Substance abuse prevalent among adolescents with chronic medical conditions

1. Adolescents with chronic medical conditions reporting alcohol consumption were more like to forget and intentionally skip medications.

2. Adolescents unaware of their medication’s interactions with alcohol were more likely to be drinkers than non-drinkers.

Study Rundown: While the onset and use of alcohol and marijuana is prevalent among all youth, its abuse has not been specifically explored in adolescents with chronic medical conditions. This group is especially relevant given that 1 in 4 United States adolescents are now living with a chronic medical condition, and since alcohol and marijuana have the potential to adversely affect medication regimens and laboratory results. This study surveyed adolescents with chronic medical conditions, and found significant use of both alcohol and marijuana. While approximately half of the adolescents correctly identified that alcohol can interfere with their medications, less adolescents were aware of alcohol’s interference with laboratory testing. The study additionally found that adolescents engaging in alcohol consumption were more likely to either forget or skip their medications compared to those who did not drink. Almost all adolescents who smoked marijuana additionally engaged in alcohol consumption.

Click to read the study in Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Adolescents with a chronic condition: challenges living, challenges treating

In-Depth [cross-sectional study]: At total of 403 adolescents from 4 clinics in the Boston, Massachusetts area were surveyed. Enrollees were between the ages of 9 to18 years, had been diagnosed with a chronic medical condition (type 1 diabetes mellitus, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, moderate persistent asthma, cystic fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease) for at least 1 year, and were medically and emotionally stable on day of survey administration. The computer-based survey consisted of 57 to 281 questions, differing between participants due to programmed skip logic. The survey found that 36.5% of youths reported past-year alcohol use, 13% past-year binge alcohol drinking, and 20% past-year marijuana use. Each participant’s therapeutic regimen was cross-checked for potential interactions with alcohol; 53% correctly answered that alcohol can interfere with their own medication, and 37% correctly answered that it can interfere with their laboratory tests. Adolescents unaware of their medication interference were 8.53 times more likely to be alcohol drinkers than non-drinkers. Drinkers were 1.79 times more likely to forget medications, and 1.61 times more likely to intentionally skip medications compared to non-drinkers. Seventeen percent of enrollees, and 21% of high school enrollees reported past-year marijuana use.

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