Identifying and Overcoming Gender Barriers in Addiction Treatment

An innovative infographic showcases gender barriers in the treatment of addictions, proposing ways to overcome them

infographic on gender barrier

The infographic on gender barriers and how to overcome them was presented during a side event of the 64th session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs

By Dr. Gisela Hansen Rodríguez – It is essential to introduce a gender perspective in the field of addictions because it provides a better understanding of the specific relationships that men, women and people with different gender identities have with substance use.  We do know now that men and women are subject to different social and cultural conditionings. As a result, each analysis, strategy or intervention should be designed based on a gender perspective. Maintaining a rigid view of drug use and considering the population as a single, static and homogeneous whole can only lead to an androcentric perception of the situation that precludes the implementation of the meticulous and specific interventions men and women need, based on their different situations and realities.

Taking gender specificities into account

Addressing substance use disorders from a gender perspective means taking into account gender differences and specificities, not only in terms of factors that may condition use, but also in terms of use patterns and health, social and individual consequences. The gender perspective also makes it possible to address the unequal conditions of adherence and retention in prevention and care services or programmes.


Gender barriers are a major reason why, after more than a decade of discussion in forums and the political agenda, women are still in a minority among patients in addiction treatment services (20% at most) and why they, as well as other gender identities and the LGBTI+ community, do not benefit from addiction treatment programmes genuinely tailored to their needs.

An infographic on addictions and gender barriers

Download infographic in English

Download infographic in English – Illustrations: Frida Nerdal; Graphic design: Nenad Arslanagić

Published jointly by Dianova and the World Federation Against Drugs, the “Way Forward” infographic presents six main gender-related obstacles with a twofold objective: to “make visible the invisible”, i.e. to explain what these obstacles are in a pedagogical and clear way and to make concrete proposals to mitigate these obstacles, and to encourage addiction professionals to play a more active role in this aim, for example by rethinking the design of programmes, improving training plans, questioning their own attitudes and beliefs during interventions, and by promoting networking. It should be noted that these proposals are much more about changing approaches than demanding large budgets. Each one of us can therefore be part of this change.


Gender inequalities are particularly damaging to women’s health, which is even more evident in women with substance use disorder. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize these inequalities when designing and implementing addiction treatment programs. With this perspective, it is possible to take a step towards equality.