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Substance use among adolescents has become one of the most disturbing health related

phenomena world wide, with consequent physical, social and or mental complications. This menace could ruin the life and future of our youths, community and the nation in general. United Nations Children Fund estimates that globally, there are about 120 million out of school adolescents and 20 million of them live in the sub-Saharan Africa. Although there is no known statistics for out of school adolescents in Nigeria, but national population commissions census of 2006 documented that 48% of the national population are under the age of 18 years. UNICEF also reported in 2005 that 7.3% of school age children in Nigeria are not in school. Presently poverty, political instability, social unrest and internally displaced persons problem have further increased the number of out of school adolescents in Nigeria. Adolescents impaired by substances are at risk of injury, falls, car crashes, drowning and being used as ready tools to unleash violence and terror during episodes of political and religious crisis, which has been quite frequent in northern Nigeria. This study was undertaken to establish the types, nature, factors associated with and prevalence of substance use among out of school adolescents in Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

A descriptive cross-sectional study was employed to generate data on 400 respondents. A multi-stage sampling technique was used to collect quantitative data using a modified pretested interviewer administered WHO questionnaire. Qualitative data was also generated using focus group discussions.

A total of 400 out of school adolescents aged 10-19 years were studied. Out of whom, majority (74.5%) were males. The mean duration of schooling of the respondents was found to be 5.5 ±2.8 years. About half (56.8%) of them lived with both parents until 19 years. A little more than a quarter (28.1%) were unemployed and only 42.8% had a legal source of income. The prevalence of substance use was 44.8%. Out of the 179 respondents who had ever used a substance in their lives, nearly all (96.1%) of them had used a month prior to this study. The commonest substances used by subjects were tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and opiates with multiple drug usage at the same time. There was a statistically significant association between age and substance use ( 2 =10.82, df =1, p< .001) and also control of leisure time and substance use ( 2= 45.73, df = 1, p< 0.001). The study revealed that factors, which influenced substance use among the study population, include peer group influence, availability, accessibility, family members


using and lack of supervision, as well as poverty, and lack of constructive leisure time activity as reasons for substance use. The consequences of their use are dangerous to the adolescents, community and the nation in general.

The prevalence of substance use is quite high in this often neglected and poorly educated group of adolescents. There is an urgent need for policy makers to recognize and curtail this menace.



Substance use among adolescents worldwide is a significant societal problem that has

drawn major concern from different individuals and groups.1-3 In the last two decades, the

use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, inhalants, prescription and over the counter drugs and

other illicit substances has become a rapidly growing problem globally, most especially

in developing countries like Nigeria, where adolescents are found to be the major group


Adolescence is a period of transition from childhood to adulthood (usually from 10-

20years) and this spans across three distinct periods, early (10-13 years), middle (14-16

years), and late (17-20 years) and beyond7. Each of this period is marked by a

characteristics set of salient biological, psychological and social issues.8 The use of

substances constitutes one of the most important risks taking behaviour among

adolescents, because this critical period in life is marked by several stages of human

growth and development (physical, emotional, mental, psychological etc).9 It is well

established that regular use of substances during the teenage years increases the

likelihood of developing a Substance Use Disorder (SUD).10 This is usually associated

with a number of adverse consequences, such as increased medical and mental health

problems, disciplinary problems, absenteeism and most often leads to unintentional injury

or death..11,12 Despite world wide concern and education about psychoactive substances,

many adolescents have limited awareness of their adverse consequences.13 Curiosity, peer

group influence, and social pressure are reported to be the primary reasons for substance



Surveys suggests that in both in and out of school adolescents, the socially acceptable

substances or the so called “gate-ways drugs” like alcohol and tobacco are commonly

used and this usually paves the way for the use of illicit substances.16,17 Though there is

continued and sometimes exclusive emphasis on the dangers and problems associated

with illegal drug use, the most prevalent drugs of abuse among adolescents are legal

within the Adult Nigerian Society i.e. Alcohol and Cigarettes. Adolescents impaired by

alcohol and other drugs are at risk of injury, car crashes, falls, drowning, suicide,

unleashing violence and looting during episodes of political, religious or ethnic riots,

which have been quite frequent in Northern Nigeria.2,18

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