A recent study found that teens taking anti-anxiety or sleep aid prescriptions are significantly more likely than their peers to abuse prescription medications.
Many parents worry about their teens getting into illegal drugs, but the truth is that abuse of legal, prescription drugs is much more common among young people. The latest information is troubling. If you have a teen struggling with anxiety or a sleep disorder, you need to be aware of the risks of allowing her to take prescriptions for these issues.
Teens Taking Prescription Meds Vulnerable To Substance Use Disorders
The study comes from the University of Michigan and the annual Monitoring the Future survey, which questions young people about their habits and attitudes when it comes to drinking, drugs and smoking. Using data from the survey and another source, researchers found that teens prescribed anti-anxiety medications or sleep aids are up to 12 times as likely as their peers to abuse prescriptions belonging to someone else. The reasons given for abusing them included for experimentation and to get high.
Prescription drug abuse among teenagers in general is high. Fifteen percent of high school seniors reported on the Monitoring the Future survey that they had misused a prescription in the previous year. This is between three and six times higher than the percentage of students using illegal drugs like Ecstasy, cocaine and hallucinogens. Teens only abuse alcohol and marijuana more than prescriptions.
What Parents Of Teens Who Need Prescription Drugs Can Do To Prevent Teen Drug Abuse
Try Non-Medical Treatments
For parents of teens with an anxiety or sleep disorder, this information about drug abuse is important. It doesn’t mean that your teen will necessarily become an abuser, but she is at a higher risk if she takes prescriptions for these particular mental health issues. It is important that both parents and the teen know the risks and weigh them against the benefits before using prescriptions to treat anxiety or a sleep disorder.
Alternative Treatments For Anxiety And Sleep Disorders
If your teen’s doctor agrees, you might consider non-medical treatments before turning to prescriptions. Relaxation techniques, exercise, acupuncture and dietary changes are all possible alternative treatments for anxiety disorder. For sleep disorders, you can work with a sleep expert who can help train your teen to be a better sleeper.
Be Aware And Think Prevention
If your teen does need to take the medications in order to feel well and you agree, along with her doctor, that alternatives won’t work for her, be aware of the possibility of drug abuse. Talk to your teen about the fact that she is at a greater risk for abusing prescriptions. Just knowing this fact can be a powerful motivator for not experimenting with drugs. It’s also important that you discuss the risks and dangers of abusing someone else’s medication. Be open with your teen and allow her to come to you with concerns and questions.
Despite your best efforts to protect her, your teen may begin abusing drugs. This doesn’t mean that she is lost, but it does mean that you need to get her help. If you discover that she has been abusing prescriptions, get her to the doctor immediately to determine if she has an addiction. Get resources from your doctor for therapists or counselors experienced in working with teens. Drug abuse in a teen is devastating, but she is young and capable of change. Together you can work toward a healthier and happier lifestyle with her anxiety and sleep disorders under control.