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Aim: This study set out to determine the extent of use, abuse and dependence of commonly abused psychoactive substances and their correlates among undergraduates in the University of Port Harcourt.
Methodology: In a cross-sectional survey, using multi-stage sampling, undergraduates in the Social sciences faculty of the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria were selected. A semi-structured questionnaire adapted from the WHO student drug survey proforma was used as an instrument for data collection. The results were analysed using EPI-info 2000 statistical package.
Results: There were 352 respondents with a mean age of 24.4 ± 3.5 years. There were 203 (57.7%) males and 149 (42.3%) females. A majority of respondents (90.6%) use at least one psychoactive substance while 22.2% of them abuse substances. The male sex predominated among the substance abusers with a M: F ratio of 2:1. The prevalence of current use for psychoactive substances ranged from 1.3% to 74.9%. Alcohol (74.9%), was the most commonly used psychoactive substances while heroin (1.3%), was the least used. Abuse rates were higher in cocaine, tobacco and cannabis (66.7%, 63.6% and 55.3% respectively) while dependency rates were higher in heroin, cannabis and cocaine (100.0%, 76.2% and 50.0% respectively). The top three reasons given for starting to use psychoactive substances were experimentation (23.1%), group conformity (23.1%) and curiosity (20.5%) while the reasons given for continuing to use/abuse these substances were to feel good (37.2%), relieve stress (20.0%) and avoid withdrawal symptoms (11.5%). The majority (70.5%) of psychoactive substance users started to use substances before enrolment into the university while more than half of the substance users (56.4%) admitted that being in the university did not increase their use of psychoactive substances. Adverse effects on productivity were noted in 60.3% of substance users.
Conclusion: The tendency to abuse substances may begin earlier in childhood and adolescent ages, with the male sex, more vulnerable. More efforts at public enlightenment on the detrimental effects of psychoactive substances should be strategically targeted to include the family unit, primary and secondary school children.
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