The Global Distribution and Epidemiology of Psychoactive Substance Use and Injection Drug Use Among Street-Involved Children and Youth: A Meta-Analysis

Subst Use Misuse. 2023 Mar 16;1-19. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2023.2181036. Online ahead of print.


Background: Globally, street-involved children and youth (SICY) who work and live on/of the streets are at higher risk of increased psychoactive substances and injecting drug use. Objectives: The present study aimed to identify the prevalence, distribution, sociodemographic factors, and risk-taking behaviors associated with psychoactive substances and injecting drug use among SICY. Methods: Studies in English published from December 1 1985 to July 1 2022, were searched for on PubMed, Scopus, Cochrane, and Web of Science to identify primary studies on psychoactive substances and injecting drug use among SICY. The pooled-prevalence estimates were obtained using a robust fixed-effects model. Results: The most commonly reported life-time and current psychoactive substance was tobacco followed by cannabis, LSD/ecstasy, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and injection drug use. The results showed that life-time and current prevalence of methamphetamine and cannabis use, as well as life-time prevalence of cocaine, LSD/ecstasy, heroin, tobacco, and injecting drug use increased as age rose while current prevalence of cocaine and tobacco use decreased as age rose. SICY who were male, homeless, had parents who had died, had history of substance use among family members or best friends, had experienced violence, had casual sex partners, had a history of working in the sex trade, and had unprotected sex were all related to psychoactive substance use and injecting drug use. Conclusions: Research examining this population suffers from lack of studies, therefore, improving the knowledge for interventions aimed at reducing risk behaviors, particularly those related to the transmission of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV is of great importance.

Keywords: Street-involved children and youth; casual sex partner; injection drug use; psychoactive substances; sex trade; unprotected sex; violence.