National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol

The NACDA was established in response to the drug problem to assist in our continued need to improve our knowledge and understanding of problem drug use.

The goal of the NACDA is to advise the Government on problem drug use in Ireland in relation to prevalence, prevention consequences and treatment based on our analysis and interpretation of research findings.

New study shows vulnerability of traveller community to problem drug use

Issue date: Friday, 20th October, 2006
Media Contact: Gerald Nash (087 2716816)
Pat Montague (087 2549123)
Montague Communications, tel 01 830 3116


A new study aimed at assessing the nature and extent of drug use amongst the Travelling Community in Ireland shows that Travellers are a risk group for whom the impact of drug use and its consequent problems is now emerging. The research was commissioned by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) under Action 98 of the National Drugs Strategy. Traveller organisations worked in partnership with the NACD and the researchers on all elements of the study.

Launching the report, entitled An overview of the nature and extent of illicit drug use amongst the Traveller Community: an exploratory study, Mr. Noel Ahern, T.D., Minister of State with Responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy said, “I welcome this new research from the NACD which shows that Travellers are at risk of problem drug use. The Government is committed to working with Traveller groups through the relevant Department and Agencies to address the impact of drug use in the Traveller Community in a participative way.”

Key findings:

  • Patterns of drug use amongst the Traveller community are similar to the general population. Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug followed by cocaine and ecstasy.
  • Sedatives, tranquillisers and anti-depressants are the most widely used substances by the Traveller community as is the case with the general population.
  • More men than women are reported to be using illegal drugs and it is largely confined to the younger adults aged 15 to 34. This mirrors the general population.
    Poly drug use (use of two or more substances including alcohol) is common again similar to the general population.
  • Travellers due to the risk factors associated with their interrelated social and economic circumstances are at risk of problem drug use. The key risk factors for problematic drug use are: education, health, employment accommodation, previous and current drug use, criminal justice, family, social networks and the environment in terms of social deprivation.
  • Lack of knowledge about drugs and drug services has hampered Travellers’ responses to drug problems including tackling drug dealing.
  • Travellers have experienced a multiplicity of barriers to accessing drug services. These relate to: lack of awareness of the existence and nature of drug services; lack of formal education; stigma and embarrassment; lack of culturally appropriate services; discrimination and stereotyping.
  • The impact of drug use on Travellers who are drug users, on their families and on their community can be exacerbated by the discrimination and social exclusion experiences that affect this tight knit community.

Dr Des Corrigan, Chairperson of the NACD said, “This report shows that there is drug use and problematic drug use amongst Travellers. In addition to all of this, Travellers are facing barriers in terms of accessing services due to a number of factors including a lack of awareness of the services available, what these services do and the stigma or embarrassment felt about attending at a drugs service for treatment and support. The report states that the services currently available are not meeting the needs of Travellers and are not culturally appropriate.”

The report recommends that:

  • All records and data collection methods should include ethnic monitoring in order to enable better needs assessment and planning for Travellers in line with current work being carried out under the National Traveller Health Strategy’s ethnic identifier pilot project.
  • Carry out equality proofing of drugs policy and of drug service planning and delivery
  • Improve awareness amongst Travellers of drugs, drugs related issues and drug services
  • Provide more culturally appropriate drug services that take account of specific elements of Traveller culture and identity.
  • Ensure Travellers are included in the work of Drug Task Forces and in developing responses to drugs in their own community
  • Further research on drug related issues in the Traveller community is needed to address issues such as drug treatment take up and retention.


Notes to the editor

  • The Minister of State has responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy and Community Affairs at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and for Housing and Urban Renewal at the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
  • The research was commissioned by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) under Action 98 of the National Drugs Strategy National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 which provides for the carrying out of studies on drug misuse amongst the at-risk groups identified e.g. Travellers, prostitutes, the homeless, and early school leavers.
  • There are approximately 30,000 Travellers living in Ireland
  • This research was commissioned by the NACD and following open tender, the contract was awarded to Vision 21 who carried out the fieldwork. Professor Jane Fountain from the University of Central Lancashire’s Centre for Ethnicity and Health carried out the analysis and prepared the final report.
  • The fieldwork was carried out in late 2003 and 2004. Researchers engaged with 137 Travellers and 34 agency workers through focus groups and one to one semi-structured interviews. Of the 137 Traveller participants, 15 were current and former drug users (licit and illicit) and were interviewed for the study.
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