Association of socio-economic factors with drug use among college students in an Indian town

Sections

Abstract
Introduction
Method
Findings
Conclusion

Details

Author: M.Z. KHAN, N. Prabha UNNITHAM
Pages: 61 to 69
Creation Date: 1979/01/01

Association of socio-economic factors with drug use among college students in an Indian town *

Professor of Criminology, M.Z. KHAN
Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science, 4-E Jhandewalan Extension, New Delhi 110 055, India Research Fellow N. Prabha UNNITHAM
Institute of Contemporary Corrections and Behavioural Sciences, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas 77341, U.S.A.

Abstract

The paper examines the association of various socio-economic factors with the use of drugs by college students in a town in central India. Data were collected from a large sample, using a self-reporting questionnaire.

It was found that analgesics, tobacco and alcohol were the most commonly used drugs amongst some 30 per cent of the students. Factors such as age, urbanity, sex, marital status as well as the family's educational and economic status were seen to be relevant. Inter-parental and inter-generational tensions in the family also had a bearing. Drug use by one or more members of the family was seen as a highly significant factor. The data thus suggest that an inclination towards drug taking might be embedded in the social matrix itself.

Introduction

The non-medical use of psychoactive substances and measures to restrict such use have been studied for some time. In recent years special attempts have been made to elucidate the causes for drug use by young people. Preoccupation with youth has been prompted mainly by the following considerations: (a) new and more potent forms of drugs appear on the market; (b) youth are tempted to experiment with different lifestyles including drug use (Halleck, 1967; Champion et al., 1978); and (c) since adults rightly regard youth as an "extension of themselves and the carriers of human life" (WHO Study Group, 1973), juvenile aberrant ยท behaviour patterns cause particular concern.

A large number of studies analyse the patterns and extent of drug use among young people. Many of them focus on college students (Blum et al., 1969; Einstein and Allen, 1972). Decades ago Yost (1954) observed that "a special class among drug addicts" had emerged from among those below 21 years of age. It has been reported as a global phenomenon that males are more likely to use drugs than females (Dai, 1964; Bergersen, 1968; Clarke and Levine, 1971; Wellisch et al., 1974). The rural-urban dimension has also been considered as being relevant in the choice and use of drugs (Dube, 1975). While reviewing studies on alcoholism, Coleman (1969) observes that religious affiliations and values influence greatly the decision to use or abstain from drugs (see also Gadourek and Jessen, 1972).

* This article is based on a study which was supported by a grant from the Department of Social Welfare, Government of India. The views expressed therein are, however, the responsibility of the authors.

The socializing role of the family in relation to the offspring's drug use has not escaped the attention of researchers. For example, Rosylin and George (1968) refer to parental permissiveness as a contributing factor to drug use by the children. Based on a study of drug use by school children Wiener concludes that "the greater the degree of parental control, the less likely school children are to take to drugs" (1970). Falewicz (1970) arrives at similar conclusions in respect of excessive drinking among Polish youth. He adds, however, that family tensions-interparental and inter-generational-are equally important causes (see also Galant, 1960).

Possible implications of a number of social and economic variables concerning the family have also been analysed. Reviewing studies on drug use in the USA, McGlothlin (1975) observes that drug users are more likely to be from broken homes. Wellisch et al. (1974) have found a positive correlation between parental education and drug use by the children. Bates et al. (1969) relate drug use to the low occupational position and income level of the family. On the other hand, Sverre (1965) finds no special relationship between the use of alcohol in Norway and the occupational and social status of the users. Similar opposing views have been taken by the researchers on the role of socio-economic status (SES) in drug use. Many attribute drug use to low SES (see for example Zax et al., 1964; de Fleur et al., 1969), while others report that high SES is associated with drug use (Steffenhagen et al., 1969; Buckman, 1971).

The foregoing review exemplifies (i) that vast research into drug use particularly by young people has been carried out; (ii) that much attention has been paid to uncover the role of social and economic factors in drug use, though findings often tend to polarize; and (iii) that the extent, form and aetiology of drug use appears to vary from one cultural setting to another. The last point is particularly relevant to India where factors such as language, religion, caste, family composition and the like may be expected to have a bearing on drug use.

