A hidden epidemic: Street children show high levels of drug use

July 12, 2013, Wiley

Drug use is common among street children, posing serious threats to both their health and their chances for reintegration into society. It's difficult to reduce drug use among street children without a good understanding of the problem, and up to now the research has been confined mainly to local studies with inconsistent results. Today, Addiction has published a systematic review of 50 studies of drug use among street children in 22 countries, shedding new light on the magnitude of the problem, the causes and health consequences of drug use among street children, and areas where new research is badly needed.

According to this review by researchers from Moi University (Kenya), Indiana University (USA), Regenstrief Institute (USA) and University of Toronto (Canada), the most commonly used drug among street children in low- and middle-income countries is inhalants, things like glue, , gasoline, and paint thinner. Street children likely gravitate toward inhalants because they're cheap and legal, and therefore easy to get. (In contrast, street children in high-income countries tend to favour injection drugs, such as heroin.)

Use of volatile solvents such as glue and gasoline is a major obstacle to street children being re-integrated into society and having a healthy and productive life once they are off the streets. Inhalants have been linked to cognitive and and psychological and physical dependence. They are also linked to sudden death from and other causes.

The prevalence of among street children varies widely among countries, from 14% in Nigeria to 92% in Honduras and Brazil. These estimates are several times higher than the World Health Organization's estimates of drug use among non-street youth globally. The most common reasons street children give for using drugs are peer pressure, escapism, pleasure, curiosity, and increasing courage and strength for life on the streets.

Dr. Paula Braitstein, the senior author of this study, says that one of the most valuable outcomes of this review is an understanding of what new research needs to be done. "As a result of this review, we learned that we don't really know what causes street children to start and stop using drugs. We also found that many studies of street children focus on boys, so we have even less information about girls' drug use. Finally, although we know that some street children exchange sex for drugs or have sex while under the influence of drugs, little else is known about the link between drug use and risky sex behavior. There are several critical gaps in our knowledge that we need to fill."

Explore further: Street youth more likely to trade sex for food, shelter if they were abused as children, study finds

More information: Embleton L, Mwangi A, Vreeman R, Ayuku D, and Braitstein P. The epidemiology of substance use amongst street children in resource-constrained settings: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Addiction, 108: doi:10.1111/add.12252

Related Stories

Street youth more likely to trade sex for food, shelter if they were abused as children, study finds

January 25, 2013
New research led by Ryerson scientists have found that street youth who have been sexually abused as children are far more likely to engage in trading sex for food, shelter and other basic necessities.

More intersections mean less outdoor activity for children

October 11, 2011
High intersection density and well-connected streets in towns and cities may discourage children from being active and exercising outdoors, according to a Queen's University study.

Drop in illicit drug use in cities, uptick in prescription drug abuse

October 15, 2012
(HealthDay)—Illicit drug use has declined in most large U.S. cities in recent years, but prescription drug abuse has increased, a new study shows.

Second African nation gets Google street view

December 3, 2012
Botswana on Monday became the second African country to be featured on Google Maps' Street View, allowing users to explore landmarks such as the Okavango Delta.

Study outlines common risky behaviors of children struck by motor vehicles

October 19, 2012
An abstract presented Friday, Oct. 19, at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans highlights the risky behavior of child pedestrians who are struck by cars – including ...

Recommended for you

Marijuana use may not aid patients in opioid addiction treatment

December 4, 2017
Many patients who are being treated for opioid addiction in a medication-assisted treatment clinic use marijuana to help manage their pain and mood symptoms.

For opiate addiction, study finds drug-assisted treatment is more effective than detox

November 23, 2017
Say you're a publicly insured Californian with an addiction to heroin, fentanyl or prescription narcotics, and you want to quit.

Study finds medical cannabis is effective at reducing opioid addiction

November 17, 2017
A new study conducted by researchers at The University of New Mexico, involving medical cannabis and prescription opioid use among chronic pain patients, found a distinct connection between having the legal ability to use ...

Insomnia linked to alcohol-use frequency among early adolescents, says new psychology study

November 8, 2017
Insomnia is linked to frequency of alcohol use among early adolescents, according to new Rutgers University–Camden research.

Large declines seen in teen substance abuse, delinquency

October 25, 2017
More than a decade of data indicates teens have become far less likely to abuse alcohol, nicotine and illicit drugs, and they also are less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors, such as fighting and stealing, according ...

Trying to get sober? NIH offers tool to help find good care

October 3, 2017
The phone calls come—from fellow scientists and desperate strangers—with a single question for the alcohol chief at the National Institutes of Health: Where can my loved one find good care to get sober?

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.