Illicit drug users in Northern Ireland: perceptions and experiences of health and social care professionals

D McLaughlin, H McKenna, J Leslie, K Moore, J Robinson
Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 2006, 13 (6): 682-6
Over the 30 years of conflict, Northern Ireland escaped the worst excesses of illegal drug trafficking and usage. This was in large part due to the 'policing' of local community crime by paramilitaries. However, since the first 'cease-fire' in 1994 the province has witnessed a dramatic and unprecedented rise in the availability of illicit drugs. This increased availability reflects rising consumption of these drugs in the province. The aim of this study was to explore the perceptions that a sample of health and social care professionals' hold of illicit drug users in Northern Ireland. A survey methodology was used. Community settings across Northern Ireland were accessed. Focus groups and face-to-face interviews were used as data collection methods. Thirty-five health and social care professionals took part in this study. Thirty-two took part in six focus groups; three respondents underwent one-to-one interview. The participating professionals reported to have little or no education or training in the care and treatment of illicit drug users. Some stated that they would reject the offer of education and training in this area to prevent contact with illicit drug users. Many displayed strongly negative views of this client group, often expressing a preference not to care for or treat these people, preferring all their care to be given by specialists in illicit drug treatment. These findings indicate that most of the health and social care professionals who took part in this study appear unprepared and unwilling to meet the challenge of caring for illicit drug users. The findings will be of interest to service providers within and outside the UK.

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