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International Women’s Day 2019

International Women’s Day 2019,

USU is a womens-led coalition of drug users who are working in solidarity, incorporating team-based models and pioneering non hierarchical systems to fight against the war on drugs, which is a war on people. We are a community-led and directed group made up of people who use drugs at any and all stages of the drug use continuum, ranging from abstinence to chaotic use. Many USU members choose not to make public statements about what drugs we use, how much we use, and or how long we may or may not have abstained from use. These are highly personal questions which distract from the real issues. They have little value except to further judgements and create dangerous hierarchies while creating false measures of success and failure, level of commitment and ability. We acknowledge behavior as the only indicator of success as opposed to the content of chemicals found in a person’s bloodstream.

On this Women’s Day, USU wishes to highlight the deadly stigma and discriminatory practices which both trans and cis women who use drugs face all across America. Women’s issues are human issues and yet too often when we discuss issues that affect women, women are the only people left in the room. Women who use drugs are rarely involved in any decision-making that directly affects them. In fact, women who use drugs are defeminized, labeled as junkies, addicts, sluts, and whores. Our identification as drug users supersedes our identification as women. If we are viewed as women, it is as “bad women”—untouchable and crazy. Women who use drugs are disproportionately affected by HIV and Hepatitis C. We face endemic levels of interpartner and structural violence. Drug dependent women are often excluded from shelters and the barriers women face trying to access health services can be overwhelming. Because of prohibition we have become the fastest-growing segment of the incarcerated population. According to the federal bureau of prisons 60% of the women in prison are there because of nonviolent drug crimes. Nationwide, women’s state prison populations grew 834% over nearly 40 years — more than double the pace of the growth among men. Due to the criminalization of drug use, children are frequently removed from homes where women are identified as drug users, whether they are fit mothers or not. The threat of losing a child is too great for women to dare to disclose their use to anyone, keeping drug-using mothers isolated and vulnerable. Treatment in America is rarely gender specific and almost never grounded in best practice and scientific research. We are in the midst of the most deadly overdose epidemic we have ever experienced in America and there seems no end to our pain in sight.

USU Calls upon our leaders to:

Put an end to the control and punishment approach to substance use which has so clearly failed.

Develop programs and invest in research that involves directly impacted women and views women like us as the experts on our lives.

Remove any and all legislation which punishes individuals who are pregnant.

Put an immediate end to drug induced homicide laws and increased mandatory minimums

Reform all medication assisted treatment programs immediately and create low barrier systems which promote the health and well being of people who use drugs.

Reform treatment in America-abandoning abstinence as the only indicator of success, allowing people to set their own goals and standards for success.

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