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Background: Substance use among medical fraternity is a well-known phenomenon among both undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) medical students. Yet, there have been very few multi-centric studies to estimate the actual burden of this problem in this important population group in India. This study was conducted to estimate the prevalence of alcohol and tobacco use, assess the knowledge and attitudes towards this issue, and identify factors associated with substance use among UG and PG medical students in India.
Methods: A pre-tested, self-report, anonymous questionnaire was administered to medical undergraduates and post graduate medical residents of eight medical colleges across India. This study used a convenience sample of medical colleges with random selection of study participants within each college for each group, UG and PG.
Results: Prevalence of alcohol and tobacco use among UG students was 16.6%, 95% CI [14.5, 18.9] and 8.0%, 95% CI [6.4, 9.6], respectively, whereas prevalence was 31.5%, 95% CI [26.3, 37.0] and 14.5%, 95% CI [10.7, 18.9], respectively for PGs. For both substances, males had a higher prevalence of use compared to females in both groups (p < 0.001). Positive family history of substance use (p < 0.001 for both groups) and early age of initiation (p = 0.011 for tobacco; p > 0.05 for alcohol) were associated with a greater difficulty to quit the habit. Over 90% of study participants felt that substance use adversely affected their skills and reported not using substances prior to managing their patients.
Conclusions: Since substance use is a relatively common phenomenon among UG and PG medical students in India, future prospective studies and interventions are required to better understand the pattern of substance use and reduce its prevalence.
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