Prescription Med "Sharing" Common For Teens
> 8/28/2009 7:00:53 PM

The most significant trend in teen drug use doesn't concern street hybrids or designer club drugs but FDA-approved prescription meds. A number of reports published over the last few years named the medicine cabinet as the source of the big drug craze, and new research bears this claim out.
In a survey involving nearly 600 Americans aged 12 to 17, 1 in 5 reported "sharing" drugs by either giving their own pills out to friends and classmates or accepting prescription meds from others. Handing out prescription stimulants or opiates is obviously not at all like giving a friend an advil for his headache. But too many teens and young adults not only accept this practice, they also fail to see its inherent danger. The meds mentioned most often in the survey include some very dangerous drugs: in addition to anti-allergy meds and acne drugs like accutane, kids reported handing out powerful anesthetics like Oxycontin and Darvocet as well as various anti-anxiety pills. An independent report also names ADHD stimulant drugs like Ritalin as a prime area of concern, noting that emergency hotline calls relating to ADHD drug abuse have risen by 76% in the last 8 years alone.
This general lack of knowlege is disturbing.  Half of those who said they'd shared others' drugs received no instructions on their proper usage but took them anyway. In fact, a vast majority of those who reported taking meds from friends said they did this instead of seeing a doctor for related health issues. Apparently, thousands of stressed American teens approach their medicated classmates for "treatment" in the form of anti-anxiety drugs that they've never taken and don't properly understand. This sort of behavior reflects the larger abuse and addiction phenomenon in that self-medication is a key motivator for conventional addicts who come to believe that their substance of choice will solve, rather than complicate, their health problems.
Why would these kids believe such reckless behavior to be acceptable or risk-free? Probably because no one, be it a parent, teacher or medical professional, has outlined the inherent dangers for them. This is not suprising: previous research suggests that a large share of adults (40% in some studies) have traded meds as well. And just as the kids of alcoholic parents are more likely to drink themselves, those who see their parents treat prescription medications like OTCs will probably believe it to be an acceptable practice.

Most sharing incidents will not have tragic outcomes: one dose of a friend or relative's prescription sleep aid will almost certainly not turn a teen into a slobbering addict. But the practice must be discouraged in every case because the social acceptance of such behaviors opens metaphorical flood gates. Some of the adolescents who take drugs not intended for them will inevitably experience negative side effects/allergic reactions, develop addictions or suffer overdoses. We must do all we can to avoid this outcome. Public health campaigns may be worthwhile, but they cannot be as effective as the personal warnings of a parent or doctor.

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