Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Substance Use & Misuse 51:7 (2016), pp. 922–931.

doi: 10.3109/10826084.2016.1156702


Copyright © 2016 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Used by permission.


Background: High rates of substance use have been reported among youth in Zambia. This is particularly concerning given that substance use is one of the biggest risk factors placing young people at risk for HIV infection. Objectives: The purpose of the current study is to examine how multilevel risk and protective factors (i.e., community, family, peers, individual) influence alcohol and marijuana use. Methods: A total of 250 street youth in Lusaka, Zambia, were interviewed in the summer of 2014 about their alcohol and marijuana use and reasons for usage. Data were analyzed using descriptive and multivariate methods. Results: Youth reported high rates of alcohol use. At the multivariate level, peer- and individual-level variables (e.g., using alcohol or drugs for coping or for fun) explained the most variance, followed by family-level factors. Community-level variables explained the least variance in all models. Conclusion/Importance: A better understanding of multilevel risk and protective factors for young people’s alcohol and marijuana use could lead to the development of better intervention strategies to reduce this behavior among Zambian street youth.