Qualitative researchers discuss…methamphetamine use in northern Thailand

Colleagues from the Qualitative Methods Journal Club discuss how 'ya ba' has materialised as...
Created On: 11 August 2023   (Last updated: 14 August 2023)

The Qualitative Methods Journal Club (QMJC) is an SSA-funded initiative aimed at increasing knowledge of qualitative research practice. Colleagues from Deakin University (Australia) led the journal club in July 2023, where they discussed an article about the growing demand for methamphetamine in northern Thailand. In their follow-up blog, they talk about the social world of young people in Thailand, and how ‘ya ba’ has materialised as a ‘performance drug’ that ‘supports Thai young people’s participation in a modern industrial society which values performance and endurance productivity’.

Thailand now has one of the largest methamphetamine markets globally and its widespread availability has contributed to its popularity among young people.

Dr Kiran Pienaar, Dr Ashleigh Haw, and Dr Kyja Noack-Lundberg chose an article from the International Journal of Drug Policy for the July 2023 meeting of the QMJC. This qualitative study involved 18 months of ethnographic research in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, and focused on the widespread appeal of ya ba, particularly among young people.

In their journal club blog, Dr Pienaar and colleagues write about the changing status of ya ba in Thailand from the 1960s to the present day. They argue that one of the strengths of the article is its description of the jargon and metaphors used by young people, which position methamphetamine pills as ‘performance drugs’ that “support[…] Thai young people’s participation in a modern industrial society which values performance and endurance productivity”.

Original article:  Crazy for Ya Ba: Methamphetamine use among northern Thai youth. By Anjalee Cohen. Published in the International Journal of Drug Policy (2014).

by Natalie Davies

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