A retrospective and prospective analysis of trading sex for drugs or money in women substance abuse treatment patients

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2016 May 1;162:182-9. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.03.006. Epub 2016 Mar 16.


Background: Trading sex for drugs or money is common in substance abuse treatment patients, and this study evaluated prevalence and correlates of this behavior in women with cocaine use disorders initiating outpatient care. In addition, we examined the relation of sex trading status to treatment response in relation to usual care versus contingency management (CM), as well as predictors of continued involvement in sex trading over a 9-month period.

Methods: Women (N=493) recruited from outpatient substance abuse treatment clinics were categorized according to histories of sex trading (n=215, 43.6%) or not (n=278).

Results: Women with a history of trading sex were more likely to be African American, older and less educated, and they had more severe employment problems and were more likely to be HIV positive than those without this history. Controlling for baseline differences, both groups responded equally to substance abuse treatment in terms of retention and abstinence outcomes. Fifty-four women (11.3%) reported trading sex within the next nine months. Predictors of continued involvement in trading sex included a prior history of such behaviors and achieving less abstinence during treatment. Each additional week of abstinence during treatment was associated with a 16% reduction in the likelihood of trading sex over the follow-up.

Conclusions: Because over 40% of women receiving community-based treatment for cocaine use disorders have traded sex for drugs or money and more than 10% persist in the behavior, more intensive and directed approaches toward addressing this HIV risk behavior are recommended.

Keywords: Contingency management; Prostitution; Sex exchange; Sexual behaviors; Substance abuse treatment; Transactional sex; Women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Black or African American / psychology
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / therapy
  • Female
  • HIV Seropositivity / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sex Work / psychology
  • Sex Work / statistics & numerical data*