More than a quarter of the Monroe County high school students in the sample reported having ever used herbal remedies and of those, the heaviest herbal users were more likely to use illicit drugs. Teen responders decided for themselves what would be considered "herbal or other natural products, either to make you feel better, or to help you perform better at sports or school," as asked in the survey. Herbal remedies could include products from dietary supplements such as vitamins or St. John's wort to natural performance enhancers, such as creatine.
"The study points to the need for parents and health care providers to ask if teens are using herbal remedies and from there probe deeper for possible drug use," said study author, Susan Yussman, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the university's Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong. "Children who are open to experimenting with herbal products may be more open to trying illicit drugs."
However, Yussman cautioned against directly linking herbal product use with drug use: "This was a cross-sectional study that examines an association, not a causal link. Health care providers should ask all adolescents about potential substance use, regardless of herbal product use." Yussman added that counseling should be provided to those teens found to have a substance abuse problem and to all patients regarding proper use of any type of medication, including herbal products. For more information on the safety and effectiveness of herbal products, please visit http://nccam.nih.gov/h
Contact: Heather Hare
University of Rochester Medical Center