Many Teens With Chronic Illnesses Use Alcohol, Marijuana

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Chronic Illnesses and Alcohol
Chronic Illnesses and Alcohol

(HealthDay News) — Many adolescents with chronic diseases such as asthma and juvenile arthritis have consumed alcohol or smoked marijuana in the last year, according to a study published online August 31 in Pediatrics.

Elissa Weitzman, ScD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital, and colleagues conducted a survey of 403 students. The participants were 9–18 years old, and the average age was 15.6 years. All had a chronic disease, including asthma, cystic fibrosis, type 1 diabetes, juvenile arthritis, or inflammatory bowel disease. The participants completed the electronic survey during a visit to one of their specialist physicians.

A large portion of the children in the study, 75%, were white. Almost three quarters reported having a parent with a college degree. Most of the children – 82% – were in high school. The researchers found that more than a third of the high school students with chronic disease (36.5%) had consumed alcohol in the past year. A fifth of the high school students (20%) had used marijuana in the last 12 months. The adolescents who consumed alcohol were more likely than the nondrinkers to have missed or skipped taking their medications for their condition.

Alcohol has the potential to affect lab test results, and can interact negatively with medications, the researchers said. But nearly two-thirds of the children reported not knowing whether alcohol use can interfere with the effectiveness of lab test results. Almost half didn't know if alcohol could interfere with the effects of their medications. "We have found that youth really want to understand these risks and are looking for information to be delivered to them as part of their care," Weitzman told HealthDay. "They are specifically interested in how alcohol and other substances can affect them and their disease."

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