Substance Use, Emerging Substances and Poly Drug Use among Undergraduate Students in Universities in Kenya


There is an increase in the use of substances and the peak levels of substance use are seen among young people aged between 18-25. Substance use presents a barrier to learning, it impairs cognitive ability and distorts judgment. There is limited information on the magnitude of substance use and a countrywide study has not been conducted to determine the extent of substance use, emerging substances and poly drug use among undergraduate students in Kenya. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent of substance use, emerging substances and poly drug use among the undergraduates in Kenya. A descriptive cross-sectional survey design was used for this study. The target population was 451,081 undergraduate students, where 390,456 were in public and 60,625 in private chartered universities. The sample size was 1,500 participants selected from seven public and five private universities, from ten counties across the country. A World Health Organization (WHO) questionnaire - Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST) was used to determine the extent of substance use, poly drug use and emerging substances among the undergraduate students. The key substances were alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and shisha among others. The findings revealed prevalence of lifetime substance use of 48.6% and the prevalence of current use of 37.9%. Public universities (M=.48, SD= .50) had higher prevalence of current use than private universities (M=.26, SD= .43) with t (1435) = 8.94, p<.05. Alcohol was the most commonly used substance and shisha was an emerging substance. Poly drug use was reported at 162 (11.3%) among the current users. The prevalence of substance use is high. There is a need for universities to develop and implement interventions for the emerging substances and poly drug use to mitigate the potential risk of developing substance use disorders.



Substance use, Lifetime use, Current use, Emerging substances, Poly drug use