Drug-taking among Nigerian students at universities in the United States of America
Author: O.E. ACHALU, D.F. DUNCAN
Pages: 75 to 80
Creation Date: 1987/01/01
D.F. DUNCAN Department of Biology, University of Cologne, Cologne, Federal Republic of Germany
A sample survey of Nigerian students conducted by means of a self-administered drug use questionnaire at three universities in the United States of America showed that at some time in their lives 91.2 per cent of the respondents had used alcoholic beverages, 62.3 per cent tobacco, 30.6 per cent cannabis, 6.3 per cent inhalants, 19.7 per cent amphetamines or amphetamine-type substances, 4.6 per cent cocaine, 2.1 per cent hallucinogens, 23.8 per cent tranquillizers, 4.2 per cent sedatives, 4.2 per cent opium, 1.3 per cent heroin and 20.5 per cent other opiates. These substances were used for non-medical purposes. In addition, the results of the survey showed that in the last 12 months before the survey 79.1 per cent of the respondents had used alcoholic beverages, 41.8 per cent tobacco, 2.9 per cent inhalants, 19.2 per cent cannabis, 10.4 per cent amphetamines and amphetamine-type substances, 2.1 per cent cocaine, 1.7 per cent hallucinogens, 5.4 per cent tranquillizers, 2.5 per cent sedatives, 2.1 per cent opium, 1.3 per cent heroin and 8.8 per cent other opiates. The survey also showed that in the last 30 days before the survey 64 per cent of the respondents had used alcoholic beverages, 31.8 per cent tobacco, 2.1 per cent inhalants, 13.9 per cent cannabis, 5.3 per cent amphetamines and amphetamine-type substances, 0.8 per cent cocaine, 1.2 per cent hallucinogens, 2.1 per cent tranquillizers, 2.1 per cent sedatives, 2.1 per cent opium, 1.3 per cent heroin and 5.1 per cent other opiates.
This study, which was carried out in 1982, was based on a standardized, self-administered questionnaire designed by the World Health Organization  to gather data on demographic characteristics, attitudes and opinions regarding drug-taking, the frequency of drug use and age at first use for different types of drugs, as well as data on honesty with which questions were answered.
The sample consisted of 239 Nigerian students studying in the United States of America, of whom 50.2 per cent were attending Alabama A&M University, 20.5 per cent North Texas State University and 29.3 per cent Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Only 15.9 per cent of the sample were female students. Their ages ranged from 19 to 37 years, but 61.5 per cent were younger than 26 years. Of the total sample, 36.8 per cent said that their fathers had either a university or post-secondary education, 28.5 per cent a high school education, 20.9 per cent a primary school education and only 8.8 per cent reported that their fathers had no formal education, while 5 per cent of the respondents did not provide appropriate information on this item. With respect to their current studies, 28.5 per cent were seniors, 21.8 per cent graduates, 20.5 per cent juniors, 15.8 per cent sophomores and 13.4 per cent freshmen. The period during which the respondents lived in the United States ranged from 2 to 144 months.
The following text summarizes drug use among the respondents by substance.
A substantial proportion (62.3 per cent) of the respondents stated that they had either smoked, chewed or sniffed a tobacco product at some time in their lives; less than one half (41.8 per cent) said that they had done so in the last 12 months and 31.8 per cent in the last month before the survey.
Of the total sample, 91.2 per cent of the respondents said that they had used alcoholic beverages at some time in their lives, 79.1 per cent in the last 12 months and 64 per cent in the last month before the survey. The prevalence rate of alcohol use at sometime in the lives of the respondents was almost the same for males (92.4 per cent) and females (92.1 per cent).
Of the total sample, 30.6 per cent of the respondents indicated that they had used cannabis at some time in their lives; 19.2 per cent admitted using the drug in the last 12 months and 13.9 per cent in the last month before the survey. A majority of the respondents used cannabis for the first time when they were 19 years or older and a smaller proportion (12.5 per cent) did so between 10 and 18 years of age. Approximately 78 per cent of the respondents indicated that they had never used cannabis in Nigeria.
Amphetamines and amphetamine-type stimulants were reported to have been used by 19.7 per cent of the respondents at some time in their lives; such use was reported more by females (23.7 per cent) than by males (19.1 per cent); 10.4 per cent had used these drugs in the last 12 months and 5.3 per cent in the last month before the survey.
Approximately 83 per cent of the respondents indicated that they had not used amphetamines or similar stimulants in Nigeria.
At some time in their lives, 4.6 per cent of the respondents had used cocaine. The drug had been used by 2.1 per cent of the respondents in the last 12 months before the survey and by 0.8 per cent in the last month before the survey.
Only a small proportion of respondents (2.1 per cent) reported having used hallucinogens at some time in their lives. These substances had been used by 1.7 per cent of the respondents in the last 12 months and by 1.2 per cent in the last month before the survey.
