Prevalence and pattern of psychoactive substance use among female students aged 18-25 years in universities of North India

Rajbir Kaur, Tarundeep Singh, Debasish Basu, Rajesh Kumar


Background: Prevalence and underlying reasons of psychoactive substance use vary across different age, gender and societal groups. It is an important concern among females as female physiology and psychology makes them more vulnerable to substance dependence. The primary objective of study was to find prevalence, pattern and factors affecting psychoactive substance use among female students (18-25 years).

Methods: In a cross-sectional survey, 250 female students were recruited from a university in Chandigarh using multistage cluster random sampling. Survey tool developed by World Health Organization was used in a self administrated format using paper based survey method. Associations among various factors leading to psychoactive substance use were tested using logistic regression model.

Results: Lifetime prevalence of psychoactive substance use was 13.6% [95% CI 9.3-17.8, n=34]. Participants reported their use out of curiosity, for having fun, personal problems, easy availability, familial use, etc. 52.9% (18/250) students reported their use within last 3 months; out of them health problems were faced by two. Association of psychoactive substance use was significant for age, socioeconomic status and family history of psychoactive substance use.

Conclusions: Due to sensitive nature of reporting substance use, the lifetime prevalence of 13.6% among female young students may be an underestimation. Familial psychoactive substance use exposes their wards to its use, especially under psychological stress. Qualitative research should be performed to understand why some female students use psychoactive substances while others abstain themselves from using these at all or abstain from their use for a long time after first exposure.


Female students, Psychoactive substance, Substance use pattern

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