Problematic substance use is a major issue among children in street worldwide. Due to their stay in street and the harsh life they live, Palestinian children in street are at high risk to be either exposed to or directly involved in drug use or distribution.
The main objectives of this study is to characterize substance use among children in street and to describe the knowledge of and attitudes toward substance use among them and how their knowledge and attitudes relate to their substance use practices.
A total of 204 street children (10-17 years old) who work in 14 clusters in Tulkarm governorate in the North of the West Bank were recruited to participate in face -to -face survey from August to September 2015.
Sociodemographic results: The majority of surveyed children (60.8%) were in the age group of 10–15 years; 54.4 % live in refugee camps or in a village; 98.5 % were males; 44.6 % had dropped-out of school; and 8.3 % were illiterate, 51% had worked from 2-11 years and started working at age group 5-11 years.
Substance use practice, knowledge, and attitude: Tobacco use was the most common 44.6%, followed by alcohol 4% and then narcotic drugs 3%. The majority of the children 82.8 % had energy drink regularly (> 3 times/day) and 85% of them were also smokers. Moreover, 53% of the children were offered a narcotic drug, and the majority (50 %) were offered by a friend. Harmony with friends, curiosity, and experience are the most motives (65-80 %) for drug abusing or the intention for drug abusing; 83% agreed that they were knowledgeable about drug use most commonly (53%) from school or from family, 13% believed that nobody cares if they abuse narcotic drugs, 86.8% have an easy access to cigarettes, 43.1% to alcohol, and 38.7% to narcotic drugs. Most common drugs the children know were hashish and trip (72-75%) followed by spice, marijuana, cocaine (32-48%), and aphrodisiacs drugs such as viagra (27-39%).
Substance abuse is common among street children at early age in Palestine although they were knowledgeable about drug use. Harmony with friends and substance use by others family members and friends were the most motives to use or intend to use drugs. Overall, the results of this study demonstrate an urgent need to for the development of intervention and immediate attention from local authorities and families.