, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 79-82

Patterns and determinants of psychoactive drug use in Lisbon University students – a population-based study

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Objective: To study the patterns and determinants of psychoactive drug use by Lisbon University students.

Materials and methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted, from January to April 2000, in a probabilistic sample of 1,147 students. Information about use of psychoactive drugs and co-variates was collected by a questionnaire administered by trained interviewers. Psychoactive drugs were considered to be all medicines classified in group N (nervous system) of the ATC system except the anesthetics (subgroup N01) and the analgesics (subgroup N02).

Results: 91 students (7.9%) had taken psychoactive drugs during the fortnight before the interview, 39 of whom (42.8%) mentioned continuous use. The prevalence of use was significantly higher in females (9.6%), older than 25 years (13.1%), married (16%), who considered themselves to have a weak health status (21.7%), as under intense stress (15.5%). After adjustment by multivariate analysis the variables sex, self-evaluation of health status and daily stress retained a higher significant association with psychoactive drug use. A total of 132 drugs were reported as being used in that period. Tranquilizers (ATC=N05B or N05C) were used by 82 students (7.2%), while 22 (1.9%) consumed psychoactive stimulants (N06B) and 19 (1.7%) antidepressants (N06A). In all of these therapeutical subgroups, females had higher consumption prevalence than males, but the difference was statistically significant only for tranquilizers (P |Ld 0.001). Anxiety, depression and insomnia were the most frequently stated health problems. More than 90% of drug consumers considered they had a compliant attitude and about 60% considered themselves well-informed about adverse effects of the drug used. The reported prevalence of self-medication for psychoactive drugs used was 12.8%.

Conclusions: The prevalence of psychoactive drug use among students of Lisbon University was higher than expected, considering age group and the usual health status of this population. The administration of a questionnaire was a very useful tool to characterise the pattern of use and the consumer's knowledge about the drugs consumed.