Open Access Research article

Methamphetamine use and correlates in two villages of the highland ethnic Karen minority in northern Thailand: a cross sectional study

Eiko Kobori1*, Surasing Visrutaratna2, Yuko Maeda3, Siriporn Wongchai2, Akiko Kada4, Masako Ono-Kihara1, Yoko Hayami5 and Masahiro Kihara1

Author affiliations

1 Department of Global Health and Socio-Epidemiology, Kyoto University School of Public Health, Kyoto, Japan

2 Chiang Mai Provincial Health Office, Chiang Mai, Thailand

3 School of Human Health Science, Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto, Japan

4 Department of Clinical Research and Development, National Cardiovascular Center, Osaka, Japan

5 Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan

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Citation and License

BMC International Health and Human Rights 2009, 9:11  doi:10.1186/1472-698X-9-11

Published: 15 May 2009



The prevalence of methamphetamine use and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) incidence are high in lowland Thai society. Despite increasing social and cultural mixing among residents of highland and lowland Thai societies, however, little is known about methamphetamine use among ethnic minority villagers in the highlands.


A cross-sectional survey examined Karen villagers from a developed and a less-developed village on February 24 and March 26, 2003 to evaluate the prevalence and social correlates of methamphetamine use in northern Thailand. Data were collected in face-to-face interviews using a structured questionnaire.


The response rate was 79.3% (n = 548). In all, 9.9% (males 17.6%, females 1.7%) of villagers reported methamphetamine use in the previous year. Methamphetamine was used mostly by males and was significantly related to primary or lower education; to ever having worked in town; to having used opium, marijuana, or heroin in the past year; and to ever having been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI).


Since labor migration to towns is increasingly common among ethnic minorities, the prevention of methamphetamine use and of HIV/STI infection among methamphetamine users should be prioritized to prevent HIV in this minority population in Thailand.