Scoring street drugs is often the easier alternative to pain relief than acquiring prescription medication, according to a report based on a group of female users in the Downtown Eastside.

A two-year study conducted by the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users Care Team found that 70 per cent of women requesting health services were stigmatized by the health-care system.

“It’s easier to get drugs on the street than drugs from a doctor,” said Dr. Amy Salmon, principal investigator from the Women’s Health Research Institute.

Three of the 50 women in the study died before the report was completed. One committed suicide, another overdosed and the other died of untreated health conditions.

The report found nearly 40 per cent had been denied pain medication by health workers despite significant health issues such as arthritis and diabetes.

Salmon said poor communication between patients and doctors was one of the system’s biggest failures.

“These women aren’t always understood or even well-respected,” she said.

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