Study warns teen “alternative medicine” use is growing

Brittany A. Roston - Jun 18, 2018, 4:34pm CDT
Study warns teen “alternative medicine” use is growing

A study out of the University of Illinois, Chicago, warns that kids and teens — especially teens — are using “alternative medicine” in growing numbers. The research was recently published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, which reports that despite warnings from officials that kids shouldn’t use supplements, teens are increasingly using things like melatonin.

Alternative medicine, in this study, is defined as dietary supplements that aren’t required to get FDA approval before hitting shelves. Such supplements, which include things like omega-3 and melatonin, are found in grocery stores, at pharmacies, online, and in similar places; they don’t require a prescription and can usually be purchased by adolescents.

The study found that teens aged 13 to 18 are driving the growth in alternative medicine usage, though officials have long recommended that adolescents avoid these supplements due to a lack of information about potential beneficial/harmful effects. The big question remains: are these supplements necessary and, assuming they are, do they offer more positive benefits than harmful effects?

In surveys, researchers found that teens are using supplements classified as alternative medicines and as nutritional aids, including things that contain vitamins. Boys, based on the findings, appear to be attracted to bodybuilding supplements and omega-3, while girls were noted to use more folic acid and vitamin B.

Perhaps most concerning was news that teens often use these supplements in an effort to treat health issues or to deal with the side effects from prescription drugs. The study notes that melatonin use as a sleep aid is up, for example.


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