Prescription medications are used throughout the life course, including among children and youth. Prescribing practices may be influenced by emerging medical conditions, the availability of new medications, changing clinical practices, and evolving knowledge of the safety and effectiveness of medications. The Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) provides national-level information to help monitor the use of prescribed medications in the population.
Data and methods
Based on data from the CHMS (2012 to 2017), this article describes prescription medication use in the past month among those aged 3 to 19 years. Information on up to 45 prescription medications was recorded and classified according to Health Canada’s Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical classification. Frequencies and bivariate analyses examined medication use by sociodemographic and health-related factors. The most common medication classes were identified for each age group.
An estimated 23% of Canadian children and youth (1.5 million) had used at least one prescription medication in the past month and 9% had used two or more prescription medications. Prescription medication use was more common among those who reported lower levels of general and mental health, as well as among those with asthma (51%), a mood disorder (71%), attention deficit disorder (60%) or a learning disability (43%). Medications for the respiratory and nervous systems were among those most commonly prescribed. Of youth aged 14 years or older, 4% had misused prescription medications for non-medicinal purposes, for the experience,
for the feeling they cause or to get high.
Prescription medication use among children and youth is common in Canada. It is associated with lower levels of self-reported health and the presence of chronic conditions. The estimates provide a benchmark to help monitor prescription drug use in Canada.