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Examining the relationship between ethnicity and the use of drug-related services: an ethnographic study of Nepali drug users in Hong Kong

Authors Tang WM

Received 4 February 2014

Accepted for publication 2 May 2014

Published 20 June 2014 Volume 2014:5 Pages 53—62


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

Wai-Man Tang

Anthropology Department, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Abstract: A recent survey has shown that Nepali drug users in Hong Kong tend to have a low rate of usage of day-care and residential rehabilitation services, but a high rate of usage of methadone services. Little is known about the reasons behind such a pattern. Therefore, in this study, a 12-month ethnographic examination has been implemented in three sites, including a day-care center, residential rehabilitation center, and methadone clinic, to explore the experiences of 20 Nepali drug users in their use of drug-related services in Hong Kong and to examine the relationship between ethnicity and the use of drug-related services. The result shows that the reason for this pattern of service use is related to the approach of the services and the cultural perception of the service providers about the service users. The day-care and residential rehabilitation services emphasize an integrated approach, but the staff tend to overlook the heterogeneity of their clients, for example, the differences in caste and sex, and fail to provide suitable services to them, whereas the methadone service follows a biomedical model, which seldom addresses the social characteristics of the service users, which in turn minimizes the opportunity for misunderstandings between the staff and the clients. This research shows that ethnicity is a significant factor in drug treatment and that culture-specific treatment that takes into consideration the treatment approach and the heterogeneity of the clients is strongly needed.

Keywords: methadone, residential rehabilitation services, drug treatment, ethnicity, Nepalis

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