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Tuesday 16 October 2001

Medical and nonmedical stimulant use among adolescents: from sanctioned to unsanctioned use.

By: Poulin C.

CMAJ 2001 Oct 16;165(8):1039-44

BACKGROUND: The past decade has seen a generalized upward trend in the prevalence of adolescent use of substances, including stimulants. The purpose of this article was to determine the prevalence of and risk factors for the medical and nonmedical use of stimulants, and the diversion of prescribed stimulants among adolescent students, and to demonstrate links between medical use, nonmedical use and the diversion of stimulants. METHODS: A self-reported anonymous questionnaire was administered in 1998 to a random sample of students in grades 7, 9, 10 and 12 in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador about their medical and nonmedical use of stimulants (Benzedrine, Dexedrine, Ritalin, Cylert, diet pills, "speed," "uppers," "bennies" and "pep pills"). A total of 13,549 students completed the questionnaire, representing a 99% participation rate among the students present at school on the day of the survey. RESULTS: Of the 5.3% of students who reported medical use of stimulants in the 12 months before the survey, 14.7% reported having given some of their medication, 7.3% having sold some of their medication, 4.3% having experienced theft and 3.0% having been forced to give up some of their medication. Nonmedical stimulant use by students who did not have a prescription for stimulants was significantly related to increased numbers of students who gave or sold some of their prescribed stimulants, at both the school class and individual student levels (p < 0.001). INTERPRETATION: Although the vast majority of adolescent students taking prescribed stimulants appeared to be using their medication as sanctioned, a link was found between medical and nonmedical stimulant use and the diversion of medication from sanctioned to unsanctioned use.

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