Method

The present paper attempts to delineate the association of various social and economic factors with drug use among college youth in India. The approach is based on two assumptions: (i) drug use is regarded as part of social behaviour; and (ii) the social and economic factors which give rise to the use of one type of drug are also taken to be responsible for the use of other types of drugs, notwithstanding variations in terms of changing trends. The paper then proceeds to examine the hypothesis: Certain socio-economic conditions are associated or may be considered conducive to drug use among college students.

For the purpose of the present study the term drug refers to those substances which are taken for their "psychotropic or psychoactive properties as defined by their capacity to alter sensation, mood, consciousness, or other psychological or behavioural functions" (the Canadian Government Commission of Inquiry, 1970).

In respect of drug use the paper follows the definition given by the United Nations Social Defence Research Institute (1976): "It refers try all drug use which is not indicated on generally accepted medical grounds." Frequency of drug use has been relied on for elaborating a user typology. Social and economic factors relating to college youth are often found to be so much interwoven that separating them for operational purposes often becomes a difficult task. Notwithstanding this operational difficulty, emphasis has been placed on establishing a socio-economic profile of student drug users.

This study-part of a larger investigation-is based on a sample of college/ university students in Jabalpur/India. Of the 27 colleges offering undergraduate and postgraduate courses in town, nine were randomly selected after forming strata on the basis of "course of study" and "sex". From each of the nine colleges, classes/sections were selected (these clusters numbered 147) so as to get an even number of students proportionate to the size of the stratum concerned (total number of students in the sample: 6,404). This kind of multi-stage cluster sample design is expected to facilitate the realization of the present objectives.

A confidential self-reporting questionnaire in English and Hindi was developed for eliciting demographic, social, economic (independent variables) and drug-related information (dependent variable). It was pre-tested, standardized and administered to the sampled students in a group setting during school hours. The questionnaire was completed by 4,415 respondents. The difference in the size of the sample targeted and completed is mainly due to student absenteeism.

On the basis of the use of drugs reported by the student respondents, a five point continuum was developed in respect of 13 individual drugs commonly used in India. The categories may overlap due to reporting bias, but the relatively large size of the sample should, hopefully, serve as a corrective factor. Although the compilation indicates the form and extent of use of psychoactive drugs (see table 1), it does not necessarily help to establish a causal nexus in an integrated manner. In the light of the second assumption stated earlier, a composite user typology was arrived at by taking into account the use of all 13 drugs. This has been shown as "consolidated distribution" in table 1. A multiple drug user who takes, for example, drug A "casually" and drug B "regularly" has been coded as "regular user". It is this variable which was utilized in the subsequent correlational analysis.

The data thus collected have been coded and processed electronically. For the purpose of the study the user typology was cross-tabulated with the independent variables, though for want of space the presentation of the cross tables is being deferred (the data file is available with the Data Archives, ICSSR, New Delhi). The statistical measures used in the analysis include proportions, chi-square, contingency coefficient and rank correlation (Kendall's tau). As the study is based on a relatively large sample, most statistical values thus obtained are significant at the probability level of 10 per cent or better (see Siegel, 1956). However, attention has been paid only when a significant association has been seen.

Findings

Before proceeding further with the study of socio-economic factors that may be associated with drug use, a scrutiny of prevalence of use of various psychoactive drugs among college youth may be indicated. Table 1 shows that the most commonly used drugs are analgesics (Analgin, Metacin, Ultragin, etc., mainly manufactured of acetylsalicylic acid), with 15.2 per cent of the students reporting their casual, regular or habitual use. Tobacco (10.8 per cent) comes next-it is chewed raw or in semi-processed form (with lime, catechu, betelnuts and betelleaves) or smoked as "bidi", cigarette or cigar. Tobacco is closely followed by alcohol (9.4 per cent). Of the cannabis drugs bhang (which is taken in the form of sweetened beverages or puddings) and ganja (which is mainly smoked) are used by 6.3 per cent and 1.6 per cent of the students respectively. It may be noted that the more "potent" cannabis derivative charas or hashish is not very popular. The use of amphetamines, cocaine and heroin is almost negligible.