Fifteen respondents (6.3 per cent) reported having inhaled volatile solvents at some time in their lives; 2.9 per cent had inhaled volatile solvents in the last 12 months and 2.1 per cent in the last month before the survey.
At some time in their lives, 23.8 per cent of the respondents had used tranquillizers for non-medical purposes; 5.4 per cent of the respondents reported such use in the last 12 months and 2.1 per cent in the last month before the survey.
Ten respondents (4.2 per cent) said they had taken sedatives at some time in their lives without a physician telling them to do so. Six respondents (2.5 per cent) reported having used sedatives in the last 12 months and five (2.1 per cent) in the last month before the survey.
Ten students (4.2 per cent) said they had smoked or eaten opium at some time in their lives. Half of them (2.1 per cent) had continued to use the drug in the last 12 months and in the last month before the survey.
Only three respondents (1.3 per cent) said they had ever used heroin and had continued to do so in the last 12 months and in the last month before the survey.
Forty-nine students (20.5 per cent) said they had taken opiates other than opium and heroin at some time in their lives without a physician telling them to do so. The most frequently used opiate was codeine. Twenty-one students (8.8 per cent) had continued using opiates in the last 12 months and 12 students (5.1 per cent) in the last month before the survey.
Thirty-eight drug users indicated that the main reason for their first non-medical use of drugs was curiosity. Twenty-six drug users took the drug for the first time to relieve cold, hunger or fatigue. Fifteen respondents stated that their main reason for the first use of drugs was to enhance sociability, 12 to promote enjoyment, 11 to treat health disorders, 7 to comply with religious customs, 6 to be accepted by others, 6 to relieve psychological stress, 6 to improve work performance and 3 to enhance sex.
Most of the respondents who used drugs said that they were introduced to non-medical drug use by friends. A casual acquaintance, the introduction by a family member, by a physician, by a drug pusher and by a pharmacist were also reported, but these were much less important sources of introduction to non-medical drug use.
When asked whether living in the United States encouraged them to take drugs, only 10.5 per cent of the respondents gave an affirmative answer.
The low percentage (15.9 per cent) of female students in the sample reflected the actual distribution of female and male Nigerian students attending the three universities covered by this research. This low percentage may, however, be indicative of the negative attitude of Nigerian parents towards sending their unmarried daughters to study abroad.
Most of the fathers of the respondents had completed schooling beyond the primary level. This suggests that a majority of the students in the sample belonged to the upper or middle class. Western-style education is one of the indicators of higher socio-economic status in Nigeria  .
The proportion of alcohol users did not substantially differ from the figures reported for similar populations in the United States, but it differs from the figures reported by studies conducted among Nigerian students in Nigeria.
Reinhold  indicated that reasons for excessive alcohol consumption differ according to whether drinking is communal or solitary. Nigerian students in this study tended to be communal rather than solitary drinkers. Sociability and companionship are very important factors in their drinking. If Nigerian students in United States institutions do drink alone, it is usually while watching a favourite television sports programme.
Oghojafor  noted that 39.4 per cent of the students in his sample admitted using cannabis in Nigeria. In the present study, however, a smaller number of students attending United States universities admitted using cannabis. It is suspected that higher proportions of Nigerian students take cannabis but they may have failed to respond truthfully because of fear of being reported either to the immigration authorities or to the Nigerian Government.
It is assumed that the relatively low level of reported use of amphetamines and other stimulants in this study may be because most of these substances require prescriptions in the United States and are not easily available, at least not to Nigerian students. In Nigeria, stimulant substances can be easily purchased from pharmacies, patent medicine shops and itinerant drug vendors  . According to Oviasu, academic competition drives students to take amphetamines  . This might also be true for the Nigerian students who reported having used stimulants in the present study. In this connection, it should be noted that approximately 18 per cent of respondents reported having used cannabis and 14.6 per cent amphetamines while they were in Nigeria.
Chlordiazepoxide and diazepam were the most frequently used tranquillizers in this study. It seems that Nigerian students in United States institutions face a stress-laden task in pursuing their academic endeavours. The academic pursuits of most foreign students are shadowed by a constant fear of failure and uncertainties over the state of family affairs back home. It is assumed that the students are subjected to emotional pressures sometimes too difficult to bear, which has led them to the use of tranquillizers.
The level of use of other substances such as sedatives, hallucinogens, opium, heroin, other opiates, cocaine and inhalants was relatively high compared with the level of use reported by studies in similar populations in Nigeria. The use of cocaine, heroin or LSD are relatively uncommon in Nigeria  -  .
This study revealed that male students were the sole users of heroin, opium, hallucinogens and sedatives. These findings, especially with regard to sedatives, are not in keeping with the results reported by researchers in Nigeria. Akindele found no differences between males and females in the use of sedatives  .
The use of drugs by students in this study might be attributed to the strangeness and alienation often felt by foreign students upon their loss of a familiar social support network. Since these students do not have to worry about being identified by members of their reference groups, such as the family and friends, they may engage in types of behaviour which they otherwise would not have been as likely to adopt  .
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