Europe has a long history of migration and the diversity of its ethnicities and religions creates complex links between ethnicity and drug use. More recently, following a high level of conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, more than 1.4 million people applied for asylum in the European Union in the last half of 2015 and the first half of 2016. Over half of the asylum seekers to the European Union in 2015 (53 %) were young adults (18–34 years), the age group most likely to use substances in Europe. Some lessons may be drawn from past research on migrants to Europe but must be viewed with caution because of cultural differences and reasons for migration.
Many migrants have lower rates of substance use than their host communities, but some may be more vulnerable to substance misuse for reasons such as trauma, unemployment and poverty, loss of family and social support, and the move to a normatively lenient setting. Drugs may be used to cope with trauma, boredom, uncertainty and frustration around immigration status. Vulnerability may be aggravated by poor knowledge about and access to treatment services.
The EMCDDA commissioned a paper to provide background information on this topic: Migrants, asylum seekers and refugees: an overview of the literature relating to drug use and access to services
|Risk factors||Protective factors|
|Being single||Some strong religious affiliations, e.g. being a devout Muslim|
|Coming from a culture in which substance use is normalised (e.g. opium, khat)||Living in strong family unit|
|Boredom, unemployment||Integration in new society language, employment or other activities|
|Traumatic experiences||Good physical and mental condition|
|Poor knowledge about treatment services|
|Living in run-down neighbourhoods and socially deprived areas|
The implications for future development of responses for this group include: