Original Research

Substance use amongst secondary school students in a rural setting in South Africa: Prevalence and possible contributing factors

Takalani G. Tshitangano, Oni H. Tosin
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 8, No 2 | a934 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v8i2.934 | © 2016 Takalani G. Tshitangano, Oni H. Tosin | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 July 2015 | Published: 08 April 2016

About the author(s)

Takalani G. Tshitangano, Department of Public Health, University of Venda, South Africa
Oni H. Tosin, Department of Public Health, University of Venda, South Africa


Introduction: This study determined the prevalence of substance abuse amongst rural secondary school learners in a selected province of South Africa.

Methodology: The study adopted a quantitative approach using a descriptive survey design. Data were collected using a self-administered questionnaire from a total of 338 randomly selected learners, age 14 to 18 years, from 10 secondary schools that make up a rural Vhembedzi circuit in the Limpopo Province. Permission to enter the circuit and the schools was obtained from the circuit manager and parents’ or learners’ informed consent was obtained prior to data collection.

Results: The majority of the participants (94% male, 98% female) had never used substances. Most of the learners started using substances between the ages 15 to 20 years. The majority of learners who were using substances were male. Of the respondents, all the female (100%) students reported to have stopped substance abuse. The majority (63% male, 50% female) of the learners tried to stop substance abuse but failed. Most of the learners (72% male, 71% female) did not have family members who were substance users. The majority of the students attested that substances can be easily obtained in their communities or villages. The majority (68%) of the leaners knew that substance abuse is dangerous to health.

Conclusion and recommendation: Rural secondary school learners in South Africa have a low prevalence rate of substance abuse. Hence, there is a need for a counselling program in each school to provide support and refer such learners to an appropriate institution for rehabilitation.

Keywords:Prevalence of substance abuse; age of debut for substance use; possible contributing factors to substance abuse.


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