Teens Who Are Prescribed Anti-Anxiety or Sleeping Medication Are at a Much Higher Risk to Abuse Their Medication and other Substances

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A new study out of the US is painting a troubling picture about teens and substance abuse, and not the ones you may be thinking of. It’s common knowledge that many teens experiment with certain substances, particular marijuana, alcohol, cigarettes and a variety of party or “synthetic” drugs like ecstasy. This study, however, is showing that teens with anxiety issues and troubles sleeping that are being prescribed anti-anxiety medications and certain types of sleeping pills are at a much higher risk to both experiment and abuse other types of drugs. The findings are leading experts to call for more scrutiny when it comes to prescribing powerful medications to teens, as well as calls for things called “substance abuse assessments” on teens before prescribing anti-anxiety and sleeping pills to minors.

“Prescribers and parents don’t realize the abuse potential,” said lead researcher Carol Boyd, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing. “These drugs produce highly attractive sensations, and adolescents may start seeking the drugs after their prescriptions run out.” The three-year study of more than 2,700 middle and high school students in the Detroit area found that nearly 9 percent had, at some point, been prescribed a potentially addictive anti-anxiety medication, such as Xanax, Valium or Klonopin, or a sleep medication, such as Ambien, Lunesta or Restoril.

The concerns don’t end with the skepticism surrounding whether or not teens should be prescribed strong medications to deal with anxiety and sleeping problems. While 3 percent of teens currently have legal prescriptions for these medications, upon their drug regiment coming to an end they are 10 times more likely to actively seek out the same medications through illegal means. Whether it be stealing a parents prescription or buying the pills from a friend or from a dealer. The reason being that these medications often produce a very sought-after effect of calm and tranquility that teens not only want to deal with their mental health problems, but also want to experiment with, often in dangerous combination with other substances like alcohol. The study has also shown that gender plays a heavy role in their findings:

Students most likely to abuse anti-anxiety or sleep drugs were white, female or had had a valid prescription for several years, the study authors noted in a news release from the American Psychological Association. “This is a wake-up call to the medical community as far as the risks involved in prescribing these medications to young people,” Boyd said in the news release. “When taken as prescribed, these drugs are effective and not dangerous. The problem is when adolescents use too many of them or mix them with other substances, especially alcohol,” she said.

Teens who have legitimate mental health and sleeping problems can often benefit from these medications. Teenage girls who are often under a lot of pressure both to succeed and fit in to certain crowds and social groups while in high school should be offered other ways to manage their stress and anxiety. They should be taught, or at least informed about, the dangers of becoming addicted to any substance and counseling and mentoring should be made more available to them in order to help them overcome whatever struggles that may be plaguing them while in secondary education. For those who become addicted to these types of medications, appropriate teen rehab centers do exist and are very effective at treating both the mental health side of things as well as the physical addiction.

 

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Teens Who Are Prescribed Anti-Anxiety or Sleeping Medication Are at a Much Higher Risk to Abuse Their Medication and other Substances

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