The commission set up to address drug deaths in Dundee has been told that unique approaches for women need to be considered to better tackle issues that lead to overdoses.
Ann Hamilton, who is chairwoman of the Dundee Violence Against Women partnership, told the Dundee Drug Misuse Commission that “gendered” approaches were needed in order to better support women who use drugs or are affected by those who use drugs.
She told the meeting that 90% of domestic abuse cases referred to Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) intervention panels involved an element of drugs or alcohol.
“One of the concerns I have is that we are looking at a siloed approach,” she said. “We look at domestic abuse on its own, we’re looking at drugs and alcohol on their own, and our services need to be much more holistic.”
Ms Hamilton told the commission that services were often detached. While working at a unit in Glasgow, she said she knew of sex workers using drugs who got support for prostitution but never came into contact with addiction support workers.
She added: “The level of sexual violence is very high. We have a lot of women living with regular sexual abuse, rape and domestic abuse. Many women look for something to dull that pain, to get some relief from that.
“We don’t necessarily need services to be all together but we need to have somebody that can link across services.”
Public health expert Dr Drew Walker also gave evidence at the meeting, telling the commission a “cultural change” was needed to reduce the stigma against those using drugs.
Although conceding such change was a “long game”, Dr Walker said it would encourage more drug users to seek help.
He added: “No single action is going to do that – it’s a variety of actions, people and organisations that need to be involved.”