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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 132-138

Factors associated with 12-month psycho-active substance use among police officers in Kano Metropolis, Kano, Nigeria

1 Nigeria Police Medical Services, Nigeria Police Academy, Wudil-Kano, Nigeria
2 Department of Community Medicine, College of Health Sciences, Bayero University Kano/Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano, Nigeria
3 Department of Community Medicine, Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital; Department of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology, College of Health Sciences, Bayero University Kano/Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano, Nigeria

Date of Submission05-Oct-2021
Date of Decision26-Jun-2022
Date of Acceptance30-Jun-2022
Date of Web Publication23-Nov-2022

Correspondence Address:
Fatimah I Tsiga-Ahmed
Department of Community Medicine, College of Health Sciences Bayero University Kano/Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/njbcs.njbcs_56_21

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Context: Substance use is a widely recognized and pressing public health issue with grave consequences. It is important to prevent mishaps of substance use among the police. Aim: This study assessed the prevalence and factors associated with 12-month psycho-active substance use among police officers in Kano, Nigeria. Settings and Design: A cross-sectional study was conducted among police officers serving within metropolitan Kano. Methods and Materials: Pre-validated, adapted, semi-structured questionnaires were used to collect socio-demographic, work-related data and information on psycho-active substance use. Statistical Analysis Used: Multi-variate logistic regression modeling was used to determine factors associated with psycho-active substance use. All analyses were performed using STATA/IC 15.0. Results: Among 275 officers with a mean age of 35.1 ± 7.7 years, 14.9% (n = 41) recently used one or more psycho-active substances within the last 12 months, and tobacco was the most commonly used (n = 41, 100%). A lower likelihood of substance use was found among officers who were in their fifth decade of life (aOR = 0.29, 95% CI: 0.10–0.55), had tertiary education (aOR = 0.32, 95% CI: 0.14–0.77), were inspectors (aOR = 0.15, 95% CI: 0.16–0.61), were at the rank of ASP or higher (aOR = 0.58, 95% CI: 0.30–0.78), and had been in service between 16 and 20 years (aOR = 0.23, 95% CI: 0.11–0.65). Conclusion: Demographic and work-related characteristics influence the use of psycho-active substances among police officers in Nigeria. There is a need to revamp existing substance monitoring strategies to avoid catastrophic consequences of substance use among the society's gatekeepers.

Keywords: Determinants, Nigeria, police, psycho-active substance

How to cite this article:
Kwaghe KJ, Tsiga-Ahmed FI, Amole TG, Bello MM, Jalo RI, Kwaku AA, Ibrahim UI, Abdullahi HM, Aminu A. Factors associated with 12-month psycho-active substance use among police officers in Kano Metropolis, Kano, Nigeria. Niger J Basic Clin Sci 2022;19:132-8

How to cite this URL:
Kwaghe KJ, Tsiga-Ahmed FI, Amole TG, Bello MM, Jalo RI, Kwaku AA, Ibrahim UI, Abdullahi HM, Aminu A. Factors associated with 12-month psycho-active substance use among police officers in Kano Metropolis, Kano, Nigeria. Niger J Basic Clin Sci [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Mar 21];19:132-8. Available from: https://www.njbcs.net/text.asp?2022/19/2/132/361894

  Introduction Top

A substance is defined as any psycho-active compound with the potential to cause health and social problems, including addiction.[1] Substance use is a global incident, affecting almost every country. Across the globe, in 2017, 5.5% of individuals between 15 and 64 years (271 million) had used drugs in the previous year, of which 53.4 million were users of opioids.[2] In Nigeria, the prevalence of drug use among people aged between 15 and 64 years was 14.4% in 2017.[3] Harmful use of substances is one of the leading risk factors affecting population health worldwide.[4] The 2018 World Drug report stated that in 2017, across the globe, 585,000 people died from complications of drug use, and 35 million people suffer from drug use disorders.[2]

Police work is perhaps one of the most stressful jobs characterized by grief-stricken and traumatizing incidents. Studies have shown that stress has a strong positive effect on substance use.[5],[6] Given the hectic nature of police life, people in the police force are vulnerable to psycho-active substance use. Some police officers reported substance use as a means to reduce stress, hide their vulnerability, and socialize and blend in with their colleagues.[7] Varying figures on substance use have been reported among police in different countries. In Bosnia–Herzegovina, cannabis was the most common illegal drug used by Spanish military police (36.2%), 14.9% of them used cocaine, and amphetamines were used by 12.1%.[8] Among military police units in the Brazilian state of Goiás, use was reported by 2.34%.[9] A similar study from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, reported the use of tranquillizers in the past year (13.3% by civil police and 10.1% by military police). The consumption of marijuana among officers was 0.1% by civil police and 1.1% by military police, and cocaine use among the military police was 1.1%.[10]

