Prevalence And Patterns Of Polysubstance Use Among Adolescents In Bangkok, Thailand

Ham Eun Young, Bang-on Thepthien, Prapapun Chicharoen


Many unhealthy behaviors often begin during adolescence, and substance use is one of the most problematic issues for this age group. Substance use has a major impact on individuals, families, and communities, as its effects are cumulative, contributing to costly social, physical, financial and health problems, including mental health problems. Prior research shows that use of polysubstance is associated with even higher risks and worse consequences than single substance use, but little is known about the demographic factors associated with polysubstance use. The current study examines the prevalence and correlates of self-reported substance and polysubstance use among a cohort of Bangkok 11th grade students. Using data from the Bangkok Behavior Surveillance Survey (n=1,755), researcher estimated the prevalence of various patterns of adolescent use of alcohol, cigarette and marijuana in the past 12 months, individually and in combination. While 72.0% of individuals reported no substance use prior to age 16, the most common substance used in past 12 months was alcohol (26.2%), followed by cigarette (14.4%), and marijuana (5.9%). Nearly one in seven (14.1%) reported that either early use of both alcohol and marijuana or alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes, indicating the relatively high prevalence of this type of polysubstance use behavior among adolescents. Other findings indicate that substance use varied somewhat by demographic characteristics. Polysubstance use was more prevalent among males than females. The prevalence of marijuana use, cigarette smoking and binge drinking was higher among adolescents whose socio economic status were low compared to those with moderate or high socio economic status. This study confirms the elevated prevalence and importance of polysubstance use behavior among adolescents prior to age 16, and puts early onset of alcohol, marijuana and cigarette use into the context of use patterns rather than single drug exposures. Study limitations include the somewhat attenuated response rate, limited sample size relative to other national epidemiological studies, and the cross-sectional design.

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