Objective: Substance use and abuse is a well known public health risk that peaks in persons between 18 and 25 years of age and is prevalent among university students. While this has been repeatedly documented in developed nations, there have been limited studies in the English-speaking Caribbean. This study therefore sought to assess the prevalence of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use among university students in the English-speaking Caribbean and any associated risk factors.
Methods: The study was designed as a descriptive, cross-sectional study to assess substance use in fulltime, undergraduate students of The University of the West Indies (UWI), Trinidad and Tobago, over a six-month period. Questionnaires were distributed and students asked to self-report on their use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana during the preceding six months.
Results: The six-month prevalence rate for alcohol was 70% and 28% of students were identified as regular users. Binge drinking was estimated at 31%. Muslims were least likely to have used alcohol when compared to other religious groupings. The prevalence rate for tobacco and marijuana was 17% and 13%, respectively. Ten per cent used all three substances. The use of all three substances was associated with multiple problems.
Conclusion: We conclude that substance use is common among many students of the UWI but generally lower than reports from other regions of the world. Despite this, substance use is associated with a number of problems and immediate educational interventions may be necessary to assist students in making informed and responsible choices.