Contributing and consequential correlates of illicit substance use among students

Rehana Khalil


Background: The world has made tremendous social progress during the past 30 years but opposite has occurred with problems related to drug abuse and addictive disorders. Over the last 30 years, awareness of illicit drugs, access to them and their abuse have dramatically increased. Reports from the United Nations, observations of experts, studies of crime, education, work and health - all show a general agreement that populations at highest risk are those in the age range most needed for productive work i.e., youth, indicating harmful consequences through decreased productivity and thus halting the developmental process of a nation.

The aim of this study was to explore the leading and resulting correlates of illicit use of substances (drugs) among college students of ages between 15 to 25 years studying in different institutes of Karachi, Pakistan.

Methods: It was a cross sectional study conducted among teens and youth studying in different institutes of Karachi, Pakistan in the year 2015. A questionnaire included multiple-choice and open-ended. The questions were focused on type of substance use, the reason behind, contributing factors, monthly expenditure, dependence upon drug, and effects of illicit substance use. 600 students completed the questionnaire. The data were analysed using IBM SPSS Statistics version 20 and Microsoft excel.

Results: The contributing attributes identified included easy accessibility through friends, dealers, and over the counter, Motivation through family members like parents (6%), siblings (8%), cousins/uncles (20%) or friends (50%), The reasons behind were recreational purpose (54%), social pressure (22%) and education stress (24%). The consequential correlates included behavioural, physical and psychological attributes. The results showed that 26% of the students were dependent on the drugs of their choice. Medical problems (physical and mental) identified in sample included 36% withdrawal symptoms (grouchiness, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, cravings), 58% experienced mood swings, 40% experienced blackouts, rate15% depression and anxiety, convulsions and impaired memory and others like, hepatitis B & C, Lung infections, and increased heart..

This study also shows that substance abuser admitted behavioural changes among themselves as one-third of the students showed negligence to their families, 24% lose their friends and about 38% showed a decline in performance at school, Majority of the respondents were also found to be involved in illegal activities to obtain drugs and more than one-third arrested for the possession of contraband drugs.

Conclusions: It was found that majority of the respondents’ friends were involved in drug use and less commonly their cousins and family members. Most of them started drug consumption at age between 15-19 years and were mainly doing it for recreational purposes; other reasons were social pressure or educational stress. The  consequential correlates identified includes, behavioural attributes distorted relationship with family and friends, poor performance in education, and delinquent activities like imprisonment and other unlawful pursuits. Other attributes were medical including physical manifestation of substance abuse like blackouts, hepatitis B & C, increased heart rate, convulsions and lung infections. The psychological manifestations listed depression & anxiety, and impaired memory.



Illicit substances, Substance use among students, Correlates of substance use, Contributing correlates of illicit substance, Consequential correlates of illicit substance

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