As can be seen in table 1, a clear majority of the students (56.4 per cent) are non-users, that is, they state that they have never experimented with any psychoactive drug. However, a large number of them (14.1 per cent) do report that they have previously used one drug or another, but have since discontinued. Among the remaining students there are only 3.2 per cent regular users and 1.3 per cent habitual users/addicts. It may further be noted that these prevalence rates include both males and females, although the former outnumber the latter by 2 to 1 (see Khan and Unnithan, 1978).

Demographic variables: Without subscribing to the view that drug users are a typical or abnormal individuals, demographic variables of students have been looked into so as to highlight personal characteristics related to drug use (Ford and de Jong, 1970). From table 2 it appears that only two variables, namely region and caste, have little association with drug use, while others are found to be significant in varying degrees. Age of students (sample mean = 19.42; standard deviation 2.88 years) is clearly seen to be related to their drug use: older students (25 years or over) use more psychoactive drugs. As also reported by studies conducted in other socio-cultural settings, the sex of the students (male/ female sample ratio 7:3) and their drug use are highly correlated: the extent of drug use of female students, notwithstanding their use of analgesics and tranquillizers, in no way equals that of male students.

TABLE 1 - Drug use by substance (In percentages)

Drug

N

Non user

Former user

Casual user

Regular user

Habutual/addicted user

Total

Alcohol
4 347 82.9 7.9 8.1 1.0 0.3 100.0
Amphetamines
4 334 99.2 0.6 0.1 0.1
-
100.0
Barbiturates
4337 97.9 1.5 0.5 0.2
-
100.0
Bhang
4346 83.4 10.3 6.0 0.3
-
100.0
Ganja
4335 96.3 2.1 1.3 0.3
-
100.0
Charas
4334 98.6 0.8 0.4 0.1 0.1 100.0
LSD
4333 99.3 0.5 0.2
-
-
100.0
Opium
4334 99.4 0.3 0.2 0.1
-
100.0
Cocaine
4333 99.6 0.2 0.1 0.1
-
100.0
Pethedine
4329 99.6 0.3 0.1
-
-
100.0
Analgesics
4335 77.9 6.9 13.6 1.2 0.3 100.0
Tranquillizers
4327 98.2 0.6 0.8 0.3 0.1 100.0
Tobacco
4334 81.9 7.2 8.9 1.2 0.7 100.0
Consolidated distribution
4415 56.4 14.1 25.0 3.2 1.3 100.0

TABLE 2 - Drug use and demographic variables

Variable

Degrees of freedom df

Chisquare X 2

Contigency coefficient C

Probability

tau

Probability P

Age
12 339.39795 0.27305 0.0001 0.17382 0.0001
Sex
4 411.30713 0.30735 0.0001 0.27278 0.0001
Language
24 63.28983 0.11985 0.0001
-
-
Region
12 21.76680 0.07124 0.0560
-
-
Rurality/urbanity
12 76.79872 0.13206 0.0001 0.01374 0.0876
Religion
24 50.78745 0.10745 0.0011
-
-
Caste
24 25.58080 0.07985 0.3748
-
-
Marital status
12 124.27704 0.16741 0.0001
-
-

On the Indian sub-continent different regions have different regional languages/ dialects. These show some association with the drug use by students. Proportionately there are more non-users among Urdu speaking students, more former users among Bengali speaking students, more casual users among students speaking south Indian languages and more regular and habitual users among Punjabi speaking students. To some extent urbanism (rural/urban sample ratio 1:5) shows some relationship with drug use. Although the measure of rank-correlation is not very significant, the contingency coefficient suggests that students with an urban background are relatively more prone to use drugs than those with rural or semirural backgrounds. In a limited way the religious affiliation of the students has also been found to be relevant to drug use. For instance alcohol is seen to be popular with Christians and cannabis drugs with Hindus. The marital status of students has been found to be related to drug use: married students (No. 128) are overrepresented in the categories of regular and habitual users. This is what is substantiated by the relatively high value of the contingency coefficient.

