Prevalences and perceptions of licit and illicit drugs among New South Wales secondary school students, 1989

Aust J Public Health. 1992 Mar;16(1):43-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.1992.tb00024.x.


This paper presents findings on drug prevalences for licit and illicit drugs among New South Wales secondary school students (n = 3753) in late 1989. It also considers the accuracy of students' perceptions of the drug causing the most and fewest drug-related deaths. Data were analysed by age and gender, using logistic regression for the prevalence data. Findings indicate that licit drugs (tobacco, alcohol and analgesics) were the most frequently and widely used. Rates for illicit drugs were low, although there was some degree of experimental use of cannabis which increased amongst older males. Perceptions were found to be inaccurate in emphasising the dangers of the illicit drug heroin over those of the licit drugs tobacco and alcohol. Reasons for these findings are discussed, and more in-depth research recommended into the relationship between drug prevalences and perceptions for different age groups, and its relevance for planning drug prevention initiatives.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / mortality
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control


  • Illicit Drugs