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July2010 Vol.47 Issue:      3 (Supp.) Table of Contents
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Gender Differences in Risks and Pattern of Drug Abuse in Egypt

Hosam El-Sawy, Mohammed Abdel Hay, Adel Badawy

 

Department of Neuropsychiatry, Tanta University; Egypt

 



ABSTRACT

Background: Causes and consequences of drug abuse and dependence are different between males and females. Objective: To identify possible gender differences in the ways of first exposure to drugs, in their risks of abuse, and the pattern of drug dependence. Methods: Four hundred and fifty seven patients of drug abuse who attended outpatient clinic in Neuropsychiatry Department in Tanta University Hospital along the period from June 2006 to June 2009 were classified into two groups according to gender. The 2 groups were assessed using DSM IV semi-structured interview and compared together regarding; Age, age of beginning of drug use, duration of abuse, educational level in years, occupation, marital state, first drug used, number of abused drugs, route of use, possible risk factors, cause of asking help and comorbid psychiatric conditions. Results: Males started drug abuse earlier in age than females with longer duration of addiction. Single males are more vulnerable to abuse than females. Drug abuse is more common in female students and in male workers. Cannabis followed by opiates then alcohol and analgesics are common in males, while in females analgesics ranked first followed by anticholinergics then cannabis. Peer pressure was the most common motivating factor for drug abuse in males in contrary to family troubles and sexual abuse in females. Anxiety disorders are more common in males while depressive disorders in females. Conclusion: There are many gender differences in drug dependence should be considered while planning treatment and prevention strategies for achieving optimal outcome. [Egypt J Neurol Psychiat Neurosurg. 2010; 47(3): 413-418]

 

Key Words: addiction, substance abuse, gender difference.

 

Correspondence to Hosam El-Sawy.  Neuropsychiatry Department, Tanta University, Egypt.

Tel.: +20127904167.   Email: houssam_elsawi @yahoo.com.





INTRODUCTION

 

In Egypt, drug dependence is considered one of the serious problems that worry both the people and government; however, epidemiological data on drug dependence are still few1.

A preliminary community report of the Egyptian national research on addiction was released in 1996. This report was conducted in five governments out of the twenty-six constituting the republic of Egypt at that time. The project involved a stratified sample of both sexes, over the age of 16 (N=16,645). The report addressed the characteristics of those who used substances, at least once versus those who did not use psychoactive substance at all. But, the report didn't address the gender differences in drug abuse in Egypt2.

Gender-based differences in drug abuse may emanate from a biomedical (genetic, hormonal, anatomical and physiological), psychosocial (population-based risk factors) or even a more global perspective3.

Traditionally, research on the development and consequences of drug abuse and dependency has focused on men, however more recent research in women elucidated significant differences between both males and females in the causes and consequences of drug abuse and dependence. For example, childhood sexual abuse has been associated with drug abuse in women in several studies. Up to 70% of women in treatment report histories of physical and sexual abuse with victimization beginning before 11 years of age and occurring repeatedly4.

The aim of the study was to identify possible gender differences in the demographic characteristics of drug dependent women and men, their motives of dependence, and the pattern of drug dependence. Understanding of these differences, and incorporating that understanding into drug dependence prevention and treatment, can improve outcomes.

 

SUBJECTS AND METHODS

 

Four hundreds and fifty seven patients of drug dependence who attended outpatient clinic in Neuropsychiatry department in Tanta University hospital along the period from June 2006 to June 2009 were classified into two groups according to their gender. The 2 groups (319 males and 138 female) were assessed by one of the research team using the MINI International Neuropsychiatric Interview (5); which was translated into Arabic by Ghanem et al. (1999). Both groups were compared together regarding; age, age of beginning of drug use, duration of abuse, educational level in years, occupation, marital state,  first drug used, number of abused drugs, route of use, possible risk factors, cause of asking help, number of previous treatment trials and comorbid psychiatric conditions.

Consent of members of the study sample was taken through witnessed verbal consent after clarifying objectives of the study and confidentiality of obtained data.

 

Statistical Analysis

The collected data was organized and statistically analyzed using Minitab 15 software statistical computer package. The mean and standard deviation was used for presentation of quantitative data.  The student (t) test was used for comparison between two means. For qualitative data the number and percent distribution was calculated and Chi square test was used for comparison between studied groups. The 5% level of significance was adopted for interpretation of tests of significance.

