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A Qualitative Study of Female Methamphetamine Users Drug Acquisition Behaviors

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Qualitative Study of Female Methamphetamine Users'Drug Acquisition Behaviors. Popular and public health assumptions about drug use and users influence the development of policy, direction of research, and targeting of certain groups or behaviors for intervention [1, 2]. However, these assumptions may be accepted or transferred from one substance to another without empirical support. Current assumptions about methamphetamine (MA) use in particular are a case in point. Popular fiction and film, the news media, and widespread prevention campaigns tend to portray women who use MA as frequently engaging in "sex-for-meth" exchanges. Central to these portrayals is the notion that MA use is the catalyst for such transactional sex--that is, the audience is told that MA use leads women to engage in this socially stigmatized and "risky" behavior. Such assumptions may lead to the development of public health outreach or policy efforts that specifically target female MA users as vulnerable to disease, subordinate even to their drug use, and socially deviant [3]. However, limited data exists either to support or refute these assumptions. Not only is it unclear whether female MA users actually do trade sex for MA, but there is even less data examining the historical, political-economic or personal factors that also may influence these behaviors [4]. This lack of understanding has major implications for public health and treatment programs aimed at these women. For example, in recent years, understandings of crack cocaine use have expanded considerably, resulting in a reconsideration of research and interventions based on the assumed link between crack use and the exchange of sex for crack [5, 6]. Many have proposed that these infamous exchanges, once assumed to be the result of crack abuse and addiction, have more to do with the social and economic oppression of women [7-9]. To optimize the ability of researchers, advocates or public health professionals to improve the lives of women who use (or might use) MA or other drugs, there is a need for a better understanding of women's drug use and acquisition behaviors;women's interpretations of these behaviors;and the historical, circumstantial and political-economic contexts in which they occur. The proposed project will shed light on these areas through qualitative interviews and participant-observation with twenty women who are current and regular MA users. These methods promote both an accurate recording of behaviors and consideration of their meaning to those who engage in them and within broader social contexts.

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