Drug and substance abuse is a global public health problem affecting adolescents and young adults especially in developing countries. This study investigated the perceptions of school-going adolescents about substance abuse in Ramotswa, Botswana. A cross-sectional design study using mixed methods was used to collect data from primary, junior and senior secondary school children aged 13 to 19 years. Some 207 school children were recruited into the study. Almost equal numbers of boys and girls had ever used substances prior to this study and the overall prevalence of substance use is 17.4%. The media is the major source of awareness and knowledge of substances and most schools (59.9%) do not have strategies for reducing abuse of substances. School surroundings provide school children easy access to substances. Knowledge of the association of substance use and abuse is high with mental health (74.9%), traffic accidents (70.7%) and 58.5% with heart diseases. It is concluded concerted effort is needed involving major stakeholders to scale-up campaigns for reducing drug and substance abuse among school children. This can be achieved through raising awareness about the consequences of substance abuse; building capacity to strengthen coping mechanisms to stress and to those presenting with effects resulting from use of these substances and review academic curricula.
Key words: Adolescents, drugs, substance abuse, perception, knowledge.
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