About 20 percent of U.S. teens exchange prescription drugs such as antibiotics and allergy medications with friends, a practice that can be dangerous and potentially deadly, warns a new study.
For example, a teen who's taking the acne medication Accutane -- which has been linked to birth defects -- may give some to a friend who is pregnant but doesn't yet realize it, the researchers said.
They interviewed 592 adolescents, aged 12 to 17, and asked them if they'd ever "borrowed" or "loaned" a prescription drug. If so, the teens were asked what kind(s) of drugs were exchanged, if they gave or received any warnings or instructions with the medications, and about outcomes.
Besides finding that about a fifth of those surveyed had swapped a prescription medication with a friend, the study also found that almost a third of teens who took a "borrowed" prescription didn't tell their doctor. That type of situation can lead to unforeseen drug interactions, according to lead author Richard Goldsworthy, director for research and development at Academic Edge, Inc. and colleagues.
"Other researchers have studied people selling prescription drugs, but we looked at people with good intentions, trying, for instance, to help a friend who lacked money or transportation for a doctor's visit," co-author Chris Mayhorn, an associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University, said in a news release from the Center for the Advancement of Health.
The study appears online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
The findings are important "for physicians, prevention coalitions, school counselors, parents and the youth themselves," Melissa Haddow, director of the Community Partnership of the Ozarks, said in the news release.
Previous studies found that almost 40 percent of U.S. adults "loan" or "borrow" prescription drugs.
The Nemours Foundation has more about teens and prescription drugs.
SOURCE: Center for the Advancement of Health, news release, Aug. 10, 2009
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