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Sharing medications common for adolescents

ATLANTA, GA., May 14, 2003 -- Some teenagers may be getting more than an education at school. A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the practice of adolescents borrowing and sharing medication is relatively common, especially among older teenage girls.

Researchers collected data from 764 girls and 804 boys as part of Youthstyles, a mail survey of adolescents ages 9 to 18 about health, attitudes on various issues, and media preferences.

Results of the study show about 20 percent of girls and 13 percent of boys borrowed or shared medications. Of the girls surveyed, nearly 16 percent said they borrowed prescription medications from others and more than 14 percent said they shared their prescription medication with someone else.

Many participants shared or borrowed medicine for more than a one time only, emergency use. Of girls ages 15 to 18, 7 percent said they shared medications more than three times. The girls reported they shared medications with others who had the same prescription for the same medicine, those with the same medical problem, or those who wanted something strong for pimples or oily skin. The likelihood of sharing increased with age.

Researchers say an adolescent who receives medication from a peer does not receive the appropriate information about the drug's actions and possible negative interactions with other medications. Certain drugs, known as tetrogens, are of special concern because they can cause birth defects on an unplanned or unrecognized pregnancy.

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SOURCE: Pediatrics, 2003;111:1167-1170

Posted: May 2003