In Uganda, 19.2% of the surveyed country's police met the criteria for alcohol use disorder, and 26.0% met the criteria for alcohol use problems.[11] Although substance use has been reported across various occupations in Nigeria, use among police officers is yet to be documented. Among soldiers from a southwestern state, 6.7% were engaged in non-medical prescription opioid use (NMPOU), and 3.6% had non-medical prescription opioid use disorder (NMPOUD).[12] The prevalence of lifetime cannabis use was 13.5%, and the 12-month use was 6.8%.[13] The lifetime alcohol use was 76.0%, and the 12 month prevalence was 53.9%.[14]

Our study seeks to assess the prevalence of recent substance use (12-month use) among police officers in Kano, Nigeria. Considering the repercussions of substance use among police, who are the gatekeepers of security in every community, findings from this study would provide data upon which preventive measures can be developed to ensure that there are no accidents resulting from substance use.

  Methods Top

Study setting

Kano is one of the 36 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and it is in the Northwest geo-political zone of the country. The state has a 2020 estimated population of 13,699,563 projected at 2.6% per annum growth from the 2006 census.[15] Kano state consists of 44 local Government areas, of which eight are regarded as metropolitan. There are six police area commands within the metropolis. Each area command comprises between five and eight divisions, headed by a Divisional Police Officer (DPO).

Study design/Sampling

A cross-sectional survey of a sample of police officers serving in the area commands within Kano metropolis was conducted. Police officers were sampled using a three-stage sampling approach. First, from the six area commands within the Kano metropolis, two commands were randomly selected. We then selected two divisions from each chosen area command through balloting. All police officers serving in the four divisions selected were invited to participate in the study. Our study size was estimated based on requirements for the sample size of a single proportion.[16] We used a national prevalence of 14.4%,[3] a statistical power of 80%, and a precision of 0.05. The estimated sample size was increased by 10% to account for non-response giving a total of 210.

Study population

All serving police officers who were available during the study period and consented were surveyed. Severely sick officers and those who were on leave were excluded. Participation was entirely voluntary.

Data collection

Data were collected from 274 police officers between May 3 and July 31, 2019. An adapted,[17] semi-structured, pre-tested, self-administered questionnaire was used to obtain information on the socio-demographic characteristics of the respondents and the prevalence and pattern of substance abuse. Questionnaires were handed out to the officers during their breaks, and submission was into a designated box from which they were retrieved daily.

Substance use

For this study, the use of any prescription or over-the-counter drug for non-medical reasons and the use of any illegal substance or tobacco and alcohol were regarded as substance use. 'Recent use or 12 months use' (last-12-months prevalence) was defined as any substance use during the past 12 months, whereas 'lifetime use' (lifetime prevalence/experience) was defined as any substance use during the respondent's life.

Substance use was assessed using questions L1, L2, L3, and L4 from the drug section (section L) of version 2.1 of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI-Core).[17] Answers were dichotomized as “Yes” or “No”. The questionnaire made a list of substances available, and respondents were expected to choose either yes or no for use. Respondents also provided information to write out other substances that were not in the list. Answering 'yes' to any of the questions was regarded as “substance use”.

Explanatory variables

These were mainly socio-demographic and work-related characteristics of the respondents.

Statistical analysis

All analyses were performed using STATA/IC version 15.0 (Stata Corp, College Station, TX, USA).

Mean and standard deviation were used to summarize numeric data. Frequencies and percentages were obtained for categorical variables. As appropriate, Pearson's Chi-square or Fisher's exact test was used to assess the association between socio-demographic and work-related variables and current substance use. The type I error was fixed at 5% for all tests. Binary logistic regression models were developed for recent substance use, and independent variables with P < 0.10 at the bivariate level were included in the logistic regression model. Adjusted odds ratios (aORs) and their 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were used to measure the strength and direction of the effect of factors independently associated with recent substance use.

Ethical approval

Ethical approval was obtained from the Kano State Health Research Ethics Committee (Reference – MOH/Off/797/T.I/1254), and permission was obtained from Nigeria Police headquarters, Bompai, Kano (Reference – AB: 3380/KNS/DFA/VOL. 2/267). Signed informed consent was obtained from all the respondents.

