Trends in child and teen nonprescription drug abuse reported to a regional poison control center

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Abstract

Purpose.

Trends in child and teen nonprescription drug abuse reported to a regional poison control center over a 10-year period were examined.

Methods.

Human exposures to toxic substances reported to the Utah Poison Control Center between January 1990 and December 1999 were reviewed. Cases were selected for analysis if the exposure involved a nonprescription drug, the patient was 6-19 years old, and the reason for exposure was intentional abuse. Frequencies and cross-tabulations were calculated to identify trends in nonprescription drug abuse.

Results.

There were 2214 reports of intentional drug abuse among children and teenagers 6-19 years old. Of those, 844 (38.1%) involved nonprescription drugs. The percentage of exposures involving nonprescription products varied every year and declined over time. Exposures were slightly more common in males (51.7%). The site of exposure was a residence in 65% of cases and a school in 10% of cases. The majority of patients with exposures (68.4%) were treated in a health care facility. The most common types of nonprescription medications abused were drugs with anticholinergic properties, caffeine, dextromethorphan, and nonprescription stimulants.

Conclusion.

Reports of the intentional abuse of nonprescription drugs by children and teenagers were common at a regional poison control center. There was significant variation in the type of nonprescription medication most commonly abused. The knowledge of these trends may assist public health policymakers, physicians, pharmacists, and child educators in their attempts to curb nonprescription drug abuse.

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