New study shows vulnerability of Traveller community to problem drug use.

13 Nov 2006

A new study aimed at assessing the nature and extent of drug use amongst the Travelling Community in Ireland shows that Travellers are a risk group for whom the impact of drug use and its consequent problems is now emerging

The research was commissioned by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) under Action 98 of the National Drugs Strategy. Traveller organisations worked in partnership with the NACD and the researchers on all elements of the study.

Read the report

 Key findings:

- Patterns of drug use amongst the Traveller community are similar to the general population. Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug followed by cocaine and ecstasy.
- Sedatives, tranquillisers and anti-depressants are the most widely used substances by the Traveller community as is the case with the general population.
- More men than women are reported to be using illegal drugs and it is largely confined to the younger adults aged 15 to 34. This mirrors the general population.
- Poly drug use (use of two or more substances including alcohol) is common again similar to the general population.
- Travellers due to the risk factors associated with their interrelated social and economic circumstances are at risk of problem drug use. The key risk factors for problematic drug use are: education, health, employment accommodation, previous and current drug use, criminal justice, family, social networks and the environment in terms of social deprivation.
- Lack of knowledge about drugs and drug services has hampered Travellers' responses to drug problems including tackling drug dealing.
- Travellers have experienced a multiplicity of barriers to accessing drug services. These relate to: lack of awareness of the existence and nature of drug services; lack of formal education; stigma and embarrassment; lack of culturally appropriate services; discrimination and stereotyping.
- The impact of drug use on Travellers who are drug users, on their families and on their community can be exacerbated by the discrimination and social exclusion experiences that affect this tight knit community.

The report recommends that:

- All records and data collection methods should include ethnic monitoring in order to enable better needs assessment and planning for Travellers in line with current work being carried out under the National Traveller Health Strategy's ethnic identifier pilot project.

- Carry out equality proofing of drugs policy and of drug service planning and delivery

- Improve awareness amongst Travellers of drugs, drugs related issues and drug services

- Provide more culturally appropriate drug services that take account of specific elements of Traveller culture and identity.

- Ensure Travellers are included in the work of Drug Task Forces and in developing responses to drugs in their own community

- Further research on drug related issues in the Traveller community is needed to address issues such as drug treatment take up and retention.