'Exiting' drug use and sex work: Career paths, interventions and government strategy targets

Linda Cusick, Belinda Brooks-Gordon, Rosie Campbell, Fiona Edgar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Current British government policy on sex work aims to reduce prostitution, challenge its inevitability and in terms of support services for sex workers is heavily focused towards exiting strategies for those in sex work. Exiting programmes are complex, often lengthy and need to meet a range of holistic needs in order to assist individuals who want to leave sex work and problematic drug use. Addressing drug use has been to the fore as part of exiting programmes due to the very high rates of problematic drug use reported amongst female street sex workers and drug use being identified as a key factor shaping routes into and sustaining involvement with street-based sex work. This contrasts with the much lower levels of problematic drug use found amongst indoor sex workers. This article brings together findings from a 2002 Home Office funded study of sex work and drug use careers and a 2007 UK Network of Sex Work Projects review of specialist services for sex workers which looked at the provision of ‘exiting services’ within projects. The principle of sex worker choice united all of the surveyed projects so that irrespective of whether exiting was seen as a vital goal or a potential end point, choice was seen as crucial for client engagement and for the ethics of service delivery. Findings suggest that current government policy focused on exiting is unlikely to meet its aims and whilst exit support is a vital part of holistic needs, an emphasis on exiting at a strategic level can endanger and erode other vital aspects of support.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-156
Number of pages12
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention and Policy
Issue number2
Early online date7 Sep 2010
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


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