Online Program

Substance Abuse among High-Risk Transwomen in San Francisco and Alameda County

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tooru Nemoto, PhD, Public Health Institute, Oakland, CA
Sachiko Suzuki, MPH, Health Intervention Projects for Underserved Populations, Public Health Institute, Oakland, CA
Mariko Iwamoto, MA, Public Health Institute, Oakland, CA
Background: Transwomen are at high risk for substance abuse due to exposure to transphobia and a lack of access to transgender sensitive care and support services.

Methods: The 5-year Mariposa Project aims to reduce substance use and HIV risk behaviors for transwomen of color in San Francisco and Alameda County. A total of 213 transwomen were recruited in the project and administered a structured questionnaire asking about substance use behaviors and psychosocial factors at baseline.

Results: High prevalence of substance use in the past 3 month was found: alcohol (74%), marijuana (66%), methamphetamines (35%), crack (18%), cocaine (19%), and depressants (17%).  High frequencies of substance use (more than once a day) were also found for marijuana (44%), methamphetamines (27%), and depressants (41%). Overall, 17.4% had been using hard drugs at least once a day (heavy drug use).  Heavy drug use was significantly associated with having commercial sex partners (p<0.01) and higher levels of transphobia (p<0.05).  Interestingly 82% of heavy drug users reported seeing a medical provider in the past 3 months as compared with 88% for non-heavy drug users.

Conclusion: Although the number is small, frequent use of hard drugs is troublesome. Results indicate that heavy drug users access medical care at roughly the same rate as non-heavy drug users. This suggests medical providers could be a key to substance abuse interventions.  Interventions that aim to reduce hard drug use among transwomen need to address psychosocial issues, such as sex work and transphobia.

Learning Areas:

Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the frequency and most prevalent types of substance used among transwomen. Identify psychosocial factors that are associated with substance abuse. Discuss possible interventions for transwomen who abuse substances.

Keyword(s): Underserved Populations, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT)

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the Project Director for Dr. Tooru Nemoto for over 10 years. Together we have conducted many interventions for substance abuse, mental health and HIV/AIDS for the transgender population in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have authored several manuscripts on implementing interventions and research outcomes from said interventions.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.