“They Need to Get a New Program:” Understanding Ethnically Mexican Women’s Drug Use and their Treatment Implications

Ellen E. Kozelka
Mon April 1st 2024, 12:30 - 1:20pm


Understanding women’s specific mental healthcare needs requires recognizing how medical systems are folded into cultural context and political histories of race, class, gender, and structural violence. In this presentation, I outline some critical reasons women cite for using drugs at one community-based treatment center in the United States-Mexico border zone. Most often, women described their family situations, intimate partner dynamics, and experiences of loneliness to contextualize and explain their drug use. Just as Laurence Ralph (2014:xx) seeks to “restate urban blacks within societal institutions and fields of power from which they are often presumed to be excluded,” I work here to recount the gendered experiences of women’s drug use. In so doing, I aim to reorient research and practical attention to the intersections of gender, race, and class that should be accounted for in the development of care models specifically for women. Attention to these reasons and experiences through the dual theoretical lenses of structural violence and lived experience will inform the development of gender-specific treatment models. I start this work here by considering the first-person perspectives of ethnically Mexican women and call for more research with and for women around the world. I end with a key suggestion for how health researchers could develop new care models that reflect and respond to women’s experiences