*The following is excerpted from an online article from HealthDay.
Teens with chronic diseases such as asthma and juvenile arthritis have to manage their health carefully, yet many of them have had alcohol or smoked marijuana in the last year, a new study shows.
“That was surprising to us,” said study first author Elissa Weitzman, assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, about the findings. “We thought having a chronic illness might be protective, to some extent, given the potential for near-term serious health harm and the high value youth place on staying healthy.”
But, she added, “While it’s tempting to think that these youth are somehow immune from typical adolescent risk behaviors, they are not. They are exposed to marketing, promotion, peer behaviors, and like their peers, [they] are looking to have fun, fit in and ‘escape.’ ”
The study was published online in the journal Pediatrics.
For their analysis, Weitzman and her colleagues conducted a survey of just over 400 students. They were 9 to 18 years old, and the average age was about 15. 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.
Most of the children — 82 percent — were in high school. The researchers found that more than a third of the high school students with chronic disease had consumed alcohol in the past year. A fifth of the high schoolers had used marijuana in the last 12 months, the study found.
The teens who consumed alcohol were more likely than the nondrinkers to have missed or skipped taking their medications for their condition, the researchers said.
“I think that the big take-home is if we can help educate them, we may be able to improve their compliance with their meds,” said Dr. Ruchi Gupta, an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “There needs to be an open, honest discussion about what they need to do to manage their disease, and the role that alcohol or marijuana or any substance can play in the effectiveness of their medication or how it’s helping them,” she added.