Egypt's Ministry of Health has released the results of its latest study on the mental health of high school students, indicating that nearly 30 percent of students suffer from physiological problems, with 21 percent having experienced suicidal thoughts.
The study said that 29.8 percent of students in the survey suffered psychological problems, including anxiety, tension, speech defects and depression, while 19.9 percent had resorted to a psychiatrist or sought psychological assistance.
Among the responses to psychological problems among students was the illegal use of drugs, while large numbers also reported smoking cigarettes.
The study, conducted as part of the ministry's mental health and physiological services program, is the first focused on high-school students since 2011. It surveyed a representative sample of 10,000 students aged between 14 and 17 years old from schools in three areas: Cairo; Monoufeya governorate in the Nile Delta; and Assiut governorate in Upper Egypt.
Covering various educational sectors, 41.2 percent of those sampled were males, while 58.8 percent were females.
The study revealed that 1.5 percent students were involved in regular drug use, with greater drug use in Cairo and the Nile Delta than in Upper Egypt.
According to the study, the most widely used substances over the past year were cannabis and commonly used medical sedatives such as benzodiazepine derivatives.
Those students taking drugs gave several reasons for their drug use: 3.6 percent cited personal problems; 3.3 percent used drugs to increase concentration; 40 percent to treat tension; 2.7 percent out of curiosity; 35 percent due to emotional problems; and 24.9 percent due to problems within their families.
As for smoking rates, the study revealed 8 percent of smokers among high-school students, with 45 percent of them starting to smoke between 11 and 14 years of age.
Drug abuse among high-school students has been a rising challenge in Egyptian society in recent years, with many awareness campaigns and studies targeting the issue.
A recent study by the Addiction Treatment and Abuse Fund, conducted in 2017 on 5,000 high-school students from 13 governorates, said that 7.7 percent of students abuse drugs, 8.3 percent use alcohol, while smoking rates among those students sampled stood at 12.8 percent.