Indiana State University Newsroom

Indiana State student researches gender differences in drug court participants

March 27, 2015

When it comes to the differences between male and female participants in Vigo County, an Indiana State University graduate student has found the two genders are as markedly different as John Gray's famous relationship book proclaimed.

"Most drug court programs follow the same guidelines for recovery, regardless of gender, (but) the research showed that females abuse differently than males," said Mallory Pugh, who defended her master's thesis earlier this month.

Women, Pugh's research discovered, abuse prescription drugs -- known as a "quiet" or largely unreported type of substance abuse -- at a higher rate than men. Additionally, women experience different factors that may contribute to their substance abuse, compared to their male counterparts.

"There are so many more contributing factors for female substance abuse like mental illness, children and victimization that males do not experience," said Pugh of Cory, Ind. "If more specialized programs could be developed for these females, the women involved may have increased chances for long-term sobriety."

To reduce recidivism in Vigo County, Pugh suggests implementing programs that offer assistance with child care and specialized victimization counseling. Improving familial relationships has also shown to improve a woman's sobriety success.

"If the (Vigo County Drug Court) would implement programs like this, within time, I feel like they would see an increase in females substance abusers successfully completing a program," she said. "Drug courts tend to be male-dominated, so they lack specialized programs and treatment for just females. Hopefully, this will help some of these programs understand how different female substance abusers are."

Pugh examined 259 drug court participants (188 male, 71 female) from Jan. 1, 2008-Dec. 31, 2010 and measured successful completion of the program after 30 months of sobriety.

She became interested in this topic after first researching the Vigo County Drug Court -- the first of its kind in Indiana -- during the university's Summer Undergraduate Research Experience in 2013.

"We did a program evaluation of the VCDC, and I absolutely loved it," she said. "I found it incredibly interesting to see the difference between genders and substance abuse."

Pugh set out to learn more but discovered there was little research available.

"The lack of information was just enough fuel to the fire and gave me a reason to research it," she said. Her master's committee included professors Lisa Kay Decker (chair), Frank Wilson and David Polizzi.

With the completion of her master's degree, Pugh's next step is to apply to doctoral programs on her way to becoming a professor of criminal justice and criminology.

"Some of my strongest mentors have been my criminology professors, and I would like to be able to help students the same way that I have been helped," she said. "I also want to continue research in my field, focusing on gender-related issues with substance abuse and programs that could help individuals overcome their substance abuse problems and achieving long-term sobriety."


Photo: -- Mallory Pugh

Writer and media contact: Libby Roerig, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or