University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
Drug cultures in Estonia
contexts, meanings and patterns of illicit drug use.
Doctoral dissertation, November 2006.
In Estonia, illicit drug use hardly existed before the social changes of the 1990s when, as a result of economic and cultural transformations, the country became part of a world order centred in the West. On the one hand, this development is due to the spread of international youth culture, which many young people have perceived as being associated with drugs; on the other hand, it results from the marginalisation of a part of the population.
The empirical part of the study is based mostly on in-depth interviews with different drug users conducted during between 1998 and 2002. Complementary material includes the results of participant observations, interviews with key experts, and the results of previous quantitative studies and statistics.
The young people who started experimenting with illicit drugs from the 1990s and onwards perceived them as a part of an attractive lifestyle - a Western lifestyle, a point which is worth stressing in the case of Estonia. Although the reasons for initiation into drug use were similar for the majority of young people, their drug use habits and the impact of the drug use on their lives began to differ. I argue that the potential pleasure and harm which might accompany drug use is offset by the meanings attached to drugs and the sanctions and rituals regulating drug use.
In the study both recreational and problem use have been analysed from different aspects in seven articles. I have investigated different types of drug users: new bohemians, cannabis users, in whose case partying and restrictive drug use is positively connected to their lives and goals within established society; stimulant-using party people for whom drugs are a means of having fun but who do not have the same restrictive norms regulating their drug use as the former and who may get into trouble under certain conditions; and heroin users for whom the drug rapidly progressed from a means of having fun to an obligation due to addiction.
The research results point at the importance not only of the drug itself and the socio-economic situation of the user, but also of the cultural and social context within which the drug is used. The latter may on occasions be a crucial factor in whether or not initial drug use eventually leads to addiction.
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Last updated 01.11.2006