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Substance abuse in outpatients attending rural and urban health centres in Kenya

CJ Othieno
Dm Kathuku
DM Ndetei


Objectives: To estimate the prevalence and pattern of substance use among patients attending primary health centres in urban and rural areas of Kenya.
Design: A descriptive cross-sectional prevalence survey.
Setting: Urban health centres of Jericho and Kenyatta University (KU) and rural health centres in Muranga district.
Subjects: One hundred and fifty adult patients (seventy eight males and seventy two females) were included in the study.
Intervention: Semi-structured questionnaires and the DSM IV diagnostic criteria were used to record the socio-demographic data and to determine substance dependence or abuse.
Results: The substances commonly used in descending order of frequency were alcohol, tobacco, khat and cannabis. Only alcohol and tobacco were extensively used. Lifetime prevalence rates of alcohol use for the two urban health centres were 54% and 62% compared to 54% for the rural health centres. For tobacco the lifetime prevalence rates were 30% for Jericho, 28% for KU and 38% for Muranga. The differences between the rural and urban samples were not statistically significant. More males than females had used alcohol
(average lifetime use 80.8% for males compared to 30.6% for females: p<0.05) and tobacco (average lifetime use 56.4% for males compared to 5.6% for females p<0.05).
Conclusion: The rates of substance abuse were generally low with the exception of alcohol and tobacco. Socio-cultural factors might be responsible for the differences noted. It is suggested that preventive measures and education should be emphasised at the primary
care level.

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