Epidemiology of substance use among forced migrants: a global systematic review

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Sixty-three studies were analyzed to identify the epidemiology of substance abuse among forced migrants globally.  While the findings were limited due to lack of data, the results suggest a greater need for interventions and research related to substance use.

Forced migrants may be at risk for substance abuse as a coping mechanism for traumatic experiences, comorbid mental health disorders, acculturation challenges or economic inequality. Seven relevant databases were searched in September 2015 to identify original peer-reviewed articles describing findings related to either alcohol or illicit drug use among forced migrants globally. The majority of research was conducted among refugees in high-income settings. The highest-quality prevalence estimates of hazardous/harmful alcohol use ranged from 17%-36% in camp settings and 4%-7% in community settings. Few studies collected validated measures of illicit drug use. The authors conclude that while further research is necessary, findings suggest that substance use interventions may be beneficial for forced migrants.

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