Evaluating gender-sensitive interventions for people who use drugs in the context of British Columbia’s overdose crisis

The drug overdose crisis has been hardest felt in BC. Research has shown that gender plays a key role in shaping contexts of drug use (e.g., within sex work, intimate partnerships) and access to treatment and harm reduction services. Women access treatment with more severe drug-related profiles relative to men (e.g. violence/trauma), yet few services are women-centred. New Vancouver Coastal Health guidelines highlight grave gaps in supports and prevention for marginalized women, and several new models of care are being rolled out (e.g., women-only consumption rooms). Several randomized clinical trials (RCTs) are underway in BC to increase access to evidence-based treatments.

However, the gendered impacts of these interventions remain poorly understood and under-investigated. The proposed research will evaluate the impacts of 'naturally occurring' and clinical interventions (i.e., through prospective methods and RCTs) using a gender lens to identify gender differences in treatment outcomes and barriers to accessing services. Research findings will be widely disseminated with the aim of informing gender-specific policies and programs for people who use drugs in BC and beyond.