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Travellers and substance use in Ireland: Recommendations for drug and alcohol policy


Marie Claire Van Hout

Subject Keywords: Drugs misuse
Topic: Health Inequalities
Chronic Conditions
Health Inequalities
Catalogue: Research and Evaluation
Type: Report
Region: Northern Ireland

The Traveller community was traditionally protected from drug use by distinct traditional anti-drug norms and potent family networks within their ‘separateness’ from the ‘settled’ community. Estimations of Traveller substance use remain clouded due to lack of ethnic monitoring in drug reporting systems, and poor service utilization by Travellers. This article draws on a Traveller and substance use regional needs analysis in Ireland, comprising 12 Traveller focus groups and 45 interviews with key stakeholders. Drug activity in terms of both drug dealing and drug use among Travellers is increasing in recent years [Van Hout, M.C. (2009a). Substance misuse in the traveller community: A regional needs assessment. Western Regional Drug Task Force. Series 2. ISBN 978-0-9561479-2-9].
Traditional resiliency factors are dissipating in strength due to increased Traveller housing within marginalized areas experiencing drug activity and increased levels of young Travellers encountering youth drug use within school settings, by way of their attempts ‘to fit in’ and integrate with their ‘settled peers’ [Van Hout, M.C. (2009b). Irish travellers and drug use – An exploratory study. Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care, 2(1), 42–49]. Fragmentation of Traveller culture is occurring as Travellers strive to retain their identity within the assimilation process into modern sedentarist Irish society. Treatment and outreach policies need to protect Traveller identity by reducing discriminatory experiences, promoting cultural acceptance with service staff and addressing literacy, implementing peer led approaches and offering flexible therapy modalities.





Rights: Public
Suggested citation:

Marie Claire Van Hout. (2011) Travellers and substance use in Ireland: Recommendations for drug and alcohol policy [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 14th November 2019].


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