Predictors of illicit drug/s use among university students in Northern Ireland, Wales and England

Walid El Ansari, Lotte Vallentin-Holbech, Christiane Stock
Global Journal of Health Science 2015, 7 (4): 18-29

INTRODUCTION: The use of illicit drug/s among university students is a public health concern. Nevertheless, many UK studies investigated a narrow spectrum of variables to explore their association/s with illicit drug/s use.

METHODS: We assessed the associations between a wide range of socio-demographic, health and wellbeing variables (independent variables) and having used illicit drug/s regularly, occasionally or never in life (dependent variables). Data (3706 students) were collected from seven universities in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, using a self-administered questionnaire.

RESULTS: About 5% of the sample had regularly used illicit drug/s, 25% occasionally, and 70% never. Regular drug use (RDU) was significantly more likely among males aged 21-29 years, daily smokers, those with heavy episodic drinking or possible alcohol dependency (CAGE test), and those who perceived their academic performance better than their peers. RDU was less likely among students with high health awareness and those living with parents. The predictors of occasional drug use (ODU) were similar to those of RDU. However, in addition, students with higher perceived stress were less likely, and students who felt financial burden/s were more likely to report ODU, while no association with academic performance was found. Never use of illicit drug/s was inversely associated with most of the variables listed above, and was positively associated with religiosity. Illicit drug/s use goes along with other substance use (alcohol and smoking). The finding that illicit drug/s use was higher among students reporting good academic performance was surprising and raises the question of whether illicit drug/s may be used as performance enhancing drugs.

CONCLUSION: The factors identified with illicit drug/s use in this study could be utilized to develop appropriate public health policies and preventive measures for the health of students. Multilevel, value based, comprehensive, and strategic long-term intervention plans are required. This could include social interventions aimed at generating recreations alternatives and opportunities for youth, and a critical review for current authorities' interventions and services. Suggestions for coping with problems of campus illicit drug use/abuse also need to be offered.

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