Introduction: Considerable increases in alcohol- and substance use among tertiary students are of global concern. No group should be labeled but nursing students in particular, are exposed to taxing circumstances during their training as developing professionals. Managing patients, meeting academic requirements and deadlines and emotional fatigue may contribute to immoderate use of alcohol and other substances. This study intended to determine self-disclosed use of alcohol, cigarettes and other substances among a group of undergraduate nursing students at a South African university.
Methodology: This is an observational, descriptive, cross-sectional study. Data were obtained by means of an anonymous questionnaire, developed from internationally validated questionnaires. Descriptive statistics were used during data analysis.
Results: A response rate of 92.0% (n = 69) was obtained. Alcohol consumption in the past year was reported by 81.2% of participants and using alcohol at more than 40 occasions in the past year, by 20.3%. Alcohol with an energy drink was reportedly consumed by 52.2%. Smoking cigarettes, water pipe and cannabis was reported by 40.6%, 40.6% and 21.7% respectively. Using prescription drugs without scripts was reported by 13.1%, e.g. ADHD medication, sedatives and tranquilizers. Over the counter cough and cold medicines were reportedly used by 71.0%, 5.8% use glue/other solvents and 2.9% indicated the use of ‘spice’.
Conclusion: Literature substantiates the fact that immoderate use of alcohol and substances can be associated with declining academic performance. This may be attributed to related interrupted levels of concentration and recalling information, a slackened class attendance and decrease in time spent on academic studying, resulting in poor performance passing rates and increased tendencies to discontinue enrolment. Investigating the impact of time spent on social media should also not be neglected.
Excessive alcohol- and substance use may lead to unprofessional behavior. This might necessitate tertiary institutions to initiate intervention programs teaching effective life skills, and better educating students on the side effects and long term complications of substance abuse.
Audience Take Away:
- As educators of future professionals, we should not only be aware of students’ academic needs or performance but also be sensitive to their cry-outs for help in the greater context of life.
- It could be of benefit to spend more time during students’ training on properly educating them on the side effects and long term complications of alcohol- and/or substance abuse.
- Teaching students effective life skills and coping mechanisms will better prepare and equip them for their professions one day.
- Alcohol- and substance use and abuse is a major concern at tertiary institutions, across different faculties, globally. Research may reveal unsettling results but can create a window of opportunity to intervene and prevent or then rehabilitate alcohol- and/or substance dependent individuals.