The gendered context of initiation to injecting drug use: evidence for women as active initiates

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2007 May;26(3):287-93. doi: 10.1080/09595230701247731.


This paper explores differences between women's and men's first experience of injecting in relation to socio-demographic context, drug use, and the role of others. We collected cross-sectional retrospective data from 334 recently initiated (<or=5 years) injecting drug users in New South Wales and Queensland, Australia using a structured questionnaire in face-to-face interviews. Logistic regression was used to estimate crude and adjusted odds ratios (OR). Findings from the adjusted analysis show that women had a shorter duration of illicit drug use prior to initiation (adjusted OR 0.84, 95%CI: 0.74 - 0.94), and were more likely to have their romantic-sexual partner facilitate the initiation by paying for the drugs (adjusted OR 4.64, 95%CI: 1.21 - 17.73). Women also reported a greater likelihood of being initiated in groups of other women (adjusted OR 2.87, 95%CI: 1.24 - 6.67), suggesting that some women play an active role in their initiation experience rather than relying on, or being lead by, a romantic-sexual partner. These findings demonstrate the crucial role that romantic-sexual partners play in women's initiation experience, but also provide evidence for the way that women can be active participants in their own initiation and in initiating other women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Friends
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • New South Wales
  • Queensland
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Partners
  • Social Facilitation*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology*


  • Illicit Drugs