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Until the 1980s, the limited research on alcohol and other drug (AOD) use among sexual minority women (SMW) focused on alcohol and used samples recruited from gay bars, resulting in inflated estimates of hazardous drinking. Over the past several decades the number of AOD studies with SMW has increased dramatically. To characterize this literature, we conducted a scoping review to answer the following questions: What do we know, and what are the gaps in research about AOD use among SMW? We searched multiple electronic databases (Medline [PubMed], CINAHL, PsycInfo, and Web of Science) for peer-reviewed research articles about AOD use among adult SMW published between January 1, 2000 and May 31, 2017. After duplicates were removed the search identified 4,204 articles. We reviewed the titles and abstracts and removed articles that did not meet inclusion criteria. We used full-text review of the remaining 229 articles to make a final determination regarding inclusion and we retained 181 articles for review. Although the quantity of AOD research with SMW has grown substantially, the great majority of studies have been conducted in the United States (US) and most focus on hazardous drinking; relatively little research has focused on other drugs. In addition, although there has been marked improvement in theories and methods used in this research, many gaps and limitations remain. Examples are the lack of longitudinal research; reliance on samples that tend to over-represent white, well-educated, and relatively young women; sparse attention to mechanisms underlying the disproportionately high rates of AOD use among SMW; and the absence of intervention research. In general, more high-quality research on SMW's use of AODs is needed, but gaps and limitations are particularly large in non-western countries. Addressing these research gaps and limitations is essential for providing information that can be used to develop more effective prevention and early intervention strategies, as well as for informing policies that can help to reduce risky drinking and drug misuse among SMW.

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National Institutes of Health


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