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Correlates of Illicit Drug Use in Karen Villages in Northern Thailand

NCJ Number
Substance Use & Misuse Volume: 38 Issue: 11-13 Dated: September/November 2003 Pages: 1615-1649
Mark E. Barrett Ph.D.
Date Published
September 2003
35 pages
This study examined correlates of illicit drug use among highland tribal communities in Northern Thailand.
Profound social, cultural, and economic changes have occurred over the past four decades among the highland tribal communities in Northern Thailand. Co-occurring with these changes has been an increase in illicit drug use among some, but not all, of these tribes. The article examined 31 Karen tribal villages in an effort to discover why some of the villages have experienced this increase in illicit drug use. Data included interviews with village leaders and residents, as well as field observations. Also collected were demographic and economic data; information concerning infrastructure development; and social and acculturation information. Results of statistical analyses revealed that few of the village-level variables were significantly related to illicit drug use. Rather, illicit drug use in these tribal communities was positively associated with socioeconomic development, acculturation, and socialization into mainstream attitudes, values, and behaviors. The author speculates that socialization and acculturation processes may result in a weakening of the traditional social control processes in the villages that previously prevented illicit drug use. Future research should expand the sample size and incorporate more qualitative methodologies. Tables, glossary, references


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