The epidemiology of substance use among street children in resource-constrained settings: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Lonnie Embleton, Ann Mwangi, Rachel Vreeman, David Ayuku, Paula Braitstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

48 Scopus citations


Aims: To compile and analyze critically the literature published on street children and substance use in resource-constrained settings. Methods: We searched the literature systematically and used meta-analytical procedures to synthesize literature that met the review's inclusion criteria. Pooled-prevalence estimates and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated using the random-effects model for life-time substance use by geographical region as well as by type of substance used. Results: Fifty studies from 22 countries were included into the review. Meta-analysis of combined life-time substance use from 27 studies yielded an overall drug use pooled-prevalence estimate of 60% (95% CI=51-69%). Studies from 14 countries contributed to an overall pooled prevalence for street children's reported inhalant use of 47% (95% CI=36-58%). This review reveals significant gaps in the literature, including a dearth of data on physical and mental health outcomes, HIV and mortality in association with street children's substance use. Conclusions: Street children from resource-constrained settings reported high life-time substance use. Inhalants are the predominant substances used, followed by tobacco, alcohol and marijuana.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1722-1733
Number of pages12
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013



  • Homeless youth
  • Resource-constrained settings
  • Street children
  • Substance use
  • Systematic review
  • Volatile solvent use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Medicine(all)

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