The National Addiction Research Program: prevalence of alcohol and substance use among women in Cairo

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Drug abuse has been considered a male problem. Studies from several areas including epidemiology, behavioural pharmacology and neurosciences have taken a male-centric approach when analysing factors and/or treatments that influence drug abuse. This approach has led to a neglect of factors underlying drug abuse in women. Therefore, the extent and effects of drug abuse on women are not fully understood.


The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of substance misuse and dependence among women residing in Cairo, Egypt.

Participants and methods

This is the fourth phase of the National Addiction Research Program. A total of 12 708 female residents from Cairo were interviewed in two waves: 2008 and 2009, according to a stratified sampling design. A specially designed questionnaire with questions derived from the Addiction Severity Index (ASI) was applied to all participants.


A total of 3413 participants reported having tried smoking at least once in their life (26.8%), and 1802 participants reported using illicit substances at least once in their life (14.2%). Recreational and occasional patterns of substance use were reported by 2.5 and 2% of women, respectively, whereas regular use and abuse/dependence were more common (4.8 and 4.9%, respectively). Lower levels of education are related to higher prevalence of substance use, as well as higher prevalence of substance use in the separated, widow and divorced than single than married females. Women in the age range of 20–35 years had the highest rate of substance use. Cannabinoids were the most frequently used substances among the study sample (6.9%), followed by alcohol (3.8%) and opioids (2.7%).


The prevalence of substance use among women in Cairo is increasing (compared with a similar study published in 2009). The true prevalence of substance use in Cairo is probably higher than that reported, bearing in mind the extent of under-reporting. However, the extent of abuse/dependence detected in this study is unexpectedly high, probably because of sample composition and level of researcher training.

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