 

RESULTS

 

The present study included 457 addicts. The majority of studied addicts aged 20-40 years (81.4%). Males represented the majority of sample size (319, 70%). Females were 138 (30%). Males were found to start drug abuse at a significantly younger age compared to females (18.76±4.10 years, compared to 20.81±5.12 years, respectively).

Duration of addiction was found significantly higher among males (8.67±3.15 years) compared to females (5.60±1.74 years) (Table 1). The duration of addiction was found to decrease with increased educational level. There was no significant difference between males and females in that respect.

Addicts who ever married were found to have significantly higher duration of drug use of 13.05±6.63 compared to 7.37±4.53 among single addicts. Single marital status was reported by 60.6%. Single male addicts were significantly higher than females (60.50% versus 28.98% respectively) (Table 1).

In males, the prevalence of drug dependence was the highest among skilled workers (36.05%), unemployed (22.25%) and professionals (18.18%), while the lowest percentage was among manual workers (5.95 %), employees (8.46%), and students (9.09%). In females the highest percentage was among the students (50.75%) followed by unemployed (36.23%) and manual workers (10.77%), while the lowest percentage was among skilled workers (1.44%), employees (5.07%), and professionals (5.79%), (Table 1).

The majority of studied addicts were current smokers (96.86% in males and 92.75% in females). Most of the females are cigarette smokers, 5.18 % were Goza smokers, but only 14.82% smoked cigarettes and Goza (Table 2).

Among males, bhang and hashish ranked first (64.89%) then opiates (cough syrups 35.10% and opiates, 25.39%), followed by analgesics (24.76%) and then alcohol (24.45%) (Table 2). In females, analgesics ranked first (52.89%) followed by anticholinergics (21.73%), cannabis (16.66), and cough syrups (10.86%).

Gender differences showed that females use more analgesics (mostly Tramadol 52.89%) followed by anticholinergics (21.73%) then Volatile substances (2.89 %). Other drugs were less used than males (Table 2). 

In males, the most common motive for initiation of drug abuse was found to be peer pressures which was reported by 36.67% followed by seeking pleasure (20.06%), improve mood (19.12%) and improve sex and show masculinity (18.18%) (Table 2).

In Females, the most common motives for initiation of drug abuse was found to be family troubles and sexual abuse (31%), followed by mood improvement (29%) followed by seeking pleasure (13%) and curiosity (13%) (Table 2).

The majority of studied addicts were abusing more than one drug (84.6%) and more than one half were abusing three or more drugs (53.2%). In females, abuse of more than one drug was found in 53% which is significantly less than males. The most common place for drug intake was found to be home (87%) followed by gathering of friends (61%). Injecting drugs was practiced by 62% of female addicts which is statistically more significant than males (P<0.05).

Males showed significantly more trials for treatment than females. The main motives for seeking treatment trial in males were found to be family troubles (17.24%), dissatisfaction with being addict (16.3 %), financial troubles (15.98%), work troubles (12.53%) and health troubles (11.28%).

In females, the main motives for seeking treatment trial were found to be, Family troubles (23.1%), Health troubles (18.11%), behavioral and psychological disturbances (15.94%), Financial troubles (15.21%), followed by other factors (Table 3).

Depressive symptoms are common in both males (31.03 %) and females (39.85%). Personality disorders were the most common comorbid psychiatric disorder in females, (26.81%) followed by major depression (26.08%) followed by anxiety disorders (13.76%) and lastly by psychotic disorders (4%) and bipolar disorder (2.17%). In males; personality disorders were the most common comorbid disorder (35.10%) followed by anxiety disorders (31.03%), major depression (15.04%) and psychotic disorders (6.58%). Major depression was or prevalent in females than males, while anxiety disorders were more common in males than females (P<0.05), (Table 3).


 

Table 1. Characteristics of the studied addicts (n=457).

