Home > Exploring Irish Travellers' experiences of opioid agonist treatment: a phenomenological study.

Claffey, C and Crowley, Des and Maclachan, M and Van Hout, Marie Claire (2017) Exploring Irish Travellers' experiences of opioid agonist treatment: a phenomenological study. Heroin Addiction and Related Clinical Problems, 19, (6),

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The Irish Travelling community are identified “as a people with shared history, culture and traditions including, historically, a nomadic way of life”. The core of Travelling culture is strong family bonds which support resilience, however changing social circumstances and dislocation have contributed to significant mental and physical health issues accompanied by a steep rise in substance abuse and addiction. Aim: To explore and describe Irish Travellers’ experiences of drug use and opioid agonist treatment (OAT), with a view to improving service delivery and expanding the limited research base.


Materials and Methods: A phenomenological approach using semi-structured interviews was conducted with seven opioid dependent Irish Travellers (two females/five males) currently on OAT at an outpatient clinic in Dublin, Ireland. Results: All participants described the complexities arising from drug use, with significant life events often accompanied by depression and drug use (street, prescribed and over the counter) as a means of self-medication. Barriers to accessing treatment included shame and stigma, fears around being shunned by the community, and a negative attitude towards OAT. All participants and particularly women reported that stigma related physical violence came from community elders if suspected of drug use or association with drug users. Despite initial strong reservations about OAT, experiences were largely positive with acceptance by and support from staff viewed as instrumental.


Conclusions: The development of culturally appropriate, gender sensitive and integrated OAT and mental health support services, designed with input from addiction and mental health specialists, alongside community members is warranted.

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