up with the need of money to support their addiction. The image drawn from this study corroborates with the link between sex work and victimization as the scholars tend to overlook the possibilities that some of the women choose sex work for pleasure and even enjoy their trade (Goldenberg 2011). The intertwining of the sex work is more complex and is dependent on a number of factors such as the structural conditions which underlies the sex work and substance use. These factors include such aspects as race, gender and class. There is a strong link between the causal factors of the sex workers and the causal factors for drug abuse and substance misuse. For example, substance abuse such as misuse of cocaine may co-exist with involvement in the sex industry and, on the other hand, the sex industry might precipitate the misuse of substance. In most of the instances, the substance abuse does not precede the involvement in sex work.

Most of the sex workers were propelled to the street because of their financial needs, while for some of them the misuse and entry to the sex industry were propelled by the   financial constraints and the need for drugs. However, in the most cases the drug use was not the major precursor for entry to the drug industry (Caputo 2008). Majority of the people were precipitated to the sex industry because of economic constraints. The intersection of there  the class, race and gender  have combined to increase the vulnerability of the women  of colour  especially the women living in urban cities  to abuse drugs and subsequently  increases their vulnerability to contraction of sexually transmitted disease and even HIV/AIDS. There is no doubt that many women of color and those marginalized, poor women have a high representation in the sex industry.

Training and CapacityBuilding for Substance Abuse Prevention

 It is important to development workshops which focus on the training of women on the skills of substance abuse prevention. These trainings have to provide information on substances that could be abused, as well as the life’s skills which could be relevant for the prevention of abuse. The trainings could use methods such as brainstorming, lecturing, and the employment of group work in the effort to ensure that members are trained on the implications of substance abuse. The workshops have to be followed up with support sessions   and technical support; awareness rising could also be relevant. The target group should include different representatives of women activists living in refugee camps and the community workers, and all groups of women to provide moral support for the victims of abuse. Tobacco, alcohol and other mood altering drugs influence the lives of most of the girls whether they are the users themselves or some of their family members use the drugs. Some have their partners, or even their children abuse the drugs. The levels and the type of women abusing drugs vary according to their age, ethnic groups, and the sources of income for the sex workers.

Women working in the sex industry are facing the risks for infection with HIV using intravenous drugs and other sexual practices such as the lack of a consistent sexual partner. However, there is a lack of evidence that the sex workers are transmitting the virus to their customers. Most of the infections of women in the United States are due to the injection of drugs from the partner. The link between the spread of HIV and using intravenous devices is widespread; hence services have to be provided with attention to each individual and the social and psychological concerns. The use of both medical interventions has to be accessible and offered externally from the traditional medical programs (Kelway 2003).

Research and Development of Programs to Address the Issue of Substance Abuse among Sex Workers

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 In the effort to redress the situation of the sex workers, social workers are seeking treatment and identifying the problem with addiction as the key contagious issue. For instance, the Canadian National Coalition of the Experimental Women (CNCEW) has investigated the issue on the sex workers throughout Canada. The research followed the principles such as the peer education principles, which emphasize the participants’ experimental field of expertise. Most of the substance abuse sex workers have many problems besides their alcohol and drug dependency (May & Harocopos 2001). The barriers to treatment for these women are likely to be more complicated and challenging than for women in any other domain of the sex industry.

There are several training programs that have been developed and delivered in the effort to sensitize the women against substance abuse. For instance, there are trainings on drug awareness, treatment and control of addiction, mental health training as well as the parental and substance misuse (Brown & Beschner 1993). The London based charity provides a high quality support to vulnerable women. This body’s mandate is to conduct research on all the forms of violence and, subsequently, advocate and campaign against violence.

 Women are recruited to drug trafficking from supplier countries such as Russia through various means upon reaching the destination country. They go to these countries because of the hope that they are going to be given jobs under different circumstances, where prostitution is regarded as brutal and exploitative in nature. The traffickers and the pimps control women through acts of confusion and thought the confiscation of their travel documents, rape and threats to harm them or their families if they fail to comply with their demands (Lipinge & Angula 2000). Trafficking of people is an activity organized by different crime groups. However, the corruption of the officials using bribes and collaboration through engaging with criminal activities allows the traffickers to operate locally and internationally.

Trafficking of drug and the programs which could be used for their prevention.

Trafficking women in the sex trade applies to the demands of any business and supply concepts. While the demand is high in countries where sex industry flourishes, high supply of women is exhorted from developing countries where women and children easily fall into the trade because of their needs. Therefore, sex traders who traffic women target regions and countries where women face different challenges thus favoring the business quest.

