P. Vazan. National Development and Research Institutes, United States
Background: This research examined the links between poverty, marginalization, discrimination, and substance abuse among the Roma (Gypsy) minority population living in rural settlements or city ghettos segregated from the majority population. Specifically, we examined social determinants of inhalant abuse (toluene sniffing) among Roma youth, which is prevalent in eastern Slovakia where Roma exclusion and marginalization are extreme.
Methods: Twenty interviews were conducted with field social workers working in seven Roma communities in which we reported previously on inhalant abuse. Next, we administered questionnaires to 89 Roma youth and asked about their experiences with substances, discrimination, and their quality of life.
Results: Widespread inhalant abuse was identified in six (out of seven) communities. From the total Roma population of 17,050 people, 340 were estimated to be chronic inhalant users (mean per community=48.6; median=43; range 2 to 100). Upon dividing the number of users into four age groups, the highest number of users was in the 10–18 age bracket (44%), followed by the 19–25 age group (31%). Children younger than age 10 made up 15 percent of all users, and 10 percent of users were older than 25.
Conclusion: Easy access to toluene contributes to widespread use, which has potentially devastating consequences for users and their communities. Treatment for inhalant abuse is mostly not effective, and clients relapse soon after returning home. The only way out from this vicious circle of poverty, unemployment, dependence on the welfare system, and alcohol and drug addiction appears to be through integration, nondiscrimination, and education.