  Results Top

A total of 275 police officers participated in this study. The respondents ranged from 20 to 58 years, with a mean age (±SD) of 35.1 ± 7.7 years. Almost half of the respondents (n = 128, 46.5%) were in the age range of 30–39 years, with 25.5% (n = 70) in their third decade. The majority were males (n = 256, 93.1%), and 68.4% were of the Hausa tribe (n = 229). A greater part (n = 247, 89.8%) of the participants were Muslims, and 64% (n = 176) were married. More than half of the respondents (n = 170, 61.8%) had secondary education, and a sizeable number (n = 110, 40.0%) were sergeants. Only 8.7% (n = 24) of the respondents had a history of deployment outside Nigeria (n = 42). The socio-demographic and workplace characteristics of the participants are shown in [Table 1].
Table 1: Socio-demographic and workplace characteristics of respondents, Kano, Nigeria

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Prevalence and pattern of psycho-active substance use among police officers

Fifteen percent of the police officers (n = 41) admitted to using one or more psycho-active substances recently, and the lifetime prevalence of substance use was 34.1% (n = 75). All recent users (n = 41) reported tobacco use, and 51.2% (n = 21) used alcohol. Cannabis was used by 48.8% (n = 20) of the respondents, and 39.0% (n = 16) used cocaine. Almost half (n = 18, 43.9%) of the respondents said that they used substances 3 or 4 days a week, ten officers (24.4%) used substances on 1–2 days a week, and eight police officers (19.5%) used it almost every day. Almost a fifth (n = 8, 19.5%) indicated using substances while on duty, and 22.0% of the respondents (n = 9) admitted to having used more than one substance at a time [Table 2].
Table 2: Pattern of substance use among police officers, Kano, Nigeria

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Factors associated with psycho-active substance use among police officers

At the bivariate level, respondents' age, number of children, educational qualification, years in service, and present rank were found to be significantly associated with substance use (P < 0.05) [Table 3].
Table 3: Factors associated with substance use among police officers, Kano, Nigeria

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[Table 4] summarizes the logistic regression findings between the study's independent variables and substance use. Factors independently associated with substance use were respondents' age, educational qualification, years in service, and present rank. Odds of substance use were lower among officers in their fifth decade of life compared to those in the third decade (aOR = 0.29, 95% CI: 0.10–0.55) compared to those in their third decade. Similarly, respondents who were educated up to the tertiary level were also 70% less likely to use substances compared to those whose highest education was a secondary school (aOR = 0.32, 95% CI: 0.14–0.77). Compared to respondents who were presently constables, Inspectors (aOR = 0.15, 95% CI: 0.16–0.61) and Assistant Superintendents of Police (ASPs) and higher ranks (aOR = 0.58, 95% CI: 0.30–0.78) were found to have a lower odds of substance use. Respondents who were in police service between 16 and 20 years were also less likely to use substances compared to those who had been in service for 5 years or less (aOR = 0.23 95%, CI: 0.11–0.65).
Table 4: Logistic regression model for factors associated with substance use among police officers, Kano, Nigeria

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  Discussion Top

This study found a relatively high lifetime and 12-month prevalence of psycho-active substance use among police officers in Kano, with almost half of users reporting usage on at least 3–4 days a week. Tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis were the most frequently used substances, and over a quarter reported poly-substance use.

Age, educational qualification, years in service, and present ranks were independently associated with substance use. The prevalence of substance use reported here is much higher than that reported from a zonal survey,[18] and a similar study among Brazilian police,[9] but comparable to the national prevalence reported by the United Nations Office on Drugs in 2018 and the figure found among Polish soldiers.[3],[19] This may be because regional surveys often have higher sample sizes and may include individuals with a lower risk of substance use, thus giving a lower prevalence in the general public. Additionally, the stressful events which predispose individuals to partake in the consumption of these substances vary among the populace. Contextual differences between Nigeria and Brazil may also exist, and operational definitions of 'substance use' between the studies vary.

