Introduction Worldwide, illicit drug use and substance dependency will remain important public health problems during the next decades. Clinical evidence suggests that sex workers (SW) are a high risk group with increased prevalence. The study describes the state of affairs regarding monitoring illegal drug use among female sex workers in Europe and the existing gaps in our knowledge about the prevalence of use and dependency.
Methods Literature review: literature published between 2000 and 2009 was searched with PubMed. Moreover, the National Reports (N=222) provided yearly by the National Focal Points to the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction, were reviewed.
Results Prevalence estimates of illicit drug use in SW were found regarding 16 countries. Levels of illicit drug use and substance dependency were found to be high compared to the general population and differed by geographical area, age and working environment. Available data suggest a trend towards increasing illicit drug use among SW in Europe.
Conclusion There is substantial evidence that prevalence of illicit drug use and substance dependency are considerable higher in SW. However, because most European countries lack surveys and surveillance systems that provide solid estimates of drug use in this vulnerable population, additional research is needed. Feasibility of monitoring drug use by population-specific health services should be studied as this approach would facilitate timely interventions.
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