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Daily Dose

Teen Drug Abuse Declines But Abuse Continues

There is good news to report from a national survey of teens on drug use. The survey conducted from 2001 to 2005 indicated that there was a 20 percent decline in illicit drug use. The bad new is that teens are abusing different drugs than in previous years.

 Over 3 million adolescents each year begin using either over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription drugs inappropriately, and pain relievers are quickly becoming a "gateway" drug similar to marijuana. The other alarming statistic is that these drugs account for up to 22 percent of new substance abuse, and many teens report that these "prescription" drugs are readily available in their homes. During the last five years the parental medicine cabinet has become the easiest place to get "high" just like the liquor cabinet of old. Parents need to be as aware, if not more so, of locking up their medications as well as the liquor. Teens these days would prefer to abscond with their parent’s vicodin rather than a bottle of vodka. With so many adults now on multiple medications including medications for sleep, anxiety, pain relief, mood disturbances and even attentional issues the family medicine cabinet has a plethora of choices. Opiods are becoming a drug of choice and about 5 percent of high school seniors reported initiating Oxycontin use in the last year, while 10 percent report having tried Vicodin. I went to my own medicine cabinet and looked to see what we had available. There was left over pain medication from one son's wisdom teeth extraction, and another bottle from a different son's shoulder injury secondary to football. There were also several tablets of sleep medication that is sometimes used for travel and a half used bottle of cough syrup with codeine. Beyond that not much interesting; just vitamins and a few random bottles of Tylenol and Advil. I must admit, I would not know if any of the pain pills went missing, as I really had no idea they were even there. Many adolescents view the "miss-use" of prescription medications as being "safer" than illicit drugs. The misconception that prescription drugs cannot become addictive or lead to the use of other illicit medications is a common problem with teens. It is almost as if their immature brains do not process that these drugs, which were not prescribed for them, can be just as addictive and even deadly as illegal drugs. Many of my adolescent patients will report "borrowing" a friend or roommate’s stimulant like Ritalin or adderall to pull an "all nighter" and think nothing of this. They also have often reported using narcotics in combination with alcohol, without realizing that this could be deadly. They often don't even know what they took, as they will just say, "it was the blue pill a friend gave me, and they told me it would help me relax". As illicit drug use declines, the discussion with teens regarding abuse of OTC or prescription medications is a reality. Telling our teens about the inappropriate use of pain medications is as important as the discussions regarding marijuana and cocaine. As parents we must take inventory of our medicine cabinets, keep medications locked up, not just to prevent poisoning in younger children, but also to prevent potential drug abuse among teens. I know of several instances where adult friends have reported medications missing from their bathroom cabinets after their teens had friends over for an evening. I am heading to my own cabinet to do a little New Years throw away (remember to dispose of medications properly too!) That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Your Teen

Growing Use of E-Cigarettes Among Teens


A new study says that e-cigarette use among teens is accelerating at a rapid pace, particularly in Hawaii. Nearly one-third of the high school students that took part in the study said they had tried e-cigarettes.

An e-cigarette is a device that turns nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals into an inhalable vapor. Many e-cigarettes are designed to resemble tobacco cigarettes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Researchers surveyed more than 1,900 teens in Hawaii. The average age was between 14 and 15 years old. The teens were in ninth and 10th grades, and from both public and private schools, according to the study. The survey assessed e-cigarette and cigarette use, alcohol and marijuana use, and psychosocial risk factors for substance use.

Twelve percent of the students reported using both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes. Seventeen percent had used only e-cigarettes and three percent used cigarettes only.

Study author Thomas Wills, interim director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at University of Hawaii Cancer Center, said his team was surprised by the research results in several ways.

"We had thought that persons who used e-cigarettes would look pretty much like smokers on the psychosocial variables we measured, like sensation seeking, impulsivity and peer smoking" he said. "It turned out that the students who only used e-cigarettes had a lower risk profile than smokers and dual users -- persons who use both cigarettes and e-cigarettes."

Electronic cigarettes hit the American market around 2006- 2007, after taking hold in China and Europe. According to the FDA’s website, it does not currently regulate these products, but has proposed extending its authority to cover additional products that meet the definition of a tobacco product under the proposed rule: Tobacco Products Deemed To Be Subject to the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (Deeming).

Forty-one states have laws forbidding the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and many cities in states that do not forbid the sale, have regulated the sales through ordinances.

E-cigarettes have helped many adults quit smoking tobacco cigarettes or cut-down on their use. What is stirring concern over the increase in use among teens is the worry that these products are creating a new generation of teens addicted to nicotine and possible health risks. Nicotine is an extremely difficult drug to quit.

"Kids will try any psychoactive device that seems interesting," said Dr. Norman Edelman, senior consultant for scientific affairs at the American Lung Association. "But the American Lung Association is very concerned about that because we think one of the major deleterious effects of e-cigarettes is hooking a whole generation of kids on this very addictive substance that is nicotine."

He noted that e-cigarettes are only one of many available "nicotine delivery devices," which also include items resembling pens or USB drives that release puffs of nicotine vapor.

Recent studies suggest that the overall use of e-cigarettes by teens in the mainland is lower than the results from the Hawaii study, but adolescent use continues to grow in popularity. 

The big question is, what are the long-term health risks of e-cigarettes and other nicotine vapor products? Since there is not any current government oversight on how these products are made, it’s difficult to know what other chemicals are being used in their production.

"Parents have to make it clear to kids that these things are not necessarily safe," Edelman said, "and to live a full and complete life, it would be good if they were drug-free."

Results of the study were published online on Dec. 15 in the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Maureen Salamon,

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New study reveals how much sleep kids really need.

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