We all like it when our kids share. But there are certain acts of generosity that we're not so crazy about — like the sharing of germs, bad habits… and prescription meds.
Researchers conducted a survey of 592 kids between the ages of 12 and 17 and found that 20 percent of them share their meds, while another 20 percent admit to borrowing them. Because it's a survey, remember that this is the number that will admit to it – which means the real number is likely higher.
I'll be honest here – I wasn't surprised when I read about this in August in the Journal of Adolescent Health, but it's probably a real eye-opener for many adults – especially parents.
The survey found that kids most often share allergy meds and powerful painkillers, but they also "prescribe" each other antibiotics, antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds, among others.
The problem hits the kids in two ways: First, they are at risk of taking a drug that could give them an allergic reaction, side effects or worse. In fact, more than a third of the borrowers said they experienced some kind of reaction from the borrowed meds.
Second, this habit of self-medication means some may not go to a doctor when they should, instead choosing to visit the "doctor" in the next locker or the "pharmacist" on the playground.
So children with problems that require real attention aren't getting it, putting your kids at risk not only for their original conditions, but from the complications that come from ignoring them.
And the survey shows that when these kids do make it to the doctor, 40 percent of them "forget" to mention the borrowed meds, putting them at risk for overdose or interactions when the doctor writes a real prescription.
Now, it's disturbing enough that kids are doing it – but adults who should know better do it too. In fact, we're worse than the kids. Some studies have shown that up to 40 percent of adults have shared their meds.
As a nation, we've become far too comfortable with drugs. Medications aren't a big deal to many of us – but they should be. Because so many of us take so many pills, we don't see them for what they really are: dangerous drugs with the potential for terrible side effects.
So let's start with our kids on this one and hope they grow up with a healthier respect for the powers – and dangers – of prescription drugs. Teach them that sharing is good when it comes to school supplies, sandwiches and even opinions.
But not when it comes to meds.