Teens often take prescription drugs prescribed for peers

Caregivers have been prescribing psychotropic medication for adolescents in increasing numbers. Although the prescriptions may be appropriate, sometimes the medication ends up in the hands of people other than the intended patients, reports the July 2007 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter. In fact, surveys show that about 1 teenager in 10 uses prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes.

In a recent survey of more than 1,000 middle and high school students, researchers sought to find out how often drugs were diverted and how they were used. In the study, up to 60% of students receiving legitimate prescriptions had been approached to divert their medications. About 1 in 10 traded medication. A smaller proportion sold it, and as many as 25% gave it to friends or family members.

There is still much to learn about the motivation and context of all this sharing and trading, says the Harvard Mental Health Letter. We do know that not all rerouting is for recreation. Often the aim seems to be relief of pain, anxiety, or insomnia.

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