The prevalence of substance use and its associations amongst students attending high school in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town

  • AK Hamdulay
  • R Mash


Purpose: In South Africa, there has been an increase in illicit drug trafficking and consumption and associated problems since the 1990s. Mitchells Plain in Cape Town is seen as a community battling with crime, gangsterism, unemployment, overcrowding, substance abuse and poverty. This study evaluated the actual prevalence of substance abuse amongst high school students in this community and factors associated with substance use. In particular, the study evaluated the use of tik (crystal methamphetamine), a relatively new drug.
Method: A cross-sectional study was performed amongst 12 secondary schools in Mitchells Plain; Grade 8 and Grade 11 classes were randomly selected to produce a sample of 438 learners. The students completed an anonymous questionnaire that contained enquiries on substance use, demographic and school performance details, and personal and sexual risks.
Results: Lifetime and annual prevalence rates were: alcohol  (50.6%/41.0%), tobacco smoking (49.7%/36.2%), cannabis (32.1%/21.1%), crystal methamphetamine (9.2%/4.6%), ecstasy (4.4%/2.7%), mandrax (2.1%/0.9%), solvents (3.0%/0.9%) and cocaine (0.9%/0.9%). Illicit substance use was significantly associated with age (OR 1.6; CI 1.2–2.2), substance use by other members of the household (OR 2.8; CI 1.2–6.3), carrying a knife (OR 10.9; CI 4.2–28.8), attempted suicide (OR 3.7; CI 1.4–9.5) and higher sexual risk (OR 1.6; CI 1.2–2.3).
Conclusion: The prevalence of substance use amongst adolescent students attending high schools in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, is high for all substances relative to national and international figures. Government officials, educators and health care workers are alerted to the need for more comprehensive interventions to prevent and treat substance abuse in
this and similar communities.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-6204
print ISSN: 2078-6190