Gender Inequality in Addiction Recovery

The fentanyl crisis that has caused hundreds of deaths in the last year has created headlines and forced a public response to deal with serious issue of drug addiction and shift our society’s mentality from punishment towards recovery.

That leads me to my main point, namely the need for safe, secure and clean recovery houses for women. I have noticed in the past few months that there is a lack of adequate recovery houses for women. I have had clients waiting days or weeks for a bed to come available. This is a particular problem for women in recovery. Women will run bail hearings in order to leave jail that would have used the opportunity to get a bed in a recovery house. However, since it is unavailable they will leave and think about treatment. Currently, there are three recovery houses that cater to women who have been charged with offences and are in custody awaiting a bail hearing, that are safe and secure.  The following are the recovery houses in Surrey that offer assistance:

  • Willow Addictions Rehabilitation Society for Women
  • Vision Quest Recovery Society
  • New Vision Supportive Housing Society (Couples)

A dominant function of the Criminal Courts is dealing with the problem of drug addiction. From my experience, drug addicts have two minds. While in active addiction there is a monster that clouds their judgment, drives them to do anything to get released and causes them incredible pain. I will often walk up to the cells and interview a person who is clearly still high or starting withdrawal. They are desperate to escape from the cell. Not for fear of detention but for fear of detox. To detox is horrific. The drive to avoid Detox causes people to concoct stories and not follow legal advice, endangering themselves in detention.

The words “you need a plan” means you need help. People in the grips of addiction really need help because of all the problems associated with drug addiction, including the risk of death arising from impure street drugs like fentanyl. Due to the severe personal problems created through drug addiction, women are especially vulnerable. The recovery process is one of self discovery and breaking down all the barriers that led to the addiction in the first place. Often times, women have experienced severely depressing upbringings that include abuse, neglect and both physical and sexual assault. The recovery process is one where you are forced to deal with those issues as well as the addiction. Putting women in co-ed recovery houses with other men places them in a dangerous position of sleeping in a house with men who are transitioning in and out of the house and who have engaged in a criminal lifestyle. Furthermore, due to the extremely private issues that women are struggling with, transference can result leading to complicated and destructive romantic relationships.

The bottom line is that there appears to be far more facilities that cater to men than women. This gender disparity needs to be better taken care of and there needs to be a focus by the government to develop several houses for women in order to fully address this terrible problem of drug addiction that our society faces. Furthermore, this lack of equality for female addicts is distressing given the incredible dangers that female addicts are facing on the streets.

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