University of the Free State medical students' view of at-risk drinking behaviour and psychoactive substance use

P Smit, P J Pretorius, G Joubert


Objectives: To investigate undergraduate medical students' knowledge of at-risk drinking behaviour and their own patterns of alcohol intake. The use of non-alcoholic psychoactive substances was also investigated.

Design: A cross-sectional study design was used. A self-administered anonymous questionnaire was completed by participants. Questionnaires were designed using the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines for identifying at-risk drinking.

Setting: The School of Medicine, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein.

Subjects: Participants included first-, fourth- and fifth-year medical students enrolled in 2006.

Results: 371/408 (90.9%) questionnaires were returned. 10% of students who repeated an academic year ascribed it to substance use. The majority of students conservatively estimated the maximum daily and weekly safe levels of alcohol consumption for both men and women as notably lower than recommended by the guidelines. Nevertheless, 32% of students admitted to alcohol intake exceeding these limits, and 55.3% were identified as at-risk drinkers. Marijuana was the most common non-alcoholic substance used by medical students (14.6%) in the preceding three years. Alcohol or other substances was most frequently used during social activities with friends.

Conclusions: Medical students' knowledge of levels of alcohol intake associated with increased risks and their own drinking patterns might influence their approach to patients with alcohol-related problems. Therefore, education regarding at-risk drinking behaviour requires to be addressed.


At-risk drinking, Students, Substance

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Submitted: 26 February 2009
Published: 01 March 2009

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South African Journal of Psychiatry    |    ISSN: 1608-9685 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2078-6786 (ONLINE)