Many U.S. teens abuse controlled medications

NEW YORK Mon Aug 1, 2011 10:27pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - More than one in five teens who get strong painkillers, stimulants or other controlled medications from their doctor take too much of the substances, in some cases deliberately doing so to get high, according to a study.

Taking too high a dose risks dangerous side effects, but as many as 10 percent use them that way intentionally, the study in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine said.

"There has been an increase in the prescribing of controlled substances in the last 15 years, but there has also been an increase in the non-medical use of these substances," said Sean Esteban McCabe from the University of Ann Arbor in Michigan, who worked on the survey.

McCabe and his colleagues used a Web-bsed survey to test teenagers' use of four groups of controlled medications they had received from their doctors, included sleeping pills such as Ambien, antianxiety medications such as Xanac, stimulants like Ritalin and opioid painkillers such as OxyContin.

Overall, 18 percent of nearly 2,600 students from Detroit-area middle and high schools said they had used one such drug to treat a medical condition over the past year.

Painkillers were the most common, followed by stimulants and sleeping pills. Overuse was especially common with sleeping pills, which 42 percent of users took in quantities higher than the prescribed dose and 17 percent used to get high.

Teens who strayed from the doctors' prescriptions were more likely to smoke, binge drink and use illegal drugs than those who followed medical instructions.

They also sold or gave away their medicine more often, with a third saying they'd given or loaned their drugs to others at some point. That was three times as many as teens who didn't misuse their medications.

"Kids are most likely to get medications that are not prescribed to them from their peers," McCabe told Reuters Health, adding that the majority of teens get the controlled substances for free.

Though the study showed that the majority of teens used their medications correctly, McCabe said it also suggested that stricter monitoring may be needed.

"Parents play an important role. The big take-home here is that it is important to step up monitoring of adolescents and to prescribe the appropriate amount of medications, he added. SOURCE: bit.ly/qXLcYC

(Reporting by Frederik Joelving at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies)

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