Barriers to effective drug addiction treatment for women involved in street-level prostitution: a qualitative investigation

Crim Behav Ment Health. 2007;17(3):163-70. doi: 10.1002/cbm.654.


Objectives: To examine barriers to effective drug addiction treatment for women involved in street-level prostitution.

Methods: A qualitative approach was selected to enable a detailed exploration, in an informal and unthreatening manner, of the barriers to drug addiction treatment from the women's perspective. Nine in-depth interviews were conducted with women who were involved in street-level prostitution. Transcripts of one-to-one interviews were analysed for recurrent themes using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.

Results: Barriers to effective addiction treatment are present at psychological, interpersonal, and wider societal levels. Themes identified included: an impoverished sense of self-worth, a lack of trust and consistency in treatment, and the absence of a comprehensive treatment package.

Conclusion: Current services could be improved by the provision of a structured treatment programme designed to target the specific physical and psychological requirements of this population. Also, efforts to correct the fictitious, negative portrayals of women involved in prostitution are required, if treatment efficacy is to be improved.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Homeless Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services / supply & distribution*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Work / statistics & numerical data*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / rehabilitation*