Call to action over alarming prevalence of substance abuse among adolescents in Rwanda

On 25 November 2022 at 02:21

The study conducted in seven districts of Rwanda has indicated that substance abuse is among problems facing the youth, where 56.1% of surveyed youth aged between 14 and 24, tried alcohol at least once in their lifetime, 40.5% during the past 12 months and 31.6% during the 30 days preceding the study.

The study released this week was carried out in the districts of Gakenke, Gisagara, Karongi, Nyamasheke, Nyarugenge, Rulindo and Rusizi on collaboration between Belgian Development Agency, Enabel and Rwanda’s Ministry of Health through Barame project.

The data collection of the study titled ’Prevalence of drugs and substance abuse among adolescents, a pilot study in seven districts in Rwanda’, took place in November 2020.

According to the World Health Organization, substance abuse refers to the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs.

For the cross-sectional quantitative study, 3301 adolescents and young adults aged between 13 and 24 years old from the seven districts were randomly selected.

It was aimed at assessing the prevalence of drugs and substance abuse among young people; assessing the main type of drugs and substances used by young people, look for potential determinants associated with drugs and substance abuse among young people as well as assessing the relationship between substance abuse and sexual behaviour.

The study shows that alcohol and cannabis are the most used substances among adolescents residing in 7 districts of Barame intervention in Rwanda.

All participants who used alcohol or any other substance once in their lifetime were asked about the age at which they used it for the first time.

The mean age at onset of alcohol, cannabis, and heroin use was 13.1, 16.8 and 18.5 years respectively. Above 20 years, the number of first-time users of alcohol and cannabis tends to reduce significantly.

As per findings of the study, 13.7 % of males and 2.7% of female had at least one alcohol binge drinking episode over the past 30 days; boys aged 18 and above represent the majority of binge drinkers (9.2%).

Cannabis was pointed out as the most illegal substance used by adolescents in the seven districts with 9.3% reporting having used cannabis at least once in their lifetime; 6.9% of adolescents consumed cannabis in the past 12 months while 5.3% used cannabis in the last 30 days preceding the interview.

Adolescent cannabis-use prevalence rates in Nyarugenge (19.0%) are 3 times higher than the average of other districts (5.3%).

The study also revealed a gap in programs aimed at sensitizing the youth on reproductive health.

Commenting on the study; the Minister of Health, Dr. Ngamije Daniel said that the number of young adolescents falling for drugs is alarming and stressed the need for quick action.

He underscored that such study helps to assess the current situation, identify gaps and point out the role of partners and parents in the fight against drug abuse.