Character

Males

N=319

Females

N=138

t/ x²

p

1-Age in years

 

- Range

- Mean

- ±SD

14-45

28.70

7.55

17-45

32.33

8.04

 

-4.52

 

0.000*

2-Residence**

- Urban

- Rural

223

96

69.90%

30.10%

123

25

89.13%

10.87%

9.179

0.002*

3-Duration of addiction

 

- Range

- Mean

- ±SD

2-18

8.67

3.15

2-9

5.60

1.74

13.31

0.000*

4-Marital status**

 

- Single

- Married

- Divorced or widowed

193

99

27

60.50%

31.03%

8.47%

40

38

60

28.98%

27.53%

43.47%

81.195

0.000*

5-Educational level in years

 

- Range

- Mean

- ±SD

0-20

12.8

7.33

2-20

11.8

5.16

0.23

0.89

6-Occupation

 

- Unemployed

- Manual workers

- Skilled workers

- Employees

- Professionals

- Students

71

19

115

27

58

29

22.25%

5.95%

36.05%

8.46%

18.18%

9.09%

50

1

2

7

8

70

36.23%

10.72%

1.44%

5.07%

5.79%

50.75%

146.972

0.000*

SD standard deviation, Chi square                                 

* Significant at p<0.05                                      

** Data are expressed as number and percentage

 

Table 2. Pattern of drug dependence among studied subjects.

Character

Males

N=319

Females

N=138

P

n

%

n

%

1-Smoking

- Current smoker

- Ex smoker

- Non-smoker

309

5

5

96.86

1.56

1.56

128

7

3

92.75%

5.07%

1.44%

4.88

0.087

2- type of smoking

 

- Cigarettes

- Goza

- Mixed

179

2

133

57%

0.63%

42.37%

108

7

20

80%

5.18%

14.82%

38.569

0.000*

3-Abused drugs

 

- Benzodiazepines

- Cannabis (bhang-hashish)

- Alcohol

- Volatile substances

- stimulants

- Opiates (morphine-heroin)

- Anticholinergics

- Cough syrups

- Analgesics (Tramandine-Stadol-Nupain)

64

207

78

4

4

81

25

112

79

20.06%

64.89%

24.45%

1.25%

1.25%

25.39%

7.83%

35.10%

24.76%

11

23

4

4

3

9

30

15

73

7.97%

16.66%

2.89%

2.89%

2.17%

6.52%

21.73%

10.86%

52.89%

155.713

0.000*

5-Motives for drug abuse

 

- Peer pressure

- Seeking pleasure

- Improve mood

- Improve sex and show masculinity

- Curiosity

- Self medication

- To be social

- Others (family troubles- sexual abuse at childhood)

117

64

61

58

20

14

5

10

36.67%

20.06%

19.1

18.12%

6.26%

4.38%

1.56%

3%

15

18

40

8

18

10

8

54

11%

13%

29%

6%

13%

7%

6%

39%

133.267

0.000*

Chi square                                                            

* Significant at p<0.05                                      

Table 3. Motives for treatment and comorbid psychiatric disorders in drug addicts.

Character

Males

N=319

Females

N=138

p

N

%

N

%

1-Motives for treatment

 

Family troubles

Financial troubles

Work troubles

Health troubles

Behavioral and psychological disturbances

Dissatisfied with being drug addict

Withdrawal symptoms and drug overdose

Failure at study

To get married

Impotence

Court orders

55

51

40

36

33

52

24

11

9

4

4

17.24%

15.98%

12.53%

11.28%

10.34%

16.3%

7.52%

3.44%

2.82

1.25

1.25

32

21

3

25

22

10

15

4

4

1

1

23.1%

15.21%

2.17%

18.11%

15.94%

7.24%

10.86%

2.89%

2.89%

0.72%

0.72%

26.369

0.003*

2-Attempts at treatment

 

Voluntary

Referred by family

Referred by police

Multiple referral

118

164

3

34

36.99%

51.41%

0.94%

10.56%

42

62

1

33

30.43%

44.42%

0.72%

23.91%

13.596

0.004*

3-Co morbid psychiatric disorders

 

Depressive symptoms

Major depressive disorder

Bipolar disorders

Anxiety disorders

Psychotic disorders

Personality disorders

99

48

14

99

21

112

31.03%

15.04%

4.38%

31.03%

6.58%

35.10%

55

36

3

19

6

37

39.85%

26.08%

2.17%

13.76%

4.3%

26.81%

23.866

0.000*

* Significant at p<0.05

 

 


DISCUSSION

 

Drug addiction is one of the serious problems that worry the Egyptian government, as it deals with young people within the age of work and productivity. It may lead to many problems such as bad social adaptation, decreasing productivity at work or dismissing from job6.

