Comparing nutrient intake and body weight status amongst adolescent substance users, institutionalised abstainers and never users

  • Tony Ka-chun Yung The Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Joseph Tak-fai Lau The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Keywords: young people; substance use; dietary intake; weight reduction; ketamine


Background: Improved nutrition intake in drug rehabilitation programmes enhances quality sobriety and prevents relapses. However, little is known about the nutritional status of substance users and institutionalised abstainers. Previous nutritional studies have mainly focused on methamphetamine, whereas ketamine has not been investigated despite its popularity amongst adolescents.

Objectives: To compare nutrient intake and underweight status amongst three groups of adolescents –current substance users, institutionalised abstainers and never users (controls) – and examine the association between ketamine use and nutrient intake.

Design: This is a cross-sectional questionnaire survey which was conducted using face-to-face interview. Substance users (n = 202) and never users (n = 100) were invited through the outreach social workers of three non-government organisations. Abstainers (n = 50) were recruited from three drug rehabilitation centres. Nutrient intake was assessed through two 24-h recalls. Other information collected included anthropometrics, socio-demographic characteristics and substance type used over the previous month.

Results: Only 20.8 and 15.9% of male and female substance users met the daily energy requirements. Male users were less likely to meet the recommended intake of energy [odds ratio (OR) = 0.37] and protein (OR = 0.10) than controls. Overall, abstainers had better intake of beneficial nutrients than substance users. However, abstainers were more likely to overconsume harmful nutrients, such as cholesterol and sodium. Regarding weight status, female substance users (56.1%) were more likely to be underweight than abstainers (14.8%) (OR = 8.85). Amongst underweight female substance users, 52.2% were still trying to lose more weight. Moreover, ketamine users tended to have lower intake of nutrients from animal sources than the users of other drugs.

Conclusions: Adolescent substance users are at risk of energy and nutrient inadequacy. Misconceptions about body weight are disseminating amongst them. The study findings provide valuable information for frontline workers taking care of young substance users and for institutions providing residential rehabilitation programmes.


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How to Cite
Yung TK- chun, Tak-fai Lau J. Comparing nutrient intake and body weight status amongst adolescent substance users, institutionalised abstainers and never users. fnr [Internet]. 2019Dec.19 [cited 2020Feb.29];630. Available from:
Original Articles