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Substance Use Assessment among School Going Adolescents in Kenya 

Charity Waithima, PhD., ~ (Africa Nazarene University, Nairobi, Kenya)


The use of alcohol and other psychoactive substances has remained a critical problem among adolescents in Kenya. From a social learning and problem behavior theories’ perspective, substance use among adolescents is conceptualized as a behavior which results from the interplay between environment and personal factors. The main objective of this study was to assess the levels of psychoactive substance use among secondary school students in Kieni, Nyeri County. The study was a descriptive quantitative study. Purposive and simple random sampling techniques were used to select participants (n=1038) from the eight wards in Kieni sub-County. A self-administered questionnaire was employed to collect data on socio-demographic characteristics and levels of psychoactive substance use. Data collected was analyzed using SPSS version 20. Descriptive statistics were applied to summarize categorical variables while measures of central tendency and dispersion were used to summarize continuous variables. The overall lifetime use of psychoactive substances was found to be 57.4% while the current prevalence was 48.7%. This may have been an indication of adolescents experimenting with these substances and changing their behavior later. Slightly more than half the participants (53.8%) indicated that they had seen parents or relatives using substances (alcohol, tobacco, drugs) with 78.2% of the participants reporting that they had seen someone they knew using substances. It is therefore recommended that education stakeholders in Kenya adapt ways of substance use prevention and reduction in younger adolescents.

Key words: adolescent, psychoactive substance, drug, social learning, prevalence, problem behavior, development

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