The use of drugs by street children and adolescents is a problem found in most large cities around the world.
This is a cross-sectional study of street children and adolescents living in shelters in the Federal District, Brazil. An objective questionnaire was applied to 84 individuals from September 2016 to October 2017; 14 of them participated in the qualitative study.
Most participants were adolescents (84.5%) and males (64.3%), with a history of abandonment, domestic violence, and family drug abuse. All spent some time on the street; boys had a higher chance of being behind the school level and using drugs than girls. Over 60% had used drugs in the previous year, mainly alcohol and marijuana. Over 70% understand the health consequences of this behavior, but most have never tried or failed to stop. About 40% consider themselves dependent on drugs.
The results showed that street-life experience, peer pressure, and exposure to drugs within the family had an important impact on respondent’s drug use behavior, reinforcing the importance of education programs that focus on the family.