MONDAY, Oct. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Don't expect teens -- or
their parents -- to be honest about their drug use, a new study
Researchers often survey teens to determine the extent of drug
use, but this new research finds that respondents frequently lie
even if they know they'll be tested for drugs or they're told the
results will be confidential.
The findings are important for pediatricians to understand, said
study lead author Dr. Virginia Delaney-Black.
"If you think it's important to know whether a kid is doing drugs -- specifically heroin, prescription pain killers or cocaine -- then don't rely on what the teens report," she said.
Perhaps some folks don't trust the confidentiality agreement;
others may think their behavior is no one else's business or they
may fear reprisal. "Many of us feel that this kind of personal
information is personal, and that we don't have to tell other
people what the truth is," said Delaney-Black, a professor of
pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Michigan.
For this study, researchers surveyed more than 200 teens and 200
caregivers -- 80 percent were mothers -- about their drug use and
then analyzed their hair for at least one drug. The participants
were black, poor and from an inner-city urban area.
The study findings, reported in the November print issue of the
Pediatrics, were published online Oct. 25.
No teens said they'd recently used opiates such as heroin or
prescription painkillers, but the hair tests showed that nearly 7
percent had. Among parents, 3 percent admitted using opiates while
testing revealed use by 7 percent.
About 1 percent of teens reported recent cocaine use, while
testing revealed the actual number was about one-third. Hair
analysis showed 28 percent of parents had used cocaine but only
about 6 percent admitted it.
It's possible that the hair tests indicated drug use when a
person was actually only around people who used drugs,
Delaney-Black said. But, in essence, what the teens and parents
said about their drug use was "very misleading," she said.
Parents also tended to under-report their teenagers' substance
abuse, leading the researchers to conclude that health-care
providers should rely on other methods, such as drug testing,
rather than self-reports or parents' reports to identify at-risk
Previous studies looking into teens' truthfulness about their
drug use appear to have looked only at kids in drug treatment or in
the court system, Delaney-Black said.
Ty S. Schepis, an assistant professor of psychology at Texas
State University at San Marcos, said the study "generally
reinforces what we know from work in adults, which is that people
are usually less honest about substance use than we hope."
People are reluctant to tell researchers, or almost anyone for
that matter, that they participate in illegal or undesirable
activities, he said.
"Even if it means lying, people often like to present themselves in a favorable light," he added.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on
teens and drug use.
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