Drugs in Thailand - Tourist Information
The Golden Triangle refers to the area surrounding the borders with Laos and Myanmar in the far north of Thailand. Chiang Rai, Thailand's northernmost province, forms part of the Golden Triangle and opium used to be grown in the hills there. The Golden Triangle is famous for its drug trafficking, drugs bandits would hide out in the hills passing across the border to escape police from one country. These days Thailand has reduced the opium trade significantly.
Pharmacies sell many prescription drugs over the counter in Thailand. It is possible buy antibiotics, anti-malaria medication and Valium. Medication is much cheaper in Thailand than in the West but you should check with a doctor, or medically-trained person, first before taking antibiotics and other medication. Pharmacists can be very helpful for minor ailments though.
Heroin, some amphetamines, cannabis and hallucinogenics are illegal to use, possess or sell. Opium is legal for hill tribes to possess, but illegal to sell. Penalties for being caught possessing, trafficking or smuggling drugs are very high, carrying imprisonment sentences and large fines. Bribing your way out of trouble is also very expensive and may not be given as an option so it is best to avoid the drug scene altogether.
Opium smoking in the hill-tribe villages in north Thailand is quite common. It is legal for the villagers to possess and use opium, but it is illegal for them to sell it. Visitors to the villages are asked not to indulge in opium-smoking as it encourages the people in the village to use opium. There have been problems in the past with some of the guides, who took groups of tourists to the villages, being addicted to opium. On some of the islands in the south the inhabitants sell hallucinogenic mushrooms to tourists. Mushroom omelettes or mushroom lassis (a drink) are sold but be careful as the effects and quantities can be quite unpredictable. It is best to stay away from drugs altogether as every year a few tourists end up dying at the full moon parties on Koh Pha-Ngan due to swimming or having an accident after taking drugs, or from the toxic effects. Police are cracking down on drugs at full moon parties. Amphetamine pills (yaa baa) are available but the dosage varies and they are very impure. Mushrooms and amphetamines are illegal and every year some foreigners do get caught and end up in a Thai prison.
Drug-taking in Thailand holds stiff penalties and really isn't worth it. Each year several people die from going into the sea under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol so have a good time but don't overdo things. Dodgy ecstasy tablets and mushroom (hallucinogenic) omelettes can result in a trip to the hospital.