Drug Use and Anticipated Parental Reaction among Rural School Pupils in Zimbabwe

Article excerpt

In the U.S., drug use patterns among youth are well documented. (1-4) Research reveals most high school pupils in the U.S. have used alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and/or cocaine. (2-4) Further, research has shown that drug use during youth is related to drug use in later life. (5,6)

In Zimbabwe, located in southeastern Africa, the extent of drug use and abuse is not fully understood. However, position statements published in the national media and in some public health reports suggest drug use and abuse and drug-related health problems among youth and adolescents are becoming a major public health concern. (3,7,8) In addition to drug education efforts by the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health, a group of pharmacists formed an organization in 1986 to fight drug abuse among youth.' As recent as October 1991, community leaders from a highly populated suburb of Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, formed a drug prevention group among city school pupils to fight drug abuse and drug trafficking.

Due to competing health care needs and limited resources, drug abuse among adolescents has not been considered a priority by Zimbabwe policymakers. According to the 1986 Health For All Action Plan, (9) a government health policy document, priority health areas were identified to include maternal and child health, nutrition, immunization, water and sanitation, malaria control, and diarrheal diseases. Drug abuse was not included as a priority. (9) Though no published studies on drug use/abuse among the school-age population in Zimbabwe have been conducted, position papers published in the national daily press suggest young people are vulnerable to peer pressure and other environmental factors that could influence experimentation with drugs. (7,8) Studies have documented that such factors play a significant role in affecting drug behaviors among youth. (2,5,6)

In both developing and developed countries, schools provide an opportunity to educate youth about the harmful effects of risk-taking behaviors such as drug abuse. The school setting also provides an ideal situation to assess the extent of the drug problem among pupils, and to plan, implement, and evaluate drug prevention programs. (10-12) Finally, this setting allows students, school leaders, teachers, and parents to participate in a collaborative partnership to address a critical health problem affecting large numbers of young people in today's society. (10,13)

School health education in Zimbabwe is still in its formative years. Few needs assessments have been conducted to identify problem areas and plan effective prevention programs)' To address this deficiency, an investigation was undertaken to examine current use of and future intentions to use alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana among rural secondary school pupils in Zimbabwe. A secondary purpose of the study was to identify pupil's projected parental reactions to their current and intended drug use.

METHOD

Subjects

This study included 285 subjects, 150 females and 135 males, from five secondary schools in rural Zimbabwe attending forms two and three (grades nine and 10 in the U.S.). Secondary schools were located in small communities, somewhat distant from the large metropolitan areas of Zimbabwe. One hundred fifteen subjects, 55 males and 60 females, attended form two, while 170 subjects, 80 males and 90 females, were in form three. The average age for subjects was 15.9 years.

Instrumentation

A cross-sectional survey research design employing a sample of convenience was used. A self-report questionnaire assessed subject's current use of, and future intentions to use alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana, and to elicit subject's anticipated parental reaction to their drug-taking behavior. The instrument consisted of 20 items and incorporated a combination of categorical and ordinal response scales. The questionnaire was face-validated by a panel of three experts familiar with relevant content, theory of instrument development, and the conduct of research on youngsters in Africa. …