This study revealed that males started drug use earlier than females and had longer duration of dependence compared to females. Also, results of this study suggest that males abuse drugs more commonly than females. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2004) reported that; 9% of both females and males aged 12 to 17 were dependent on or abusing alcohol or an illicit drug. Among older age groups, males were more likely than females to be dependent on or abusing alcohol or an illicit drug. Males aged 18 to 25 had a higher rate of dependence or abuse than females in the same age group, and males aged 26 or older were more than twice as likely to be dependent on or abusing alcohol or an illicit drug compared with females aged 26 or older7. In Egyptian culture, males have more opportunity to abuse drugs than females at earlier age due earlier work career and more freedom. In USA, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2000, reported that men are more likely than women to have opportunities to use drugs, but men and women given an opportunity to use drugs for the first time are equally likely to do so and to progress from initial use to addiction. However, women and men appear to differ in their vulnerability to some drugs8.

Concerning the educational level, the highest percentage of addicts in this study was that of secondary school education while illiteracy was observed among 10.6% which is lower than that of general population which is estimated at 38%. 

Prevalence of addiction varied with Occupations with the highest percentage for manual workers while unemployment was reported by 22.3% which is higher than general population of Egypt (8%).

The majority of studied addicts were smokers. Similar studies in Egypt reported the same observations related to addicts’ profile as observed in this study9-12.

In the present study, motives for drug use in males were found to be peer pressures, seeking pleasure, to improve mood and to improve sex and to show masculinity in descending order. Peer pressures were significantly higher among younger addicts (<20 years) compared to older ones while improving mood and sex and showing masculinity was significantly higher among addicts starting abuse after the age of 20 years. In a study of illicit drugs in Greater Cairo, peer pressure and curiosity were cited as the main motive for drug use.15 Curiosity followed by the desire to make fun was reported by another study.16 However many studies reported peer pressure and pleasure seeking as the main or one of the main motives for starting drug use17. In females, the motives for drug use were family troubles and sexual abuse followed by tendency to improve mood which is going with most studies before. Women who have forgotten or repressed memories of traumatic events experience significant increases in drug or alcohol use when such memories re-emerge18,19. 

Results of the present study indicated that most of the studied subjects were poly-drug users. The majority of drug users consumed drugs in safe places such as homes, cars and private places.  In the present study, most addicts reported taking the drug at their homes. A study among a sample of problematic drug users in Greater Cairo showed that studied sample of addicts in Cairo were habitual poly-drug users20. The previous study and other similar studies in Egypt reported indoor intake of drug as the most common place for drug intake13,14,21. This is understood in the context of the conservative nature of Egyptian society which reject open drug intake.

Comorbid psychiatric conditions showed that anxiety disorders were more common in males while depressive disorders more common in females and there is no significant differences as regards psychotic disorders and personality disorders. Depression is more common in females and drug dependence may accentuate the chance of depression in females22. On the other hand, cannabis is highly associated with anxiety disorders and this may explain the increased prevalence of anxiety disorders in males which abuse more cannabis23.

 

[Disclosure: Authors report no conflict of interest]

 

REFERENCES

 

1.      Okasha A, Khalil A, Fahmy M. Psychological understanding of Egyptian heroin users. Egypt J Psychiatry. 1999; 13: 37-49.

2.      National Research on Addiction. Use, abuse and addiction, preliminary report. Ministry of Health, Egypt; 1996.

3.      Afifi M. Gender differences in mental health, Sing Med J. 2007; 48 (5): 385.

4.      National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Women's health and gender differences. The sixth report to congress: Drug abuse and Addiction Research. Bethesdamd: NIDA, NCADI NH publication BXD339; 1999.

5.      Sheehan DV, Lecrubier Y, Harnett-Sheehan K, Amorim P, Janavs J, Weiller E, et al. The Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (M.I.N.I.): The Development and Validation of a Structured Diagnostic Psychiatric Interview. J Clin Psychiatry. 1998; 59(suppl. 20): 22-33.

6.      Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS. UNAIDS at Country Level Progress Report. UNAIDS; 2004.

7.      NSDUH report. National Survey on Drug Use and Health. October 29; 2004.

8.      NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse). Gender differences in drug abuse, risks and treatment. NIDA. 2000; 15 (4).

