Characteristics of patients using psychoactive drugs in Karachi, Pakistan

Niloufer Sultan Ali, Aga Khan University
Ali Khan Khuwaja, Aga Khan University
Abdul Moeed Zafar, Aga Khan University



To assess the distribution of various characteristics related to use of psychoactive drugs and the differences by gender.


A case-series study was conducted at the out-patient clinic affiliated with a teaching hospital in Karachi, Pakistan. After taking consent to participate, 118 adult patients who visited these clinics for consultation for any reason and were taking psychoactive drug(s) were interviewed.


Over 40% of the study subjects were taking psychoactive drugs without an advice from their doctor. In all, 78% were taking psychoactive drugs for >6 months and 67% were using these drugs on a regular basis. Over 85% were using these for induction of sleep and 59% for relaxation. Seventy-five percent of study participants reported that they can afford these pills and over 46% were able to get these drugs easily; significantly more men compared to women (58% vs. 39%; difference of proportion = -19.7; 95% CI = -37, -1.5). All other studied characteristics were equally distributed among men and women.


In this study a substantial number of cases were using psychoactive drugs without doctors' advice. Patient education and health awareness sessions may be helpful in preventing inappropriate use of psychotropic drugs.