On Drugs

Gender, On Drugs

Like pretty much everything that matters, our relationship with drugs is gendered. The drugs we choose - legal and illicit - and the ways we use them, are at least partly determined by gender expectations. This episode explores how those expectations affect our relationships with drugs.

More than 50,000 people died of drug overdose in the United States last year, and nearly 2,500 in Canada. And apart from the sheer numbers of people dying drug-related deaths, there's another striking statistic: there's a big gender imbalance among the dead.

In British Columbia last year, nearly 80 percent of overdose deaths were men.

It's the starkest indication of how men and women choose and use drugs differently. In this episode, we explore some of those differences. 

We hear from BJ Bethel, a reporter in Dayton, Ohio, who has reported on the state's overdose problem. He connects the higher rate of male deaths to the decline of manufacturing industries.

We also spoke with Jenny Valentish, whose book, Woman of Substances delves into her own experiences with drug abuse and addiction. But it also examines some of the extent to which men and women have different physiological responses to drugs.

And finally, we step outside the male/female binary for a conversation with transgender activist Sandy-Leo Lamframboise. She describes how illicit drug use helped define community among transgender people in Montreal in the 1970s.