By Marcia Noyes
Something borrowed can make you blue, especially when it comes to prescription medication. When my young daughter developed symptoms of pink eye (conjunctivitis) many years ago, I quickly made a doctor’s appointment and began administering eye medication prescribed by her pediatrician. A few days later, her brother, only a year older in age, contracted the highly contagious eye condition. Same medical problem, similar age, plenty of medicine, so what could be the harm? Oh, if I’d only known!
A day after administering the eye drops from his sister’s prescription, my son’s eye began to swell further, turned even more red and the initial pain became worse. Only then did I make another appointment with the pediatrician. Though I knew my son was allergic to Septra (trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole)– the brand name of an anti-bacterial drug, what I didn’t know was why he was allergic to the medication. Septra contains a sulpha derivative to which he is allergic. Sadly, the eye medication also contained a sulpha derivative. Man, did I ever feel like a bad mom that week!
I did learn a valuable lesson though – sharing medications can have serious consequences. Fortunately for my son, his doctor prescribed another eye medication and he was better in a few days and other than causing unnecessary pain, no lasting eye damage remained. Phew!
According to a federal government study released last week, over the last 10 years, the percentage of Americans taking at least one prescription drug in the past 30 days increased from 44 percent to 48 percent. According to the analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the numbers of those individuals taking two or more prescriptions and five or more medications also significantly increased. With the increase in prescription medications, so goes the numbers in sharing and abuse of prescription medications.
Sharing Prescriptions – What the Numbers Say
A 2009 Centers for Disease Control survey showed that 20.1% of girls and 13.4% of boys, aged 9 through 18, have taken a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription. Reasons that were given for the practice include:
- Having a prescription for the same medication
- Getting the prescription from a family member
- Having the same problem as a person who had the medication
- Wanting something strong for pimples or oily skin
Researchers are most concerned about possible birth defects or unexpected pregnancy as a danger of sharing or borrowing prescription medication among young women.
Risks of Medication Sharing
In addition to unwanted pregnancy and birth defects, other dangers of drug sharing may include:
- Allergic reactions
- Unanticipated side effects
- Interactions between drugs
- Antibiotic resistance
- Addiction or abuse
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