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The Effect of Alcohol, Drugs, and Tobacco on Women: A Forensic Perspective

In the world of forensic science, we meticulously examine the human condition from various angles. One vital aspect we explore is how substance abuse impacts women. It’s a complex topic with profound implications. Forensic experts look closely at the effects of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco on women’s lives. While substance abuse affects both genders, we shouldn’t overlook how it uniquely intersects with women’s experiences. Traditionally, discussions on this issue have focused on men, but it’s crucial to understand its specific impact on women.

The Effect of Alcohol, Drugs, and Tobacco on Women: A Forensic Perspective

ALCOHOL
Alcohol, often celebrated for its social appeal, affects women differently due to their unique physiology. While both men and women share some responses to alcohol, it’s vital to recognize that women metabolize and react to it in distinct ways. This is because women generally have more body fat and less water than men. Since alcohol dissolves in water, women tend to absorb it more quickly, leading to higher blood alcohol levels even if they drink the same amount as men.
In the short term, alcohol intoxication impairs thinking and coordination for both genders. However, women can experience these effects more intensely and at lower alcohol levels than men. This has significant implications in forensic cases, especially accidents, DUIs, and alcohol- related offenses.
On a long-term scale, chronic alcohol misuse poses serious health risks, particularly for women. It increases the chances of liver damage, heart problems, and cancer. Women are especially vulnerable to alcoholic liver disease, which can lead to cirrhosis and require forensic examination in cases involving alcohol-related deaths. Psychologically, women are more prone to developing alcohol use disorder (AUD), which can be significant in forensic contexts, particularly if it intersects with criminal behavior or legal issues. So, it’s essential for forensic experts to understand the psychological aspects of AUD when dealing with women and alcohol-related concerns.

DRUG
Drug abuse doesn’t discriminate—it affects people from all walks of life. But when it comes to women, the consequences can be especially complex and unique, requiring a forensic perspective to fully understand. Women often have different drug preferences than men, and prescription drugs and opioids are more commonly misused by women. Women may abuse marijuana in an attempt to elevate mood or they might use heroin or prescription opioids for pain relief. They may also use methamphetamines to increase energy. This is crucial for forensic professionals to know because it tells us which substances are frequently involved in cases with women. Substance abuse can also lead to criminal behavior in women, like theft, fraud, or drug-related offenses. In certain countries, a significant percentage, ranging from 20% to 50% of drug-addict women trade sex for drugs. Thus, they become easy target for drug trafficking rackets or sexual offenders. Women often fall prey to dangerous crimes if subjected under drug abuse, as there are multiple rape drugs such as GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid), ketamine and rohypnol available. To tackle these cases effectively, forensic experts need to consider the gender-specific factors at play. Additionally, the health impacts of drug abuse can be more severe for women, increasing the risk of reproductive issues, neonatal abstinence syndrome in babies born to addicted mothers, and co-occurring mental health problems. These health aspects become crucial parts of forensic investigations when women are dealing with drug-related issues.

TOBACCO
While the idea of a sophisticated woman with a cigarette might seem glamorous, the truth about tobacco use is quite grim, especially for women. Women who smoke or use tobacco face unique health challenges, and these have serious forensic implications. These risks go beyond typical health concerns and include a higher chance of problems like cervical cancer, difficulties during pregnancy, and reduced fertility. When it comes to diseases like lung cancer, often linked to tobacco, forensic experts get involved. They examine lung tissue and medical records to understand how smoking might have played a role in a woman’s death. Tobacco use can also affect reproductive health, possibly leading forensic experts to cases involving stillbirth or neonatal death where the mother’s tobacco use matters. Even legally, tobacco-related illnesses can lead to claims, like lawsuits against tobacco companies. Women seeking legal action because of health issues from tobacco use bring in the forensic perspective, where health and the law meet.
Women who fall victim to substance abuse are marginalized and face stigma and discrimination from their families, communities and society at large. They find it hard to talk about their addiction and to seek and access treatment, and therefore remain a hidden population. As forensic experts, it is a duty to reach these women and hear about their experience, validate their existence as part of the society and to help them to the best of one's ability. Compared to men, women have a hard time rehabilitating because of withdrawal maybe more intense, nicotine patches or gum might not work on them. Mental health disorders may also be provoked, slowing down the process. Therefore, it is of dire importance that a “women-specific” approach is taken to mitigate the abuse of substance on women, especially in a country like India where women are greatly prejudiced against.

Government must ensure collaboration between addiction treatment and mental health services to address co-occurring substance use issues and mental health needs. Federal agencies can start gender specific rehabilitation centres where focus is put on the neglected gender. A forensic crew may share their input in such institutions for a legal and medical outlook, as well as preach public awareness. Forensic experts, who have a panoramic view of the physiological, psychological, societal, economical and legal perspective of the substance abuse situation in India, are the best option to contribute their knowledge and expertise. Last but not the least, the taboo surrounding this issue should be eradicated for once and for all, and more people should be urged to speak about abuses concerning drugs or other illicit products. Only then it is possible to present the mothers, sisters, daughters of the nation a better tomorrow.

After all, a woman should always be high in spirit, but the good kind only!

By Aindrila Ghosh

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