Prescribing Anxiety Meds for Teens May Trigger Later Drug Abuse
Adolescents are commonly prescribed anti-anxiety or sleep medications, which is often reasonable, given the efficacy of these agents. We often worry about abuse potential, but we’ve had little data to tell how much we should worry, until now. It turns out that we may be prodding some of these teens down the road toward addiction.
University of Michigan researchers conducted a longitudinal study that looked at more than 2,700 adolescents attending five Detroit area secondary schools between 2009 and 2012.
The adolescents were divided into three groups: Those who were never prescribed anxiety or sleep medication; those prescribed those medications but not during the study period; and those prescribed the medications during the study period.
Almost 9% of the teens had received a prescription for anxiety or sleep medications during their lifetime and 3.4% had received at least one prescription during that three-year period. Compared with adolescents never prescribed either type of medication, adolescents prescribed these medications during the study period were 10 times more likely to use them for “sensation-seeking motivations,” such as to get high or to experiment. They were also three times more likely to use someone else’s prescription to self-treat anxiety or to help them sleep.
Along with taking a look at recent prescriptions, the study also looked at whether adolescents prescribed medications at any point in their past would be more likely to use someone else’s prescription to get high. Researchers hypothesized that once exposed to these types of medications adolescents would be more likely to use someone else’s prescription for sensation-seeking reasons.
In fact, teens prescribed the medications prior to the study period, were 12 times more likely to use someone else’s anxiety medication, compared with teens never prescribed anxiolytic medications. This association was not found with sleep medications, however (Boyd CJ et al, Pscyhol Addict Behav 2014;epub head of print).
CCPR’s Take: Be cautious when prescribing benzos to teens—once they discover the “Ativan feeling,” they may well seek it out in the future, whether they are anxious or not.
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