Drug use among persons with special needs is affected by many interacting factors that are relatively poorly researched. It is known that the abuse and dependence on licit and illicit drugs lead to lower quality of life with complex physical and mental health problems of the individual and have consequences for the family and the society. Therefore, it is important to identify early risk factors in individuals with special needs, which predict the possibility of harmful drug use, and thus prevent medical and social complications. Research of drug use and identifying risk factors and protective factors among persons with special needs are helpful in designing prevention programs and assistance programs for people with disabilities.
The purpose of the study was to identify protective factors and risk factors that increase the potential for harmful drug use in people with special needs. In the survey, we focused on the issues of the prevalence and frequency of drug use, attitudes towards drugs, knowledge about drugs, access to drugs, use of drugs at friends’ homes and the connection of family, school and neighbourhood with the drug use.
We used validated research methodologies about the frequency of drug use (ESPAD methodology of determining the prevalence and frequency of drug use and drug use factors, AUDIT screening questionnaire identifying risky alcohol use, MSS instrument for determining the profile of risk factors and protective factors), which were adjusted to the research of the selected population of persons with disabilities.
The research included 476 people with disabilities aged 15 years and older, who were divided according to the requirements of the methodology into two samples, a representative sample and an unrepresentative sample. The representative sample included 234 people with long-term illnesses and people who are physically impaired. The unrepresentative sample consisted of 242 individuals who are blind, visually impaired, hearing impaired or physically impaired.
The two samples were observed after a unified questionnaire with variables relating to the frequency of use and harmful use of drugs, the degree of risky alcohol use, drug use motives, scale positions attitudes towards drugs, drug accessibility and variables of risk factors and protective factors. We used quantitative statistical methods, and descriptive and multivariate analysis.
The survey showed that the most commonly used drugs are alcohol and tobacco, followed by marijuana, painkillers and sedatives, which were not prescribed by a doctor. People use drugs for personal and social motives. Personal motives of use drug are associated with the reduction of tensions and internal conflicts. Social motives ofl use drug are associated with increase of relaxed social integration.
With the help of the factor structure we confirmed factor variables that indicate the risk factors and the protective factors. We have found risk factors of drug use in groups of persons with special needs that are associated with body image, reducing distress due to the specific needs and integration into the society.
The results of the survey highlighted the problem of harmful use and addiction in people with special needs, which is poorly researched worldwide. We have shown only those risk factors and protective factors that help us to establish guidelines and recommendations for preventive work in the field of drugs. Preventive interventions should be focused on developing life skills and empowerment of life of people with special needs.