OBJECTIVE: To investigate and analyze the discourse of students living in university residence halls regarding socialization processes and drug consumption. METHODS: This was qualitative research among 20 undergraduate students living in university residence halls in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, in 2003. Residence halls were taken to be socialization spaces for young people that enable the presence of low-income students at university. The interviews covered students' knowledge of the history of the residence hall, their experience of living in student residences and their perceptions regarding drug consumption. The methodological procedure that served as the basis for collection, organization and analysis of the interview data was examination of the collective discourse of the subjects. RESULTS: It was shown that the students had little knowledge of the history of the residence hall; solutions for problems they faced in the residence hall were sought individually; and the two main concepts observed among the people living there for preventing drug consumption were war on drugs and damage limitation. It was seen that there was a negative view regarding student residence halls that related to the constant publication of disturbing events and lack of knowledge of the importance of residence halls for enabling poor students to remain at university. CONCLUSIONS: In the opinion of the people living in student residence halls, such accommodation enables access to university, despite the difficulties in living together and in administration by the university. With regard to the use of drugs in the residence hall, some of the people living there emphasized the need for less tolerance towards drug consumption, while others stressed the importance of educational work, particularly among those who are just starting to live there.
Social behavior; Students; Low-cost housing; Street drugs; Health knowledge; Health knowledge; Interviews; Qualitative research