A St. Lawrence University senior's health research made a national newswire recently, and she was quoted in the story that reported it.

Heidi Dwyer '02, of Dansville, New York, was quoted in a recent story on the Reuters Health newswire, titled "Teens who use herbals more likely to abuse drugs." Dwyer worked on the project at the University of Rochester, with two St. Lawrence alumnae, Tracy Sesselberg '93, senior health project coordinator in the pediatrics department's division of adolescent medicine, and Karen Wilson '90, a researcher in the division.

Dwyer is a religious studies major, with minors in biology and chemistry. She is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, the leadership honorary society, and Phi Beta Kappa, and participated in the University's program of study in India. Dwyer is a resident of the Women's Resource Center on campus and has participated in skiing, cross country and track at St. Lawrence.

The story reporting the research appeared on the Web site www.reutershealth.com. Its text follows:

Teens who use herbals more likely to abuse drugs

By Esther Csapo Rastegari

BOSTON, Mar 11 (Reuters Health) - High school students who use herbal products may also be more likely to use cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs, researchers reported at the Society for Adolescent Medicine annual meeting here.

"Kids who used an herbal product were almost six times as likely to use cocaine, almost seven times as likely to use methamphetamine, almost nine times as likely to use heroin, and about eight items as likely to use other illegal drugs," according to Dr. Susan Yussman.

The 1999 survey of a random sample of more than 2,000 high school students living in Monroe County, New York found that about 29% of students said they used herbal products to either feel better or perform better in sports or school. Those students were much more likely to be using other drugs, said Yussman, of the University of Rochester School of Medicine in New York.

"From a clinical standpoint, we should definitely be asking our adolescents what herbal products they are using," Yussman stated. "This could potentially be a marker for needing...a thorough, in-depth substance abuse history."

The investigators found that use of herbal products increased from 25% of freshmen to nearly 30% of seniors and was more common among Hispanics (33%), whites (31%) and Asians, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders (29%) than among African Americans (12%).

In a separate 1996 survey of over 7,000 youth under the age of 21, Yussman and her colleagues found that about 2% of parents reported arranging a visit to a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) provider for their child or adolescent. Of these, only 10% shared this information with their healthcare provider. The most common providers of CAM were chiropractors, clergy or spiritualists, and massage therapists.

Using the data, the researchers estimated that about $127 million was spent on CAM visits within a one-year period, and that $22 million was spent on remedies. More girls than boys used CAM, and more older teens than younger teens sought CAM help. Dissatisfaction with their usual source of care was a predictor of greater CAM use.

In an interview with Reuters Health, Yussman said, "Those children that are 'high users' of conventional care are 'high users' of alternative care. So, they are seeking lots of answers from different places."

She added, "As a conventional care provider I want to know, I need to know, what my patients are taking. We want to be able to work together."

The data show that if both parents use CAM, the adolescent was 47 times more likely to use CAM than if their parents did not choose such treatments.

"I think one of the most important points of this study is the impact that parents' use of CAM has on their adolescents and children," Yussman said.

Yussman suggests that teens "try to keep open the lines of communication with your parents and with all of your sources of healthcare, including your conventional physician. Let the adults know what you are using, and how it is affecting you, so physicians can provide the best source of care possible."

In a third study also conducted by researchers at the University of Rochester, Heidi Dwyer and colleagues looked at why teens don't tell their doctors about the use of herbal remedies.

In this random telephone survey of more than 300 teens aged 14 to 19, researchers found that about 54% of adolescents said they had used some form of CAM in the last 6 months.

While 50% told their providers of CAM use if the purpose was for a specific medical condition, only 21% mentioned it if the purpose was "to stay healthy." The two most common reasons for not telling their provider were because they "didn't think it was a big deal" and "it didn't come up in the conversation."

Teens were more likely to tell their doctor about the use of megadoses of vitamins, visits to a chiropractor or the use of performance enhancers and were less likely to disclose therapeutic massage, prayer or faith healing or herbal remedies.

In an interview with Reuters Health, Dwyer said, "It was clear from their answers that they weren't specifically being asked about their CAM use by their physicians, so they didn't think it was important to tell them."

Dwyer stated, "Physicians need to know they should ask, and the patients need to know they should be asked."

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