Prescription Drug Abuse and Diversion Among Adolescents in a Southeast Michigan School District

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Abstract

Objectives

To determine the prevalence of medical use of 4 classes of prescription medications relative to nonmedical use (illicit use), to examine the relative rates among the 4 drug classes, and to assess whether gender differences exist in the trading, selling, loaning, or giving away of medications.

Design

A Web-based survey was administered to 7th- to 12th-grade students residing in 1 ethnically diverse school district; a 68% response rate was achieved.

Setting

During a 3-week period in May 2005, teachers brought students to their schools' computing center where students took the survey using a unique personal identification number to sign on to the survey.

Participants

There were 1086 secondary students, including 586 girls, 498 boys, 484 black students, and 565 white students.

Main Outcome Measures

Students were asked about their medical and nonmedical use of sleeping, sedative or anxiety, stimulant, and pain medications. Diversion of prescription medication was assessed by determining who asked the student to divert his or her prescription and who received it.

Results

Thirty-six percent of students reported having a recent prescription for 1 of the 4 drug classes. A higher percentage of girls reported giving away their medications than boys (27.5% vs 17.4%, respectively; χ21 = 6.7; P = .01); girls were significantly more likely than boys to divert to female friends (64.0% vs 21.2%, respectively; χ21 = 17.5; P<.001) whereas boys were more likely than girls to divert to male friends (45.5% vs 25.6%, respectively; χ21 = 4.4; P = .04). Ten percent diverted their drugs to parents.

Conclusion

Physicians should discuss the proper use of prescription medications with their patients and their patients' families.

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