Teens prescribed anxiety or sleep medications likely to illegally abuse them

A new study by University of Michigan School of Nursing researchers shows teens who were prescribed anxiety or sleep medications are up to 12 times more likely to abuse those drugs than those who had never had a prescription, either by using someone else’s prescription pills or to get high or experiment.

Almost 9 percent of the 2,745 adolescent study participants had received a prescription for anxiety or sleep medications during their lifetime, and more than 3 percent received at one prescription during the three-year study period

The study’s press release states:

“I recognize the importance of these medications in treating anxiety and sleep problems,” said the study’s first author Carol Boyd, the Deborah J. Oakley Professor of Nursing. “However, the number of adolescents prescribed these medications and the number misusing them is disturbing for several reasons.”

Anxiety and sleep medications can be addictive or even fatal when mixed with narcotics or alcohol, said Boyd, who is also a professor of women’s studies and research professor at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender and at the U-M Addiction Research Center in the Department of Psychiatry.

“What happened to [actor] Heath Ledger could happen to any teen who is misusing these medications, particularly if the teen uses alcohol in combination with these drugs,” Boyd said.

Examples of anti-anxiety medications include Klonopin, Xanax and Ativan; sleep medications include Ambien, Restoril and Lunesta. These are controlled substances partly because of the potential for abuse, and it’s a felony to share them, Boyd said.

A key finding also states, “Those prescribed anxiety or sleep medications during the study period were 10 times more likely to abuse them within two years, to get high or to experiment, than teens without prescriptions.”

Carol Boyd, the study’s first author and Deborah J. Oakley’s Professor of Nursing said, “I looked at these numbers and said, ‘There’s a story here.’ It just catches you off guard that so many adolescents are being prescribed these medications… Why is it that our youth are anxious and sleepless? Is it because they are under stress, consuming too much caffeine or seeking an altered state? “