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Indian Journal of Community Medicine

A Study of Some Socioeconomic Factors on Drug abuse among the Undergraduate Medical Students in Calcutta

Author(s): N. N. Naskar1, M. Roy2, S. K. Bhattacharya3

Vol. 29, No. 2 (2004-04 - 2004-06)


Research Question: What is the influence of socioeconomic factors and psychosocial background in respect of the habit of drug abuse among undergraduate medical students?

Objectives: 1. To study the influence of some socioeconomic aspects on the habit of drug abuse among medical students. 2. To ascertain the sociocultural circumstances as well as the source of initiation. Setting: Calcutta National Medical College and R.G. Kar Medical College.

Study design: Cross sectional or Prevalence study. Study variables: Family income, parent's literacy, reason of drug abuse, source of information etc.

Statistical Analysis: X2 test (chi-square test).

Results: The prevalence of total and current drug abusers was 48.9% and 27.9% respectively. Significant relationship was seen between drug abuse and mother's educational level. In the majority of the (47.5%) students drug abuse was stated to be first introduced by the influence of the friend or peer group, 'curiosity' was the main reason of first drug use in 35% of total users, followed by 'to be sociable' in 14.6% and 'relief of psychosocial tension' in 13.4%.


Drug abuse has been prevalent since time immemorial. The substances used for this purpose have also varied from society to society and from time to time in various age groups. Current evidence from around the world reveals a continuing upward trend in misuse of psychoactive drugs. Recent concern with drug abuse has emanated from its increasing use by younger individuals, particularly the student population. Biological, hormonal and psychological changes during this period superadded with increased responsibility in academic areas make them more vulnerable to resort to the drug habit. Prevalence studies in India have indicated that almost 25% of the student and non-student youth abuse alcohol and about 10-20% abuse other drugs1 (Editorial I.J. Psychiatry, Oct., 1985). Presently a new trend has set in where preadolescents and adolescents from middle and upper classes are increasingly using drugs. Sethi and Manchanda2 supported the above said views showing that 56.5% of drug users belong to affluent classes. So far as the circumstantial background of drug abuse is concerned, no single cause of taking drugs has been demonstrated, but several motives or hypothesis have been thought of. Mohan and Arora3 in their study of drug abuse among students of Delhi University found that 78% of student used drugs in parties so as to be socially acceptable, 39.7% take drugs out of curiosity. Several studies3,4 have shown that friends usually play an important role in initiating users in drug consumption. The problem of drug is very much extensive among students of our country specially the medical students because, non-traditional drugs like tranquillisers etc. are more accessible to them. Few studies had been undertaken among the medical students in Calcutta and even those were limited mostly to hostel students5. Hence the present study has been done among the undergraduate medical student in general with the following objectives:

  1. To study the influence of some socioeconomic aspects on the habit of drug abuse.
  2. To ascertain the sociocultural circumstances as well as the source of introduction of drug abuse.

Material and Methods

The study was conducted among undergraduate medical students in Calcutta. Anonymous, pretested, self administered questionnaires were prepared and supplied to individual students of each academic years during class period and they were requested to fill them with full assurance about the confidentiality of their identity. Absentees were covered as far as possible by repeated visits. The questionnaire was designed to elicit information about recent and past history of drug use, socioeconomics factors e.g. monthly income of the family, parent's education, occupation and source of introduction to drug use and incomplete questionnaires were excluded from the study. The completed questionnaires received was 1,163. The study was carried out in 1993. The students who used or abused drugs (one or more substance) at least once during the past 30 days were regarded as current users7. Students who used or abused drugs irrespective of time and frequency in their life were regarded as total users. Appropriate statistical tests were done when necessary.

Table I: Drug users in relation to guardian/father's income

income in Rs.
Total users
Current users
No. (%) No. (% of
More than 3,000 684 336 (49.1) 192 (57.1)
2,001-3,000 222 119 (53.6) 64 (53.8)
1,001-2,000 77 38 (49.4) 24 (63.1)
501-1,000 48 16 (38.3) 12 (75.0)
Below 500 32 13 (40.6) 7 (53.8)
Difficult to estimate 100 47 (47.0) 26 (55.3)
Total 1 163 569 (48.9) 325 (57.1)

Table II: Drug users in relation to educational status of their parents

Status of
Fathers Mothers
N Drug
N Drugs
n (%) n (%)
No formal schooling 14 5 (35.7) 35 12 (34.3)
Primary School 33 11 (33.3) 96 44 (45.8)
Secondary or High School 167 87 (52.0) 318 181 (56.9)
College or University 940 463 (49.3) 672 316 (47.0)
Not mentioned 9 3 (33.3) 42 16 (38.0)
Total 1163 569 (49.9) 1163 569 (51.1)
  X2: 4.94 (P>0.05) X2: 12.46 (P<0.01)

Results and Discussion

More than half (53.6%) of the respondents, whose father's monthly income was between Rs. 2,001-3,000 used drugs in their life time. In the case of the group with father's income more than Rs. 3,000, 49.1 % were drug users. Even in the group with the lowest income below Rs. 500, 40.6% had used drugs (P>0.05). The proportion of current users to total users was highest (75%) in the income group of Rs. 501-1,000. (P>0.05). Out of 569 drug users 336, (49%) belonged to father's income group of more than Rs. 3,000. The study reveals that the habit of drug use affects students uniformly irrespective of the economic background of their family (Table I). This may be due to easy accessibility of drugs for medical students and peer group association.

