After decades of draconian enforcement, Thailand’s finally ready to start a conversation about drugs. In the legislative pipeline are plans to legalize the cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes, perhaps the first acknowledgement that use and abuse isn’t limited to some shady underbelly but common among the city’s middle-class professionals. Here, hi-sos and Bangkok party kids lift the lid on the prolific use of drugs in Bangkok—at home, in clubs, and even at work.
DISCLAIMER: Drugs are illegal and carry heavy penalties. Click here to see what the law says.
The Hi-So, 31
My father is a government official-turned-businessman. I went to boarding school abroad, where I experimented with drugs for the first time. It was nothing major—I just tried.
My drugs of choice are cocaine and MDMA. I take MDMA around three times a month and only at semi-private parties, and with cocaine, around every week or every other week while I’m drinking with my friends. It prevents me from getting too drunk, so I can still drive home.
Cocaine for me is for chilling. It’s controllable. I have a few dealers with products ranging from OK-quality to pure.
The dealers these days are very creative when sending the products via messenger services. I’ve had my drugs hidden inside a magazine, a mobile phone box, a hamper with a happy birthday card or even a slice of cake.
I’ve never sold anything myself. I’ve also never been arrested or even bribed my way out of anything.
The closest I ever got to trouble was this one time when I was driving home high on cocaine in the middle of the night and got randomly alcohol tested by police on the street. Luckily I had no alcohol in my system and, by law, a woman can’t be urine tested if there’s no female officer present.
Honestly, among high-ranking people, who doesn’t use drugs? Literally everyone I’ve met, all the sons and daughters of "somebody," use drugs; partying and passing it around like it’s nothing. Even when their parents are around.
I am a very well-behaved drug user. I have things to lose. If I got arrested, there would be so many questions that I’d need to answer and it just wouldn’t be worth it. I don’t want to call my dad in the middle of the night because I got arrested with drugs.
If you met me in person you wouldn’t even know I take any drugs. Of course you see some people who get way too carried away and can’t control themselves around drugs. I feel like this goes back to our country’s education system, where you’re never taught how to make decisions, ever.
Compared to my friends, I’m just a mid-ranking girl, really. All of my friends are from much more successful families and they all turned out fine, starting their own businesses, going to work every day even though they also use drugs every day.
It’s time we stop being such hypocrites already. You call Thailand a Buddhist country—hello, look at Pattaya or Patpong?
The Party-goer, 32
I’ve been doing drugs for six to seven years: cocaine, ecstasy, MDMA and weed. I never just sit at home and do it—that’s just not me. I only do it when I’m out partying, around twice a month.
Drug use is so normal in Bangkok’s nightlife scene that when you go to the bathroom at a nightclub, it's common to see three men coming out of a stall at the same time. It was never like this before. It’s a little worrying.
A lot of techno lovers in Bangkok are on ketamine, because it makes you super, super mellow, which, combined with the simple, repetitive beats, makes you feel like you’re sinking into the music.
It started with friends. I wouldn’t say it was peer pressure because there was no pressure. I wouldn’t have gone to look for it myself, but if it’s there and you’re with your friends and you’re in your comfort zone... I know a lot of people who started like that.
I’ve sold some, but it was only the resale of what I had. Once you’ve been buying from the same dealer for a while, you develop a good relationship with them, you develop a trust that goes both ways. The dealer has to trust you—they wouldn’t sell it to a random person. Then you can sell it for a higher price to your party friends.
In Bangkok, I only pay if I have the product in front of me, and I never buy from a random person. Sometimes, if your dealer’s too busy, you can ask your friends for references for other dealers. I’ve never used any of the postal services in Thailand.
Everything in life has its downsides if you don’t do it conscientiously. The food you eat, the alcohol you drink—if you abuse that consumption, you could end up with diabetes or liver-failure. That wouldn’t end well either.
The Stoner, 30
I started smoking weed every day when I was 18, in university, just socializing or hanging out.
I also use cocaine probably once a month when I party or go to a festival.
I have one dealer for weed and another dealer for everything else.
I normally buy local, Thai weed. My dealer has some imported stuff as well, but it’s much more expensive. I pay B1,000 per ounce [28.34 grams] for local weed, while the imported stuff is B2,500 per gram.
I have resold some. I’m gay, and on my Grindr profile I have “420” [an American alias for weed]. So sometimes when tourists see my profile they message me to ask, “Do you know where I can get it?” So I resell it to them since my dealer doesn’t really want to deal with tourists or strangers. I resell to them at B1,000 per two grams and they think that’s a really good deal.