Family composition: A consideration of the nexus between family background and the use of psychoactive drugs is particularly relevant in the context of a predominantly traditional society such as that of India. Table 3 shows that the size of the family (sample mean = 6.166; standard deviation = 1.76) or for that matter the type of the family (nuclear/joint family, sample ratio, 6:1) have little association with the drug use by students. This suggests that in India the use of drugs or of certain specific drugs cuts across the family size or family types. That the nature of the family (normal/broken family, sample ratio 12:1) also does not have any significant association with drug use goes to reinforce this view: whatever the form and extent of drug use, it is uniformly distributed over family groups, whether intact or broken (table 3).

TABLE 3 - Drug use and family composition

Variable

df

X 2

C

p

tau

p

Family size
12 14.18518 0.05791 0.2890 - 0.00033 0.0487
Nuclear/joint family
4 31.50806 0.08626 0.0001 0.05828 0.0001
Normal/broken family
4 16.95624 0.06357 0.0020 0.02211 0.0160

Family environment: To the extent that the family is the basic biological and social unit which embodies and transmits values and norms of society, a study of it is important in any enquiry into human behaviour. Familial background and tradition are expected to have a profound influence on the behaviour of individual members, especially on that of adolescents and young adults. It is with these considerations in mind that some of the pertinent aspects relating to the family environment of students have been analysed in terms of their drug behaviour (see table 4). A good deal of association is seen between the "family educational status" (a variable coded on the basis of educational levels of all the members in the family) and the extent of drug use by the students. This, however, is not along the expected lines: the trend in evidence is that the use of drugs by the students tends to increase with the level of the family educational status. Whether the mother is working or devoting herself to the household (sample ratio 1:19) is seen to have no clear influence on the dependent variable. However, inter-parental tensions indicate a noticeable linkage with drug use: apparently students whose parents have been disagreeing with each other on different issues have been easily drawn to drugs. Attempts have been made to explore the relationship between parental restrictiveness-permissiveness and the drug behaviour of the offspring. Towards this, variables like parental reaction to the late return at night by the respondents, parents' restrictions on choosing friends, and general parental control (a coded variable) have been examined. All these show significant distribution and a good deal of correspondence with the study variable-but in a different manner. It is those students whose parents have been restrictive who have been turning more often to intoxicants than others. This variable together with that of generational tension involving the students and their parents show a noticeable co-variation with drug use. The statistical values of contingency coefficient as well as of rank correlation clearly indicate that students who have been facing tension situations between themselves and their parents are more prone to take drugs. Lastly, attention has been paid to the drug habit of other members of the family of whom 26 per cent were reported to be using drugs. This was by far the most powerful influence on student drug behaviour.

TABLE 4 Drug use and family environment

Variable

df

X 2

C

p

tau

p

Family educational status
8 41.65303 0.10092 0.0001 0.07377 0.0001
Mother doing job
4 10.95709 0.05189 0.0271 0.01945 0.0315
Tension between parents
20 31.99651 0.10646 0.0200
-
-
Mother's reaction to coming home late
8 25.20569 0.09995 0.0014 0.03099 0.0101
Father's reaction to coming home late
8 19.81245 0.08956 0.0111 0.04559 0.0004
Restrictions on choosing friends
8 35.50307 0.09206 0.0001 0.05786 0.0001
Parental control
8 30.96086 0.08405 0.0001 0.02628 0.0047
Tension between respondents and parents
12 94.77695 0.16393 0.0001 0.10778 0.0001
Drug-use by family members
4 163.41580 0.19223 0.0100 0.17334 0.0001

