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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574


VAN ROOYEN, L-R; GIHWALA, R  and  LAHER, A E. Stimulant use among prehospital emergency care personnel in Gauteng Province, South Africa. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2021, vol.111, n.6, pp.587-590. ISSN 2078-5135.

BACKGROUND. Emergency medical service (EMS) personnel are exposed to high levels of psychological, physical and emotional stressors. There has been an increase in stimulant use among healthcare professionals worldwide. There is a paucity of data pertaining to the use of stimulant products among EMS personnel in South Africa (SA). OBJECTIVES. To determine the prevalence of and other aspects pertaining to use of stimulant products among EMS personnel in Gauteng Province, SA. METHODS. A prospective cross-sectional study using a questionnaire-based model was used to survey EMS personnel in Gauteng. RESULTS. Of the 315 respondents who completed the questionnaire, 310 (98.4%) reported use of stimulant products, 295 (93.7%) consumed tea/coffee, 187 (59.4%) consumed commercial energy drinks, 60 (19.0%) used caffeinated energy-enhancing tablets, 14 (4.4%) used non-caffeinated prescription stimulant medications, 50 (15.9%) used illicit drugs, 134 (42.5%) exceeded the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of caffeine, 201 (63.8%) exceeded the RDA of sugar, 231 (73.3%) experienced difficulty remaining awake during a shift, 148 (47.8%) used stimulants off shift, and 71 (22.5%) experienced insomnia. Common reasons for use of stimulants were enjoyment (n=218; 69.2%), to stay awake (n=125; 39.7%) and improvement of physical and mental performance (n=94; 29.8%). CONCLUSIONS. The high prevalence of stimulant use among respondents is a cause for concern. Strategies to address it should be aimed at promoting awareness and education, improving working conditions, enhancing support structures, and regulating the stimulant content of commercial products.

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