Focus on Gender – A National Survey of Canadians’ Use of Alcohol and Other Drugs – Canadian Addiction Survey (CAS)
Chapter 1 – Introduction
This report, one in a series of follow-up reports from the Canadian Addiction Survey (2004), presents an analysis of alcohol and illicit drug use with respect to gender. Expanding on the detailed report of the Canadian Addiction Survey (Adlaf, Begin and Sawka, 2005), which presented the prevalence of alcohol and illicit drug use broken down by key demographic characteristics among the total Canadian population, this secondary report presents each demographic by sex to uncover any key similarities and differences between females and males. Due to the magnitude of the Canadian Addiction Survey (CAS) dataset, sample sizes among most sub-populations were large enough to provide reliable estimates.Historically there has been an absence of research attention to substance use by girls and women. Research has traditionally accounted for the experiences of males and applied the findings to females. Over the past two decades, however, there has been increased attention to the necessity of examining substance use and other health problems among females and males separately (Health Canada, 2003; Johnson, Greaves and Repta, 2007). There is now compelling evidence of sex and gender differences in the experience of substance use and addiction and further knowledge generation and gender-based analyses of the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs are warranted (Poole and Dell, 2005; Poole and Greaves, 2007).
Survey data are valuable in that they can promote understanding of broad levels, patterns and predictors of substance use that allow for the development of sensitive approaches to substance use policy, prevention, treatment and research. Gender-based analysis of survey data allows us to examine, for example, differences between the sexes in the rates of drinking and driving or prescription drug use that can help tailor policy, practice and research efforts to be more effective. Gender-based analysis also allows us to examine age, income and other differences within gender groups, so that we can develop appropriate and targeted prevention campaigns or treatment programs. For example, examining income differences would allow us to design a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder prevention program that takes into account that high-income women are at equal, if not greater, risk of having a child affected by FASD than women with low incomes, due to their drinking levels and patterns in child-bearing years.
Survey data cannot provide all that we need to know about substance use and substance use problems experienced by women and men in Canada. Through other types of research, we can further explore the areas highlighted by the CAS, to help us better understand how diversity and the dominant health, social, political and economic structures affect women’s and men’s substance use. Other types of research can also help us understand biological as well as gender differences in the effects of substances on females and males, and illuminate gender-specific pathways to substance use, abuse and addiction. These CAS data serve as the foundation for our current understanding and future knowledge generation, by pointing to key gender differences in levels, patterns and trends of substance use by women and men in this country.
The objective of this report is to present the CAS data disaggregated by sex and to provide some gender-based analysis of it. The report will compare and contrast the experiences of women and men 15 years of age and older in
terms of their substance use patterns and predictors. Specifically, focus will be placed on determining the demographics (e.g. age, education) that predict a variety of outcomes (e.g. alcohol and illicit drug use) among women and men, highlighting both similarities and differences. It is expected that some demographics will be statistically significant at the 95% confidence level in predicting an outcome for women, but not so for men, and vice versa. For example, statistical testing may confirm that there are provincial differences among women with respect to their views on cannabis use, but show no provincial differences among men, or instead it may be found that the patterns are similar for women and men.
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