Association of socio-economic factors with drug use among students 67

TABLE 5 - Drug use and economic conditions

Variable

df

X 2

C

p

tau

p

Family occupation.
8 8.97499 0.04664 0.3444
-
-
Unemployment in the family
8 24.45317 0.07731 0.0020 0.05282 0.002
Independent income source
16 21.55843 0.13350 0.2500
-
-
Per capita family monthly income
16 86.41747 0.14373 0.0001 0.11423 0.000
Pocket-money
16 283.98212 0.27787 0.000l 0.11066 0.000

Economic conditions: The all-pervasive influence of the equation between limited means and unlimited ends undoubtedly influences the individual in more ways than one. The linkage between drug use and economic conditions has been propounded and argued as being a direct as well as an inverted factor (table 5). Bearing this in mind it should be noted that variables like family occupation (a coded variable), unemployment in the family and the student's independent source of income yield little or no correlation with their drug habit (see table 5). On the other hand per capita family income (sample mean Rs. 151; standard deviation = 12.30) and the pocket-money (sample mean Rs.45.05; standard deviation = 37.01) they are receiving show a significant correlation with drug use. This suggests that the use of psychoactive drugs tends to rise in direct proportion to the amount of per capita family income and pocket-money.

Socio-economic status: The socio-economic variables discussed are helpful in securing a perspective of the social background of the students and its possible linkage with their drug use; nevertheless, these remain more or less fragmented. To gain an integrated view, a composite variable-socio-economic status (SES) - has been coded, utilizing the information relating to caste, family education, family occupation and family income of the students. The variable thus generated, although not very sophisticated, is more or less in keeping with popular notions associated with "status" in the country, and should be useful for the present purposes. It has been found that 30 per cent of the respondents have low SES, 51 per cent medium SES and 19 per cent high SES. Table 6 presents the statistics obtained by cross-tabulating the SES with the user type. It should be noted that the distribution of the two variables is highly significant and the values both of contingency coefficient and rank correlation are sizeable. It is important to note that the two variables are positively correlated, hinting at the trend that prevalence increases with SES.

TABLE 6 Drug use and socio-economie status

Variable

df

X 2

C

p

tau

p

Socio-economic status
8 73.44928 0.12905 0.0001 0.09672 0.000

Conclusion

In order to arrive at a better understanding of drug use and drug users the present paper has sought to examine certain social and economic factors associated with drug use by the college students in an Indian town. In this context, a number of demographic, family-related and economic variables have been found to be relevant. It has been seen that a typical student drug user is male, 25 years' old or older; he would probably be from an urban background, married and coming from an educated family; but his parents would have been considerably restrictive in interacting with him. He would also have been exposed to interparental tension, disagreeing with his father and mother and is most likely to have one or more members of his family on drugs. He is likely to be well off in that he and his family would be relatively affluent. On the whole, he would be probably classified as coming from the upper or upper-middle class of society.

The above profile of a drug user marks a departure from a number of findings arrived at elsewhere. The fact that proportionately more regular users are married does not support the view that drug users are generally badly integrated (Johnson, 1973; Fazey, 1973). Further, the present findings do not support the view that drug use is the consequence of insufficient parental control (Wellisch et al., 1974). On the contrary, in a setting where young boys and girls have easy access to psychoactive drugs, they may, when subjected to excessive restrictions, turn to drugs as an over-reaction or in order to be compensated, or by way of statusstriving. Likewise, in view of the association seen between drug use and family educational status, family income and general SES, it is difficult to conclude that drug users on the whole belong to lower echelons of society (see Hartjen and Quinney, 1969).

Attention may be further drawn to the fact that variables such as religion, caste, family composition and family type have shown insignificant correspondence with drug use. Simultaneously, variables such as marital status, family education and family income have shown a positive correlation. From these two sets of variables it might possibly be inferred that an inclination towards drug taking is embedded in the social matrix itself. The data and their analyses thus largely substantiate the hypothesis that certain socio-economic conditions are associated with and are central to drug use, although their emphasis and orientation may not always have been along the generally accepted lines.

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