Analogous to our findings, tobacco and alcohol, individually or in combination, have been consistently reported as the most frequently used substances in different populations within Nigeria.[20],[21],[22],[23],[24] This finding may not be unrelated to the fact that both are legalized substances, readily available, and sold everywhere. Moreover, tobacco use has been shown to increase the use of alcohol, cannabis, and other substances in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Iran, Wales, USA, and Australia.[25],[26],[27],[28],[29],[30],[31] Studies have also reported a strong relationship between alcohol and marijuana and an even stronger association between marijuana and tobacco.[32],[33] It is not uncommon to find out that the use of other substances began with smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, with the fact that these are legal substances which are more accessible. In Norway, the use of cannabis was found to complement alcohol consumption, and in Germany, a tenth of alcohol users transitioned to the use of other substances over time.[34],[35] This can also be bolstered by the fact that a sizeable number of the users practiced poly-substance use.

Akin to other studies, our results also revealed that cannabis and cocaine were used quite commonly.[3],[8],[9],[18] This is not unusual, with the fact that the amount of cocaine seized in 2017 was 74% higher than that seized in the past decade and cannabis is by far the most widely cultivated and trafficked substance globally.[2] Although planting or growing cannabis is considered a serious offence in Nigeria, it is grown widely throughout the country. Further, the average daily expenditure of N363 ($0.90) on cannabis, as reported among users in Nigeria,[3] is less than 1% of the minimum monthly wage for a police officer in the country, thus promoting affordability and improving use. Additionally, the use of cannabis is reported to be much higher among urban residents and the male gender.[18] Our study population was entirely urban, with 93.1% males.

About a fifth of the officers used more than one substance simultaneously or concurrently. Higher proportions of multiple substance use were reported among a much younger population of secondary schools and a University in Nigeria and from adolescents in USA.[36],[37],[38] The disparities in the results could be attributed to the difference in age groups of the participants. The poly-substance use observed in this study was higher among younger officers. Curiosity may drive individuals to try out different substances at a young age.

Our results show that a younger age increased the odds of substance use even after adjusting for education, rank, years in service, ethnic group, marital status, and history of ever-seeking help. Studies have documented an increase in health-compromising behavior in the younger age groups relative to the older population.[39],[40],[41],[42] There is also evidence that the pattern of risky behavior changes as individuals grow older.[43] Perhaps, the young police officers newly exposed to the organizational and traumatic stressors of work seek solace in substances. This could explain why police officers with fewer years of service in this study also had a higher prevalence of substance use. Findings from a study suggested that the police service and training process introduced recruits to alcohol consumption.[44] Our results are in tandem with studies outside the police force, which found a higher prevalence of substance use among younger individuals.[45],[46]

Consistent with reports from Iran[47] and Thailand,[42] a lower educational status was found to influence substance use in this study. Education is often considered a fundamental determinant of health and an essential marker of socio-economic status. Officers with a tertiary degree have higher ranks, more resources, and increased access to health information. On the other hand, lower police ranks may predispose officers to more physical and psychosocial risks leading to substance use. Furthermore, the communities within which these lower ranks reside may increase their access to different substances. A study found that disadvantaged and middle-class neighborhoods increased the risk of substance abuse among younger residents.[48] Another study revealed that the influence of neighborhood on substance abuse might operate through an increase in the frequency of stressful life events in neighborhoods with low levels of income and education, followed by the use of substances to cope with these events, differential availability of substances in these settings, and insufficient resources to overcome substance use once initiated.[49]

As with all studies, the findings from this study must be viewed within the context of its strengths and limitations. The cross-sectional nature of this study signifies that definitive conclusions about the direction of associations between study variables cannot be made, and relationships do not denote causality. Additionally, substance use was assessed via self-reporting, and no confirmatory test or independent source of information was available to confirm the actual status of the participants. Although some users may not wish to disclose their actual state, it is unlikely that non-users would present themselves as users. Nonetheless, a minimal effect of this is expected as the assessment tool was a standard self-administered tool.

This study underscores the burden of psychoactive substance use among police officers in Nigeria and shows that demographic and work-related characteristics influence its use. To our knowledge, this is the first study that identifies factors independently associated with substance use among Nigerian police. Evaluating psycho-active substance use among police officers is critically important to prevent addiction with its attendant psycho-social consequences and promote public safety. Our findings indicate the need for the Nigerian Police Force to re-evaluate the organization's strategies in routine substance use monitoring, especially among high-risk officers. Periodic confirmatory urinary and blood testing should be the norm. There is also a need to strengthen substance education and counselling, support and refer users to treatment facilities, and re-integrate rehabilitated users into suitable units. A collaboration involving more police units and commands from different geographical parts of the country may provide more robust findings.


The Nigerian Police Headquarters, Kano.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]


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