Eastern Eye (UK)
New study aims to identify patterns among drug users
FINDINGS EXPECTED TO ‘HELP IN TREATMENT AND RECOVERY SYSTEM’
A TEAM of experts is studying the differences in drug use patterns among ethnic minorities in England so as to inform policy and improve treatment for problematic drug use in the UK.
Director of health at NatCen and project lead, Dr Priya Khambhaita, is collaborating with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to deliver the research, focused on nonopiate drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and crack cocaine, ecstasy, ketamine, and steroids. Government figures show there were 275,896 adults in contact with drug and alcohol services between April 2020 and March 2021, a small increase in comparison to the previous year.
Khambhaita told Eastern Eye, “The aim is to inform the design and delivery of policy and interventions that deal with health inequalities with a view to improving treatment for problematic drug use.”
Her team is investigating whether drug use and dependence can be predicted by factors such as educational attainment, household income, employment status, level of deprivation, English as a primary language, gender, and/or age. Findings from the study will be used to make recommendations for improving the treatment and recovery system for problematic drug use, as part of the government’s 10-year plan to combat illegal drugs.
“Some ethnic minority communities, including Asian groups, have a lack of engagement with the wider health system, little awareness around support services, and a perception that any support that might be available is not appropriate
“We know from existing research that where drug use is normalised and culturally accommodated and where drugs are easily available within a community, prevalence can be higher,” she said. “There is also an association between experiencing socio-economic disadvantage and drug use. Minority ethnic groups more at risk of experiencing this disadvantage may also have higher rates of drug use.”
She clarified that rather than a person’s ethnicity having a bearing on their drug use patterns, it is social factors surrounding someone’s ethnic group that may impact drug use.
The investigation is being carried out by analysis of data and interviews with staff involved in the design and delivery of treatment and support programmes as well as individuals with past or current experiences of problematic drug use.
Khambhaita said, “We know that feelings of stigma and shame as well as a fear of rejection from the family and wider community can prevent some minority ethnic drug users to seek support in dealing with addiction. “Language barriers can be a problem for some sub-sections. Britishborn ethnic minority drug users will face different barriers, and within these groups, men and women may also experience specific barriers.
“We hope to speak to drug users from various minority groups to understand the different pathways to treatment and what needs to be in place for them to overcome particular barriers.”