Actual and perceived substance use of health science students at a university in the Western Cape, South Africa
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Background: Substance use among youth is a worldwide epidemic that impacts negatively on the health sector as well as the family and society. Early student life is a time of tremendously high motivation to conform to the behaviours, values, and attitudes that are valued by the youth culture. They observe their peers’ behavior and alter their own behaviour with their peers’ norms and expectations. This compliance with perceived peer norms can however lead to increased smoking, alcohol and drug use. Objectives: To determine and analyze risky and health promoting behaviour of health science students at a university in the Western Cape, South Africa. In this paper the association between actual risk and perceived risk for substance is discussed. Methods: A self-administered questionnaire containing items from both the NCHRBS and the ACHA-NCHA were administered to 201 health science students at a South African university. Results: When perceptions of typical student behaviour were compared to actual reported behaviour, overestimated consumption patterns for the typical student was found for smoking, alcohol and drug use. Conclusion: The misperceptions of peer norms have important educational or prevention program implications. These findings clearly indicate that educational and awareness programs regarding alcohol and drug use should take perceptions of peer alcohol and drug use into consideration.