There are ways through which drug trafficking could be prevented; this includes the shifting of the resources geared to the prevention of the drugs to the use of effective programs, prevention of the drugs by investing in the American youth, through providing them with precise  information through which  drugs could be prevented. It can also be achieved through the use of effective drug control efforts which focus on the economic development. Prevention also could be achieved through making of the treatments available to all the patients on request and also other health services. Restoration of the justice system is also essential in the US to ensure fair trial for all the convicted drug traffickers. The police have done a paramount job to control the drug offenders, through the use of expensive eradication campaigns which have yielded few results. The government needs to accept different laws enforcement programs which focus on the prevention of the social vices having profound economic implications. The solutions aiming at the public services approach which focus on the addicts and the abusers need to be put in place. The social services have to reduce the root cause for drug abuse and the strategies of the development of the alternative markets focusing majorly on the addicts. The federal budget needs to recognize the need for the prevention and the control of the drug traffickers through the use of the prostitutes through allocation of the necessary resources on education on the effects of the drugs.

Causes of Women’s Abuse of Substance

 Most of women begin to use substance and drugs due to different reasons than their male counterparts as many women face various circumstances that can trigger them to use drugs according to the research carried out by the National Centre for Substance Abuse. According to the findings of this research, women and girls are likelier than men and boys to abuse substance in order to lose weight, relieve boredom and stress, improve moods, and reduce the sexual inhibitions as well as to self-medicate depressions (Babcock 1996). Others abuse drugs in order to gain confidence while facing different situations such as interviews. From the previous research, most of women and children in the drug abuse are likely to have been sexually abused when they were children. The women abusing drugs are likely to suffer more from eating disorders which together with sexual violations in childhood are the major risk factors for substance abuse. Women attribute it to their heavy drinking following the crisis like miscarriage, divorce unemployment or the recent departure of a child from home. Older women take drugs in order to deal with loneliness and the existing financial insecurities or loss of a spouse.

The vulnerability of the sex workers to misuse is reinforced effectively in the street or on the survival of the sex workers, as opposed to those who carry out indoor entrepreneurship. The open street-based sex and the low status of the market are entangled with drugs and market, which leads to the escalation of drug markets and drug abuse. The existence of the overlap between the drug markets and the sex markets further creates vulnerability for the indigenous women and women of color to succumb to drug abuse (Mohsin & Ahmed 2006). Regardless of ethnicity, poor women are highly susceptible to fall into drugs use in urban areas than middle-level women.

International Drug Control Strategies

 The UNODC is working to develop international standards on the prevention of substance abuse. The goal of this program is to increase the UNODC capacity to the member states by the development of a comprehensive and effective drugs prevention system. It includes guidance on the kind of policies and interventions which could be adopted to promote healthy and safe lifestyles amongst the communities. The national drug control strategy measures the effectiveness of the drug control policies. The policies set by the drug control body are aimed at addressing the appropriate risk behaviors and the protective factors, which can be adopted for the prevention of substance abuse. It is necessary to access different risk levels and protection against substance abuse (Mosher & Akins 2007). The policies for the control of drug abuse aim at using different approaches, which have in the past proven effective against the abuse of substances. For instance, the application of the policies which limit the availability of illicit drugs and alcohol for the underage in the community can be important in the reduction of the illicit drug circulation. The reduction of the risk and the strengthening of the family skills using the interactive techniques are necessary. These techniques focus on the critical thinking and the social competency.

 Other interventions that could be employed include a range of appropriate settings and different domains, which could be used to manage the programs effectively. It is important to ensure consistency and coverage of the programs and policies which could be used to pass the message across to different communities(Social work speaks 2006). There are several family-centered interventions, which have been implemented in the low-income countries to aid the families of the drug users and the commercial sex workers. However, these interventions are few in the effort put in place to meet the demands. There are few interventions directed on children sex workers and drug users, and it is expanded to the parents to take good care of their children. Significantly, the family-centered models that are suggested were designed by the developed countries. For instance, in the United States the drug rehabilitation programs have traditionally failed to incorporate the fact that mothers may be reluctant to abandon their children, and instead focus on varied men’s needs. Positive youth development is one of the important means that could be adopted as a part of reduction of substance abuse. This is a policy which puts emphasis on the provision of services and opportunities to support the young people to develop a sense of competence and usefulness  in the society. The ultimate goal of the international drug control strategies is to develop a common and agreed basis for the prevention of drug abuse relying on the scientific research and evidence. 


Substance and drugs abuse among women that are sex workers is a quite a common phenomena. It is a complex issue, especially given that the sex workers suffer from the public stigma. The media portrayal of the prostitutes that are drug addicts implants the notion that the drug abuse and sex workers are irrevocably and most likely linked to the urban environments. The majority of women begin to use harmful substances and drugs due to different reasons than their male counterparts as many women face various circumstances that can trigger them to refer to drugs use, according to a research carried out by the national centre for substance abuse. The UNODC is working to develop international standards on the prevention of substance abuse. Their goal is to increase the UNODC capacity to the member states on the development of a comprehensive and effective drugs prevention system. The intertwining of the sex workers is more complex and dependent on a number of factors such as the structural conditions, which underlies the sex work and substance use. These factors include the class, race and gender considerations. There is a strong link between the causal factors of the sex workers and the causal factors for drug abuse and substance misuse. The precise causes for drug abuse among the sex workers include desperation for money, psychological distress, addiction,  efforts to cope up with the fact that they have to do prostitution and others is through peer influence.

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