Intoxicated women: A study into gender differences in substance abuse in forensic psychiatric patients
background Substance abuse is an important risk factor for (violent) offending, but is mostly studied in male populations. More knowledge about women is needed.
aim To gain insight into possible gender differences in substance abuse and offending in forensic psychiatric patients.
method Files were analysed of 275 women and 275 men who have been admitted between 1984 and 2014 to one of four Dutch forensic psychiatric facilities and related to incidents of violence during treatment or recidivism after discharge (for 78 women).
results Although substance abuse was common in women (57%), it was significantly more prevalent in men (68%). Men were more often diagnosed with substance dependency and more often committed the index-offense whilst intoxicated. Predictive accuracy for violent incidents during treatment was better for men. Both women and men with substance abuse had significantly more historical risk factors compared to those without substance abuse. A history of substance abuse was not a significant predictor for recidivism after discharge in women.
conclusion There are gender differences in substance abuse and the relationship with offending was stronger for men. These differences may have implications for substance use treatment in forensic mental health services.