When I travel to a different country, I also use Grindr to find weed. Grindr has been a way for me to find and sell weed.
In Bangkok's gay community, I feel like drugs are more acceptable. The security guards don’t even bother checking people.
I smoke a lot. When I go out, sometimes I bring a joint with me. I just stand in the corner and smoke it there. If you don’t look like you’re doing anything bad or drawing attention to yourself, you should be fine.
Edibles are quite popular in Thailand, I think. My Asian friends mostly just do edibles. In the US it seems to be popular too, almost a luxury, and you can get different devices like e-cigarettes.
I have never gotten into trouble with police. I have friends who got pulled over in a taxi, though.
Drugs haven’t really affected my life. I always make sure that I have a good balance. There is a difference between drug use and drug abuse.
I can smoke weed and play sports or go to a meeting. I’m a “functional pothead,” as I like to call myself.
I don’t count weed as a drug, it’s more of a natural thing. But for other drugs, I guess you would have to be more careful. You really have to pay attention to what you’re doing and think about what kind of drugs are affecting your life.
Farmers [in Thailand] grew weed for centuries. It was never a big deal until the government said it was.
The Restaurant Insider, 30
I've been working in restaurants in Bangkok for four years, and everyone is doing drugs. I do cocaine, MDMA, weed and ketamine.
I started doing weed regularly when I left school at 16 to become a chef. Every day after I finished work, I would sit in the car and smoke a joint.
Six months into the chef life, I was struggling so badly. One of the senior chefs noticed and handed me coke. So that was when I picked up cocaine.
I do cocaine around once a week, or once every two weeks.
The MDMA and ketamine are purely for partying and I don’t do them often, maybe once a month or once every six months.
I have two dealers, one for weed and another one for everything else. I met them through friends in the [F&B] industry.
At my last job, I had to work 13-16 hours a day. I had to smoke a joint after work to unwind. I only had five hours to unwind and sleep before I had to be at work again.
A lot of F&B people use drugs to help cope with the super long hours. It’s pretty much just that. It’s not just Bangkok, it’s everywhere. Well, judging from the ones I’ve hung out with, mainly farangs and a few Thais.
I’ve had stuff delivered to my workplace before. My dealers usually do the delivery themselves.
I haven’t been arrested but my girlfriend has. They found a joint in her handbag, but she just had to give the police one quarter of the total fine.
If you or a friend is struggling with a drug problem, help is at hand.
Thanyarak is one of the best-known rehabilitation centers in Bangkok. State-run, with a range of programs.
60 Phaholyothin Rd., Pathumthani, 02-531-0080/-8, 1165. www.thanyarak.go.th
Bangkok Hospital Psychiatry Center is an expensive private clinic that offers one of the best options for those who can afford it.
2 Soi Soonvichai, New Petchaburi Rd., 02-310-3000
Narcotics Anonymous Thailand regularly holds English-language meetups in Bangkok’s to help recovering addicts. Best of all, it’s completely free.
Q&A: Meet the 19-year-old weed cookie dealer
How much money do you make each month?
Who are your main customers?
University students from everywhere. Some are studying abroad. They buy a big batch and bring it back to wherever they are studying.
Are there a lot of weed cookie dealers in Bangkok?
Probably, but their stuff is not as good or as cheap as mine.
Where do you get your weed from?
A good friend of a friend. I befriended him by giving him some cookies to try.
How did you get started selling weed cookies?
It came by surprise. I was just baking a pan of weed brownies as an experiment for my friends to try. I already love baking and cooking in general and my friends loved it so much they asked me to bake more so I started charging them for the ingredient costs and then it turned into a business.
What are you going to do with the money?
I’m going to invest in cryptocurrencies and some other legal businesses.
Do you think people are doing drugs more than before?
Personally, I don’t think so. I think people just talk about it more now.
Crime and punishment: what the law says
Caught with no more than 10kg of weed for the purpose of reselling: 2-10 years and a fine of B40,000-200,000
Reselling cocaine or methamphetamine: 1-10 years and a fine of B20,000-200,000
Caught with weed: 5 years and a fine no more than B100,000
Caught with cocaine: up to 5 years in prison and a fine of B100,000
Caught with LSD: 1-10 years and a fine of B20,000-200,000
What drugs have Bangkokians taken?