9.      UNDP: Human Development Report, 2000.

10.    Okasha A. Young people and struggle against drug abuse in the Arab World. Bull On narcotics. 1985; 37:67.

11.    Soueif MI, Hanourah M, Darweesh Z, El-Sayed A, Yunis F, Taha H. The use of psychoactive substances by female Egyptian university students, compared with their male colleagues on selected items. Drug Alcohol Depend. 1987; (19): 233-47.

12.    Wahdan N. Social and economic effects of the phenomenon of spread of narcotics in Egypt. National Institute for Planning. Social and Cultural Planning Center and Police Research Center; Report No. 1425; 1986.

13.    El-Mahdy M, El-Nawawy A. Pattern of substance dependence in a sample of Egyptian addicts. Al-Azhar Med J. 2003; 32(3-4):541-52.

14.    Abdel-Gawad M. Drug abuse (Part II). Egypt J Psychiatry 1999; 22:2.

15.    UNODCCP. “Illicit drug market in Greater Cairo” Technical Report on Drugs and Crime in North Africa and the Middle East; 2001.

16.    Akabawi A. “Drug abuse in Arab world: a country profile of Egypt”. In: Okasha A,  Maj M, editors. Images in Psychiatry, an Arab perspective, 5th ed. Scientific. Egypt: Book House; 2001. p.148-50.

17.    UNDCP. Rapid Assessment of Trends and Patterns of Drug Abuse in Egypt. Final report; 2002.

18.    Najavits LM. Seeking safety: therapy for trauma and substance   abuse. Corrections Today. 2002; 64, 6:136-9.

19.    Nelson-Zlupko L, Kauffman E, Dore MM. Gender differences in drug addiction and treatment: Implications for social work intervention with substance-abusing women. Soc Work. 1995; 40, 1: 45-54.

20.    Elshimi T, Warner-Smith M, Oan M. HIV Risk Behaviors of Problem Drug users in Greater Cairo. United Nations Office on Drug and Crime Supported by UNAIDS Program acceleration Fund. Final Report, 2004; August.

21.    Abo El-Magd S. Changing pattern of drug addiction. M.Sc. Thesis in Psychiatry, Cairo University, 1987.

22.    Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance abuse treatment for women with trauma and co-occurring disorders.  Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment; 2003.

23.    Mactas DJ. Treatment of women with substance abuse problems. In Wetherington CL, Roman AB, Rochville MD, editors. Drug Addiction Research and the health of women. National Institute of drug abuse; 1998.


 

 

الملخص العربى

 

الفروق الجنسية في طرق ومخاطر إدمان المخدرات في مصر

 

هدف الدراسة :

التعرف علي الفروق المحتملة بين الجنسين في تعاطي المخدرات وأسباب التعاطي وطرق تعاطي المخدرات.

 

طريقة الدراسة :

457 مريضا من متعاطي المخدرات (319 ذكرا و 138 أنثي) من المترددين علي العيادة الخارجية لقسم الأمراض النفسبة والعصبية بكلية طب طنطا في الفترة من يونيو2006 الي يونيو2009 تم مقابلتهم وتشخيصهم حسب دليل الاحصاء الأمريكي الرابع للأمراض النفسية. وبعد ذلك تمت المقارنة بين الجنسين من ناحية السن وبداية الادمان ومدة الادمان والمواد المستخدمة وعددها والسبب في التعاطي والأمراض النفسية المصاحبة.

 

النتائج :

الذكور يتعاطون المخدرات في سن مبكرة عن الإناث ومدة الإدمان أطول. الرجل الأعزب أكثر تعرضا للإدمان من الإناث وخصوصا في الأميين. المواد التي يتعاطاها الرجال هي القنب وبعده الأفيونات ثم يأتي الكحوليات ولكن في الإناث المسكنات وبعدها مضادات الاسيتيل الكولين ثم القنب. ضغط الأصدقاء هو أهم أسباب التعاطي في الرجال بينما المشاكل الأسرية والتحرش الجنسي للإناث هو الأكثر. القلق النفسي أكثر عند الرجال بينما الاكتئاب النفسي عند الإناث المدمنين.

 

الخلاصة :

هناك العديد من الفروق بين الجنسين في تعاطي المخدرات التي يجب مراعاتها عند رسم خطة علاجية ووقائية للإدمان.



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