Substance use prevention interventions for children and young people in Sub-Saharan Africa: A systematic review

Ogheneochuko Andrew Saba, Mason, Magaly Aceves Martins* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Different techniques and approaches have been used for substance use prevention worldwide. No reviews of prevention interventions in Africa exist; hence this study aimed to systematically review interventions undertaken in Sub-Saharan Africa to prevent substance use in children and young people.

MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Central, CAB, PsycINFO, CINAHL, SCOPUS, ERIC, and Web of Science databases were searched. Studies were included if they evaluated a substance use prevention intervention for children and young people in a Sub-Saharan African Country between 2000 and 2020. A narrative synthesis was used to explore and describe the data.

Eighteen studies, mostly from South Africa, were included. Most (10/18) of the interventions were school-based. Only two of the included studies were considered having a strong quality concerning the risk of bias, and some studies poorly reported the interventions. School-based interventions, although successful in improving knowledge, had little or no effects on substance use. Overall, most studies that reported a statistically significant reduction in substance use-related outcomes were brief interventions, individual-focused, and involved participants who were already exposed to substance use. These were mostly delivered by trained professionals using motivational interviewing or cognitive behavioural therapy or both.

School-based programs present an opportunity for substance use prevention efforts in the Sub-Saharan region in Africa. Such programs may benefit from an improved focus on individual students. There is a need for improving the quality of design, implementation, and reporting of substance use interventions within the region.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103251
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Early online date20 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

This research did not receive any funding. OAS received funding from the Niger Delta Development Commission (Nigeria) to do his MSc at the University of Aberdeen (UK).


  • Substance use
  • Prevention
  • Africa
  • Youth


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