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Cohesive subgroups and drug user networks in Dhaka City, Bangladesh

Gayen, Tarun Kanti; Gayen, Kaberi; Raeside, Robert; Elliott, Lawrie


Tarun Kanti Gayen

Kaberi Gayen

Lawrie Elliott


The purpose of this paper was to explore group drug taking behaviour in a slum area of Dhaka, Bangladesh. We set out to examine the relationships between those who met, at least weekly, to take illegal drugs together, and how these relationships might shape their drug behaviour. Sociometric and behavioural data were collected using questionnaires via semi-structured interviews. We found that the likelihood of injecting drugs and sharing needles increased with age, duration of group membership and length of drug use. Drug users were classified into two clusters: one was more cohesive and comprised longer-term users, who were more likely to inject drugs and had poorer physical and mental health. The other cluster comprised younger, better educated members who were more transient, less cohesive, less likely to inject drugs and had better health. Qualitative data suggested that members of the first cluster were less accepting of outsiders and confirmed more to group norms. We conclude that emotionally bonded cohesive subgroups acquire norms, which reinforce problematic drug-using behaviour. Thus, health initiatives need to consider group relationships and norms and those initiatives which work with networks may be more effective and more appropriate for low-income countries.


Gayen, T. K., Gayen, K., Raeside, R., & Elliott, L. (2012). Cohesive subgroups and drug user networks in Dhaka City, Bangladesh. Global Public Health, 7, 219-239.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2012
Deposit Date Jan 30, 2013
Print ISSN 1744-1692
Electronic ISSN 1744-1706
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Pages 219-239
Keywords Drug use; social networks; cohesive groups; cluster analysis; Dhaka; Bangladesh
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