Half of the respondents (49.3%) whose father were educated in college or University level and about one-third of the students (33.3%), whose fathers were educated up to primary school had used drugs (P>0.05) Use of drug was highest among those students (56.9%), whose mothers had education up to secondary or high school and minimum (34.3%), in case the mothers had no formal education. (P>0.05) Relationship between father's occupation and the prevalence of total drug users was not significant (D) (Table III).

The proportion of current users among total users was highest (71 %) in case father's occupation was agriculture etc. followed by those occupied in business (62.7%) and the least proportion of current drug users was in the group whose fathers were in technical jobs (45.1%). The difference was statistically significant.

Table 3: Distribution of drug users according to Father's Occupation

Father's or Guardian's Occupation Total Respondents Total * users Current ** users
No. % No. (% of total Users)
Professional 515 245 (47.6) 136 (55.5)
Technical 117 62 (53) 28 (45.1)
Clerk 112 54 (48.2) 33 (61.1)
Business 146 75 (51.4) 47 (62.7)
Agriculture & unskilled worker 86 38 (44.1) 27 (71.05)
Others 98 54 (55.1) 23 (42.6)
Not mentioned 89 41 (46.0) 31 (75.6)
Total 1,163 569 (48.9) 325 (57.1)
    X2 : 3.75 (P>0.05) X2 :11.92 (P<0.05)

Source of Introduction to first drug use

Source of Introduction Users
N = 569
No. (%)
Friends 270 (47.5)
Family members 49 (8.6)
Drug pusher 6 (1.0)
Medical/ Chemist Shop 43 (7.6)
Others 29 (5.0)
Not mentioned 172 (30.2)
Total 569 (100.0)

Table V: Yearwise distribution of reasons of drug use (N=569)

Reason for
Drug use
No. (%) No. (%) No. (%) No. (%) No. (%) No. (%)
Curiosity 27 (4.7) 37 (6.5) 41 (7.2) 36 (6.3) 58 (10.2) 199 (35)
Religion - - 1 (.2) - - 2 (0.3) 1 (0.2) 4 (0.7)
To be sociable
or have fun
3 (0.5) 13 (2.3) 12 (2.1) 21 (3.7) 34 (6) 83 (14.6)
To enhance sexual pleasure - - 4 (0.7) - - 2 (0.3) 3 (0.5) 9 (1.6)
Treatment of health disorder 1 (0:2) 4 (0.7) 2 (0.3) 15 (2.6) 5 (2.6) 27 (4.7)
Relief of psychological stress 12 (2.1) 10 (1.8) 16 (2.8) 15 (2.6) 23 (4) 76 (13.4)
To reduce fatigue, hunger, cold 3 (0.5) 4 (0.7) 2 (0.3) 9 (1.6) 1 (0.2) 19 (3.3)
Others - - - - - - 1 (0.2) 3 (0.5) 4 (0.7)
Not mentioned 13 (2.3) 43 (7.6) 28 (4.9) 35 (6.2) 29 (5) 148 (26)
Total 59 (10.4) 116 (20.4) 101 (17.7) 136 (23.4) 157 (27.6) 569 (100)

Rao et al6 (1981) in their study revealed that out of parents of drug users 27.82% were businessmen and 24.84% were doctors. Chakraborty and Roy (1978) in Calcutta stated that though most of the smokers and drug users came from educated families, till they have found no significant association between drug abuse and father's occupation.

Table IV shows that nearly half of the drug users (47.5%) stated that friend was the source of -their first drug use and only 8% users disclosed that family members were the source of their first drug use.

The table V also shows that more than one-third (35%) of the total users stated that curiosity was the reason for first drug use. The next common reasons of drug use were 'to be sociable', and 'relief of psychological stress' e.g. 14.6% and 13.4% respectively. Religious ground was the least important reason in the study. Mohan et al3 (1975) in Delhi showed that 39.7% of the drug users used drugs for curiosity, only 1.13% took it for relief of tension and 2.26% used on religious occasions.

Chakraborty and Roy et a15 (1978) in Calcutta found that curiosity (58.8%) was the commonest reason for drug use, followed by peer pressure (13.61 %) and 13% students took it for relaxation.

To summarize, although the study showed no significant statistical association with family income, and father's education but significant relationship was seen between drug abuse and mother's educational level. 'Friends' were the source of first introduction to drug use among medical students and 'curiosity', 'to be sociable' and 'the relief of psychosocial stress were the main reasons at first drug use, as seen in this study.


  1. Editorial - Youth and drug use. Ind. J. of Psychiatry 1985; 27: 227-228.
  2. Sethi, B.B. Munchanda, R. Drug abuse among medical students. Ind. J. of Psychiatry 1977; 19: 31-35.
  3. Mohan, D. Arora, R. Prevalence and pattern of drug abuse among Delhi University College Students Ind. J. Medical Association 1976; 66: 28-33.
  4. A. Ram. Youth and drug abuse. A sociocultural study on nature and incidence of drug abuse among university and college students in Jaipur. Monograph published by Deptt. of Sociology, University of Rajasthan.
  5. Chakraborty, A.K. Roy Mira, Ganguli, 5.5. Drug in medical students in Calcutta a preliminary study. Ind. J. Med. Res. 1980; 71: 466-467.
  6. Rao, B. Sridhar, Wanta Mutte. AS. Mallarpur MD, Drug use and addiction among students of J.N. Medical College, Belgaum, Ind. J. Ben. Soc. Med. 1981; 12: 149-183.
  7. Smart, R.G. Hughes, P .S. Johnston, L.P. et. al. A methodology for student's drug use surveys. WHO offset publication 1980; No. 50.
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