Even though attitudes and practices of ethnic minority groups in Belgium have been extensively studied in the last decade, little is known about the prevalence and nature of their substance use (alcohol and illicit drugs). It therefore remains an under-researched topic, especially in Europe (Bashford et al., 2004). One of the main reasons lies in conceptual and methodological issues that complicate research on ethnicity. These issues, combined with the multidimensional nature of drug use, fear of accusations of racism and discrimination, and a general lack of minority ethnic health and social care workers and researchers, have created an environment where the theme of ethnicity, drug use and related service provision has been neglected. A necessary first step towards a holistic approach for these specific populations is to establish accurate information on the extent of drug use and its possible determinants.
This project re-unites a multidisciplinary network (sociology, criminology, special education and social work) that has previously performed the Belspo-funded study on ‘Treatment trajectories of drug users from ethnic minorities’ (ZEMIV-project 2006-2007; Derluyn et al., 2008) - aims to help fill this gap.
The general objectives of this research are:
• to contribute to a better understanding of the prevalence and nature of drug use among ethnic and cultural minorities (ECM) in Belgium;
• to unveil the determining factors behind substance use (illicit drugs and alcohol);
• to increase ECM capacity in raising awareness about drug issues within the participants’ own communities;
• and to assess the needs of ECM and articulate them with the actors responsible for planning services.