Using Illicit Drugs to Lose Weight among Recovering Female Drug Users in China: An Exploratory Qualitative Study

Liu Liu, Xiaotao Wang, Yang Xie, Wing Hong Chui

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


The population of female drug users has been growing in China, and these women have been found to care deeply about their weight. Against this backdrop, this study examines the relationship between Chinese women’s illicit drug use and their intentions to lose weight, keep fit, and maintain a slim body shape. The participants of this study were 29 women who all had experience with illicit drug use for weight control. These women were drawn from a female compulsory drug treatment center located in eastern China. Semi-structured interviews with these 29 participants were conducted between 2013 and 2016. Expectations of losing weight and pursuing their ideal slim body shape were found to be an important reason for the study participants’ initiation of drug use, its maintenance, and failures to achieve abstinence. These Chinese female drug users were generally satisfied with weight loss outcomes subsequent to drug consumption. A fuller appreciation of Chinese women’s weight-loss-related illicit drug use patterns is much needed to help devise strategies and policies to deal with this growing problem. These include changing the dominant aesthetic cultural preference for thinness, paying particular attention to the functional use of illicit drugs in drug treatment programs, and having special interventions for women who interact with drug users within their social networks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2626
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • China
  • Illicit drug use
  • Qualitative method
  • Weight loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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