1st Edition

Women and Heroin Addiction in China's Changing Society

By Huan Gao Copyright 2011
    226 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    226 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Accompanying China’s economic reform and open-door policy in 1978, illicit drug use emerged in the late 1980s, and gradually developed into a serious social problem. Heroin was the dominant illicit drug consumed in the new drug epidemic, and the number of female heroin users has increased rapidly in the country. While heroin use in China is soaring, little is known about women’s heroin use in the context of China’s rapidly changing society.

    Using intensive interviews with 131 female heroin users, this book explores the careers of female heroin users in China under changing social contexts in the reform era. It investigates the impacts of sociological and individual factors on women’s heroin use in each developing stage of their drug use careers. It also examines the social consequences of women’s heroin use by looking at connections between women’s heroin use and criminality, and the change in women’s social relations after heroin use. Lastly, the book analyzes and ascertains the impact of current narcotics control policies on women’s drug use careers.

    This groundbreaking book has important policy implications for both China and the international society in the context of increasing global concern about women’s substance abuse.

    1. Social Changes and Illicit Drug Use in China  2. Reaching Out to Women Subjects  3. Family, School and Post-School Life  4. Initiation into Heroin  5. Continued Use and Crime  6. Desistance  7. Conclusions and Policy Implications.  Epilogue.


    Huan Gao is Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at the California State University, Stanislaus. She received her Ph.D. in criminal justice from the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University in 2008. She is a former attorney in China with a Master of Law degree.

    "With photographs and data from field observations and in-depth interviews, Gao’s book on women and heroin addiction in China has opened up a new research area for other scholars to further explore. This timely book is very well written and is in fact one of a kind in the literature in that it applies the most advanced Western research methods to the study of Chinese issues."

    Mengyan Dai, Old Dominion University

    "The author must be commended on completing a research project about a hidden population – heroin addicted women in China. Through this work, the author has given a voice to women who are often silenced."

    —Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books

    "Women and drugs, not uncommon dancing partners, re-engaged in a new tango in the Post-Deng China following its Open Door Policy in the 1980s. The shut door in the city of Kunming was kept ajar through the author’s personal connections. She interviewed 90 women heroin users through snow-ball techniques in 2005, in various locations including dance halls, nightclubs, brothels, drug-selling spots. Based on their personal experiences, recounting their important life events, and a follow-up study with some of the women in 2008, the findings depicted a new epidemic boom of drugs, sex and crime alongside the economic and social development of the new China."

    —Kalwan Kwan, University of Hong Kong