Issues surrounding drug use and drug services among the South Asian communities in England

Document type
Fountain, Jane
NHS National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse
Date of publication
1 July 2009
Substance Misuse, Minority Groups
Social welfare
Material type

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One of a series of publications to inform drug service planning and provision by presenting results from the Department of Health’s Black and minority ethnic drug misuse needs assessment project that was conducted throughout England in three phases during 2000-2001, 2004-2005, and 2006. This project employed the Centre for Ethnicity and Health’s Community Engagement Model to train and support 179 community organisations to conduct the needs assessments. Each community organisation was also supported by a steering group whose membership included local drug service planners, commissioners and providers. This publication collates the findings from 65 reports on issues surrounding drug use and drug services among South Asian communities - Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, and Sri Lankan - in England. In total, 10,485 members of these communities provided the data for the reports, 48 of which were concerned solely with South Asians, while the remaining 17 included a substantial proportion of members of these communities in their samples. Overall, the series has shown that various ethnic groups require more and better targeted information which not only enables community members to understand the impact of drugs on their communities more fully but also helps them to access and to trust drug services when needed.The overall picture painted by the results from participating South Asians is that they are struggling to deal with drug use without sufficient knowledge of the issues, within the traditional immediate family support structure, and in isolation from mainstream drug services; and that drug services are unaware of the needs of South Asian communities and of how to meet them. It is clear that community members want support and that drug services want to be supportive, but both lack the capacity to progress these aims. Illicit drug use among young South Asians is seen to result from the communities becoming more westernised as their adherence to traditional South Asian culture lessens, especially in relation to the preservation of family respect and behaving according to religious principles.The findings from the 65 community organisations studies strongly indicate that, compared to the white population, South Asians are under-represented as recipients of drug information, advice and treatment services.The centrality of the family in South Asian culture means that family members expect and are expected to be involved in tackling the drug use of a close family member.The major factors influencing reactions to drug use are the importance of maintaining the respect of the family within their community and their lack of awareness of drug services.The result is that families often employ strategies that focus not on seeking professional help for the drug user, but on hiding and denying the situation from the extended family and the rest of their community. The efforts of families in tackling the drug use of a member without seeking external help are largely unsuccessful.

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