Original Research - Special Collection: O3 Plus

Students’ perspectives on drugs and alcohol abuse at a public university in Zambia

Nicholas Mwanza, Ganizani Mwale
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 79, No 3 | a8579 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v79i3.8579 | © 2023 Nicholas Mwanza, Ganizani Mwale | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 February 2023 | Published: 17 August 2023

About the author(s)

Nicholas Mwanza, Dean of Students Department, Copperbelt University, Kitwe, Zambia; and, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Ganizani Mwale, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa; and, Department of Health Services, University of Zambia, Lusaka, South Africa


Access to students’ perspectives on substance abuse is essential for effective youth intervention projects development. This study aimed to explore students’ perspectives on abuse of drugs and alcohol with probable development of student-led intervention strategies. The study was conducted at public universities in Zambia. Student’s perspectives on drugs and alcohol abuse were documented using a mixed method design that employed purposive and snowball sampling to select 200 respondents to questionnaires and 10 to in-depth interviews. A humanistic theory approach was applied in the interpretation and analysis of the data collected. The findings showed that cannabis (30%) and codeine contained in Benylin (17%) were commonly abused. Further findings showed that students’ academic pressure was the leading cause of substance abuse (27%), followed by peer pressure (20%). Students knew that abuse of drugs and alcohol led to low academic performance, violence and theft, risks of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and other social maladjustments. The study recommends that institutions of learning increase student-led awareness campaigns, security surveillance on campus, and collaboration with government drug enforcement agencies. Institutions of learning should involve students in the planning of programmes to deal with drug and alcohol abuse.

Contribution: The study will inform amendment of drug and alcohol abuse policies in institutions of learning. The study will contribute towards the UNESCO O3 PLUS project goal of making campuses safe and inclusive, and overall, the Sustainable Development Goal 3 and 4. The study serves as basis for scholars in the field of biblical theology engaged with justice, health and human development. The article is a contribution to the research project Biblical Theology and Hermeneutics. The results of this research can especially be utilised by scholars in the field of psychology of religion, the sociology of religion and practical theologians focusing on youth ministry.


drugs and alcohol abuse; public universities; student perspective; students and substance abuse; substance abuse in universities; public health; youth ministry

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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