Negotiating the Boundary between Risk and Pleasure of Psychoactive Drug Consumption: A Qualitative Study on Young Drug Users in Hong Kong

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Hang LI, Hong Kong Shue Yan University, Hong Kong
Yuet Wah CHEUNG, Hong Kong Shue Yan University, Hong Kong
In the past 20 years, researchers have used a “normalisation” thesis to explain the popularity and the changing image of adolescent drug use in the context of the “post-modern and risk-laden society”. In the original normalisation thesis, Parker assumed that drug use was no longer stigmatised and had gradually moved from youth subcultures into the mainstream youth lifestyles. Some researchers have criticised the normalisation thesis for not reflecting the dynamic nature of drug from the drug users’ experiential point of view. Stemming from this on-going debate, this paper argues that Lyng’s model of “edgework” provides us with an appropriate theoretical tool to discern how drug users understand their drug consumption behaviour in the late modern context. Through the theoretical lens of “edgework,” psychoactive drug use is seen as a form of voluntary risk taking in which drug users – the “edgeworkers” – are consistently negotiating the boundary between risk and pleasure during their course of drug consumption. From the early 2000s until recently, ketamine was the most popular psychoactive drug among young drug users in Hong Kong, however, methamphetamine has become increasingly popular in the recent years. This paper will examine these latest changes in the drug scene through probing into the socio-psychological meanings of psychoactive drug consumption from the young drug users’ perspective. Based on qualitative data analysis of about 40 in-depth interviews conducted in 2017 and 2018 with Hong Kong’s young psychoactive drug users, the ultimate goal of this study is to decipher the reasons for the increased popularity of methamphetamine among this group of “edgeworkers” in Hong Kong.