South African Medical Journal

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An epidemiological perspective of substance use among high school pupils in rural KwaZulu-Natal

M Taylor, C.C. Jinabhai, K Naidoo, I Kleinschmidt, S.B. Dlamini


Objectives. To investigate prevalence and the factors influencing substance use among rural high school pupils in KwaZulu-Natal in order to develop and implement intervention programmes.
Design. Cross-sectional study.
Setting. Twenty-eight high schools in southern KwaZulu-Natal.
Subjects. One thousand three hundred and eighteen grade 10 pupils.
Outcome measures. An anonymous self-reporting questionnaire was used to investigate the use of alcohol, tobacco (cigarettes), cannabis and solvents.
Results. Of the male scholars, 52.9% (95% confidence interval (CI): 45.4- 60.3) reported ever using alcohol, 16.9% (CI: 11.5 - 24.0) reported using cannabis, and 13.1% (CI: 7.2 - 22.5) had smoked more than one cigarette daily. Among male pupils 45.5% (CI: 38.6- 52.6) had inhaled benzine and 34.6% (CI: 28.0- 41.8), thinners; 7.4% (CI: 3.4 - 15.2) had used cocaine and 4.1% (CI: 1.0 - 10.6), crack. Female pupils reported significantly less use of alcohol (25.5%, CI: 17.6 - 35.3), cannabis (2.3%, CI: 1.3 - 4.1), cigarettes (more than one daily) (2.0%, CI: 1.0 - 4.1), and inhalation of benzine (18.8%, CI: 13.8 - 25.2) and thinners (10.8%, CI: 7.2 - 16). Logistical regression indicated that the odds of smoking cigarettes increased significantly (p < 0.0005) with use of the other substances.
Conclusion. The results of this study confirm the prevalence of multi-substance use among pupils at the majority of rural high schools in this district and the need for targeted interventions to reduce/prevent this.

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