European Drugs and Addiction library

Migrants, asylum seekers and refugees: an overview of the literature relating to drug use and access to services

Summary: 

Unusually high numbers of migrants have moved to Europe in recent years, with about1.2 million people applying for asylum in the European Union in each of the years 2015 and 2016. Fears have been expressed that this group's health status and possible vulnerability to substance use will pose serious challenges to European drug treatment and general health policies. The available evidence is limited but suggests that rates of substance use are generally low among asylum seekers and migrants, although their diverse backgrounds make it difficult to paint a full picture of the situation regarding substance use and misuse among these groups. Risk and protective factors are identified. The paper suggests that substance misuse is not prioritised in delivering healthcare to newly arrived asylum seekers and access to mental health and addiction services for traumatised or otherwise mentally ill asylum seekers may be limited. Further information and research is needed to provide a clearer picture of the needs of new migrants and to enable development of tailored treatment and prevention efforts.

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Additional information: 

This paper was commissioned by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) to provide background information to inform and contribute to the drafting of Health and social responses to drug problems: a European guide.

This background paper was produced under contract CT.16.SDI.0141.1.0 and we are grateful for the valuable contribution of the authors. The paper has been cited within Health and social responses to drug problems and is also being made available online for those who would like further information on the topic. However, the views, interpretations and conclusions set out in this publication are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the EMCDDA or its partners, any EU Member State or any agency or institution of the European Union.