Psychiatric Comorbidity and Intimate Partner Violence among Women Who Inject Drugs in Europe

It is recognised that women who inject drugs are a highly vulnerable group of people and a section of the population who are at higher risk of showing comorbidities. This further impacts their well-being and can create a barrier to seeking help. There is also a believed link between intimate partner violence frequency and drug use.

A recent study has examined the prevalence of and relationship between psychiatric comorbid conditions and factors such as intimate partner violence amongst women who inject drugs in Austria, Italy, Poland, Scotland, and Spain.

The researchers conducted a secondary analysis of data that had been collected as part of the REDUCE project - a study of a group intervention with women using community drug treatment services. They then collected further information from 226 women regarding psychiatric comorbidity, intimate partner violence and injecting and sexual risk behaviours.

Highlights from results:

  • The majority of participants (87.2%) screened positive for at least one lifetime psychiatric disorder. This included depression, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • There was a significant relationship between sharing needles and syringes and psychiatric comorbidity.  
  • 70% reported having experienced intimate partner violence in the last 12 months of their current or most recent relationship, and this was linked with an increased likelihood of experiencing PTSD.

The results highlight the importance of screening measures in drug treatment centres for psychiatric symptoms or disorders. There also needs to be checks and support provided for women who are victims of intimate partner violence. Interventions that are designed for women who inject drugs should be sensitive to situational factors and potential psychiatric comorbidity.

Tirado-Muñoz, Judit, Gail Gilchrist, Gabriele Fischer, Avril Taylor, Jacek Moskalewicz, Cinzia Giammarchi, Birgit Köchl et al. "Psychiatric comorbidity and intimate partner violence among women who inject drugs in Europe: a cross-sectional study." Archives of women's mental health 21, no. 3 (2018): 259-269.
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