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OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to understand the usage patterns and correlates of illicit drug use among schoolchildren in Colombo district, Sri Lanka. METHODS: A cross-sectional study was carried out among grade 10 and 12 students using a self-administered questionnaire. RESULTS: From the 6000 students selected, 5353(89.22%) responded. Betel chewing with tobacco was seen in 28.48% males and 10.44% females. Substances such as Barbul, Madana Modaka, and cough syrups that are not established as illicit drugs were used as psychoactive substances. Ingredients of some of these compounds are not fully understood or regulated. Prevalence of cannabis use was 3.85% in males and 0.24% in females. Studying nonscience subjects for Advanced Level, doing sports, low academic performance, and peer smoking significantly increased the odds of using one or more substances (P < .05). CONCLUSIONS: Many types of illicit substances were used by schoolchildren. More strategies to prevent further aggravation of these behaviors are needed. Constituents of some compounds are not understood and need further evaluation. Recognized high-risk groups can be targets for preventive and cessation programs.

Original publication




Journal article


Subst Abus

Publication Date





137 - 142


Adolescent, Adolescent Behavior, Cross-Sectional Studies, Female, Humans, Illicit Drugs, Male, Prevalence, Risk Factors, Sex Characteristics, Sri Lanka, Students, Substance-Related Disorders