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Drug use and its association with deviant behaviour among rural adolescent students in South Africa

T. Taiwo, S. Goldstein


Objective: To examine prevalence of drug use in adolescent students in a rural South African community, and to measure the association between drug taking and deviant behaviour.

Design: Cross-sectional survey using self-administered questionnaires.

Setting: Seven middle and secondary schools in Moretele District, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa.

Subjects: A random sample of 357 rural students comprising 193 (54.1%) females and 164 (45.9%) males, aged 11.7 to 19.9 years (mean age = 15.8; SD = 21.99).

Main outcome measures: Self-reported use of drugs. The prevalence of bullying, absenteeism and weapon-carrying among respondents who had used substances was determined.

Results: Responses were obtained from 357 Grade 7-12 students. Alcohol was the most commonly used drug by the respondents. Reported lifetime prevalence of alcohol use was 47.9% (95% CI: 42.6-53.2%); tobacco, 18.2% (95% CI: 14.4-22.7%), inhalants, 5.9% (95% CI: 3.8-9.0%); cannabis 5.6% (95% CI: 3.5-8.7%). Reported use of mandrax (3.9%), tranquillizer (3.6%) and cocaine (1.4%) was low. Multivariate logistic regression analysis showed that being male (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]
= 2.21; 95% confidence interval [CI] : 1.33-3.36; p = 0.002), initiating alcohol use before the age of 13 years (AOR: 2.25; 95% CI: 1.15-4.40; p = 0.018) and alcohol use were associated with absenteeism.
Alcohol use, irrespective of the duration and being a male (AOR: 3.51; 95% CI: 1.50-8.20) was associated with bullying. The significant factors associated with weapon carrying were alcohol, male sex and initiating alcohol use before 13 years of age.

Conclusion: Drug use, particularly alcohol is common among adolescent students, especially males.
There is also a positive association between drug use and undertaking precarious behaviour.

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