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Cultural factors, mental health drive drug use in minority ethnic groups

The new study findings reveal that drug use in minority ethnic groups is shaped by a complex mix of cultural norms, mental health issues, gender, and migration experiences

Participants commonly cited the ease of access to drugs and the use of substances to cope with mental health challenges, including isolation, discrimination, and social exclusion – Representative Image:iStock

By: easterneye.biz Staff

A new study has revealed that drug use in minority ethnic groups is shaped by a complex mix of cultural norms, mental health issues, gender, and migration experiences. The study was conducted by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), in collaboration with RSM UK Consulting, and published on January 15.

According to the study’s findings, there is a reported normalisation or acceptance of drug use within certain social circles, where individuals may use drugs as a means to fit in or explore substances not accepted in their own cultural or familial contexts, a press release by NatCen said.

The study also notes a complex relationship between drug use and economic factors, such as poverty and unemployment, which disproportionately affect some minority ethnic communities.

Furthermore, participants commonly cited the ease of access to drugs and the use of substances to cope with mental health challenges, including isolation, discrimination, and social exclusion.

Additionally, the research identifies specific barriers faced by minority ethnic groups in accessing treatment, such as stigma, mistrust in healthcare services, and a lack of culturally sensitive care options.

Funded by the Department of Health and Social Care through the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) this research (focusing on the drug use of non-opiate and cannabis drugs within minority ethnic groups) aimed to fill the existing knowledge gaps regarding drug use among these communities by examining patterns of harmful consumption and identifying barriers to accessing support and treatment.

This report is the result of a research methodology that includes a review of existing literature, secondary data analysis, and in-depth qualitative interviews with professionals and minority ethnic individuals who have experienced problems related to drug use.

In response, the report recommends several strategies to ensure equitable access to treatment, including improving awareness and trust in treatment services through community engagement and education, providing culturally tailored treatment approaches, fostering partnerships with service users and community organisations, recognising and addressing the holistic needs of individuals, and taking into account the ease of access and adaptability of services, such as the choice between online and face-to-face delivery options and the hours of operation.

Highlighting the significance of the study, Priya Khambhaita, Project Director, and NatCen Research Associate said, “To support those struggling with drug use and tackle health inequalities in this area, there was a need to know much more about the ways in which drug use affects different minority ethnic communities in the UK. Our research helps to fill this gap in the evidence base, providing important insights which can be applied to help improve access and engagement with treatment and support.”

Dr Priya Khambhaita Project Director and NatCen Research Associate
Dr Priya Khambhaita, Project Director, and NatCen Research Associate

The NatCen is recognised as the UK’s leading independent social research institute, committed to enhancing societal well-being through high-quality social research.

This independent study, conducted by NatCen and funded by the NIHR Public Health Policy Research Unit, reflects the views of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care, or other government entities.

The NIHR is dedicated to funding, enabling, and delivering world-leading health and social care research that not only improves people’s health and well-being but also contributes to economic growth.

Initiated in July 2022 and concluded in September 2023, this research included a literature review on drug use among minority ethnic groups, alongside secondary data analysis from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) and the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW).

Additionally, it featured detailed interviews with 14 professionals engaged in creating and implementing treatment and support services, as well as 24 individuals from minority ethnic backgrounds who reported problematic drug use experiences.

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