The Normalization of Cannabis Use Among Bangladeshi and Pakistani Youth: A New Frontier for the Normalization Thesis?

Lisa Williams, Robert Ralphs, Paul Gray

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Background: The Asian population in Britain has grown, representing the second largest ethnic group; Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Indian nationalities are prevalent (Jivraj, 2012; Office for National Statistics, 2013). Yet, we know relatively little about the nature and extent of their substance use. Jayakody et al. (2006) argue ethnic minority groups may be influenced by the norms and values of the dominant culture. Given recreational drug use has undergone a process of normalization in Britain (Aldridge et al., 2011; Parker et al., 1998, 2002), we explore the degree to which this is occurring in a Bangladeshi and Pakistani community of Muslim faith in Northern England; a group typically assumed to reject substance use because of robust religious and cultural values. Objectives: To examine the extent, frequency, and nature of substance use, and associated attitudes. Methods: A cross-sectional study collecting qualitative data from a sample (N = 43) of adolescents accessing a drug service and a range of professionals working with them during 2014. We also present analyses of routinely collected quantitative client data. Results: Adolescent interviewees reported extensive personal experience smoking skunk cannabis, and professionals working in the community confirmed many young Asians smoked it. Its consumption appeared to be accommodated into the daily lives of young people and the supply of it also showed signs of acceptance. Conclusions: Skunk cannabis may be undergoing a process of normalization within some Asian communities in Britain. Our study has significant implications for the normalization thesis, finding evidence for normalization within a subpopulation that is typically perceived to resist this trend.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Early online date16 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • adolescent drug use
  • Asian recreational drug use
  • normalization thesis
  • skunk cannabis use


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