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Health SA Gesondheid (Online)

On-line version ISSN 2071-9736
Print version ISSN 1025-9848


VORSTER, Annelize; GERBER, Anthonie M.; VAN DER MERWE, Lynette J.  and  VAN ZYL, Sanet. Second and third year medical students' self-reported alcohol and substance use, smoking habits and academic performance at a South African medical school. Health SA Gesondheid (Online) [online]. 2019, vol.24, pp.1-8. ISSN 2071-9736.

BACKGROUND: Health professional students frequently use alcohol and narcotics. The potential impact on academic performance and professional behaviour is concerning. AIM: This study aimed to determine self-reported use of alcohol, illicit substances (e.g. cannabis, lysergic acid diethylamide [LSD], magic mushroom, cocaine, crack, ecstasy, methamphetamine and heroin), prescription medication and smoking habits, correlating academic performance. SETTING: Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State. METHODS: An observational, descriptive, cross-sectional study design was used. Information was obtained using a self-administered questionnaire, capturing demographics, self-reported academic performance, drinking and smoking habits, and substance use. Coded responses were analysed using the Remark Office OMR 8 Software System. Descriptive statistics were calculated for categorical variables. RESULTS: Completed questionnaires comprised 171 students. A total of 78.4% of second year and 82.8% of third year students reported using alcohol. Twenty-two per cent of second year and 24.1% of third year students reported cannabis use. In the second year group, three (2.7%) students reported using magic mushroom, two (1.8%) reported cocaine, two (1.8%) reported ecstasy and one (0.9%) reported using methamphetamine. Only third year students reported using LSD or 'crack'. Cigarette smoking was common - 31.5% and 35.1% in both groups, respectively. Smokeless tobacco devices were used by 8.5% of second year and 7.1% of third year students. Almost 40% of both groups reported that they had smoked a water pipe. Academic performance achieved was mostly 60% - 69% (38.9%) among second year students and 70% - 79% (46.6%) among third year students. CONCLUSION: Self-reported use of alcohol and drugs and smoking among medical students is alarming. Additional student support, early identification and referral for management and/or rehabilitation should be a priority at tertiary institutions responsible for training future healthcare professionals.

Keywords : Alcohol; Drug abuse; Medical students; Smoking habits; Academic performance.

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