Aims. The aim of this research was to evalvate the prevalence of substance abuse in a sample of Iranian nursing students.
Design and measurements. Four hundred nursing students (85.25% were females and 14.25% were male) were assessed by a confidential questionnaire based on DSM-IV, which was distributed, completed by the students and collected in the same session.
Findings. Mean age of the females was 20.3 and of males was 22.8. Of the subjects, 27.3% (21.4% of females and 61% of males) reported usage of substance(s) once or more sometime during their lives: cigarette (25.3%), alcohol (5.8%), opium (8.5%), cocaine (1.5%), hashish (1.5%), marijuana (0.8%) and morphine (0.5%). Only 3.8% of the participants (1.8% of females and 15.3% of males) reported still using substances: cigarettes (3.3%), alcohol (1.7%), opium (0.8%), cocaine (0.5%) and marijuana (0.3%). About 11.8% of the subjects (10% of females and 22% of males) reported using of substances occasionally (at least once a month): cigarette (10.8%), alcohol (3.5%), opium (4.3%), cocaine (0.5%) and hashish (0.3%). Some used or were using more than one substance.
Conclusions. Substance use was significantly related to sex: higher among males than females. Tobacco and opium were found to be the most prevalent form of substance use among students. Pleasurable purposes, habit, need (to avoid withdrawal symptoms) and tension were the major reasons for substance use. There was no report of psychedelics use. These results are, however, different from those studies carried out in the west, although there is some overlap. Cultural attitudes toward substance use quite likely affect the types and patterns of use. These findings can be considered when planning preventive and therapeutic programmes.
Relevance to clinical practice. Substance use can reduce scientific progress and academic achievement of nursing students; therefore, authorities of the university must be able to assess the extent of the problem, understand the contributing factors, recognize signs and symptoms, and use educational interventions in identifying and preventing substance dependency.