Exploring the role of the Traveller family in supporting Travellers experiencing addiction

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Murphy, Edward
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Community-Academic Research Links, University College Cork
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Background: In recent years, Health Research Board data indicates a significant increase in substance abuse within the Irish Traveller Community. There is a new challenge for national and regional drug and alcohol services providers to keep up to date with the cultural dynamics of drug and alcohol abuse within ethnic minorities such as the Irish Traveller community, who are at a high risk for problematic substance use as a result of the compromising social factors they experience throughout their lives (1). In order to provide positive, integrated and improved service provision for Travellers, it is important to uncover the needs and feelings of Travellers and their families, their experiences with drug and alcohol misuse, awareness of services and the possible discrimination and lack of support they may experience in their lives. Study Aim: To gain a better sense of the understanding of addiction within the Traveller Community, particularly in how it impacts on the family and what methods work best in helping drug and alcohol users and Travelling families to engage with drug and alcohol services. Study Design: This is a qualitative study in which members of the Traveller Community participated in structured, open-ended one-to-one interviews or a focus group. Data was analysed using a thematic framework analysis. Setting: This study took place in the Traveller Visibility Group (TVG) in Cork City and also in study participants’ homes around the Cork City area. Study Population: A total of ten members of the Traveller Community who had experience of the TVG Drug and Alcohol service or another drug and alcohol service took part in the study. Results: The study demonstrated that there can be a casual attitude to misuse of alcohol within the Traveller Community. Attitudes to drugs are more contravening but there is increasing drug use within the community. It was observed that a persons’ family can greatly affect whether they have a positive or negative experience in addiction recovery. Substance abuse has an overwhelming effect on the family unit with many Travelling families reporting common shared experiences such as financial hardship, violence, premature deaths and suicide and involvement with the criminal justice system. The research found that Traveller engagement with drug and alcohol services is poor due to cultural differences, time restrictions and a level of shame that exists within the community around accessing drug and alcohol services. Participants valued cultural awareness, flexibility and choice when discussing mainstream drug and alcohol service use. Conclusion: Travellers who are attempting to access drug and alcohol services are often experiencing hardships on a multidimensional level and often will not have faith in mainstream services. It is important for drug and alcohol services to be culturally aware, open to suggestions from service users and flexible around where and when they can meet with service users.
Substance abuse , Travellers , Traveller families , Traveller community , Drug and alcohol abuse , Family unit , Traveller engagement , Drug and alcohol services
Murphy, M. (2014) Exploring the role of the Traveller family in supporting Travellers experiencing addiction. Cork: Community-Academic Research Links, University College Cork.
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©2014, Edward Murphy.