What Over-the-Counter Drugs are Contributing to Teen Drug Abuse?

Most parents would say their child’s health and wellbeing is their #1 concern. That’s why when children or teens have anxiety issues or difficulty sleeping, most parents will ask the child’s health care provider about treatment options.

It’s common for doctors to prescribe anti-anxiety and sleeping medications to address these issues — but a new study has found that though parents’ and physicians’ intentions are good, when these medications are provided to teens, their risk of illegal prescription drug abuse increases.

With the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration estimating prescription drug abuse among teens at 3%, these findings should concern any parent. Here’s what Kansas City parents should know about how these medications contribute to prescription drug abuse by teens.

New Findings About Teens & Prescription Drug Abuse

Researchers out of the University of Michigan released a study in the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors that reveals a strong correlation between use of anti-anxiety or sleeping medications and prescription drug abuse by teens. According to their findings, teens who take these meds are up to 12 times as likely to abuse the drugs illegally after their prescription runs out when compared with teenagers who have never received a prescription. The teens engaging in prescription drug abuse usually acquired the additional drugs to abuse from family members and driends.

Kansas City | What Over-the-Counter Drugs are Contributing to Teen Drug Abuse?The study covered 2700+ middle and high school students in the Detroit area, finding 9% were prescribed drugs with high potential for addiction, including anti-anxiety pills like Valium, Klonopin, or Xanax and sleep medications like Restoril, Ambien, or Lunesta. The students who had legally taken prescriptions during the 3 years of the study — 2009 to 2012 — were 10 times more likely to engage in prescription drug abuse for recreational purposes. Students who were prescribed these medications previous to the study were 12 times as likely.

What Does This Mean For Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention?

The researchers say that their findings support the fact that physicians need to be more cautious when prescribing potentially-addictive drugs to teenagers. Substance abuse assessments can be a useful tool in determining which teenagers need these medications, and which should receive alternative treatment options. Better parent and patient education can also prevent dangerous outcomes, as well as strict limitations on medication refills.

And though there’s a false perception that teens engaging in prescription drug abuse obtain pills from drug dealers or by “doctor shopping,” in reality, it’s often friends or family members who are unknowingly fueling abusers. So, as parents, be sure you are following the rules for properly storing or disposing of prescription drugs — and don’t let your teens take your medications, even if they have been prescribed them in the past. In addition, be sure you are informed about all the risks associated with any medications prescribed to your teen, monitor them closely when they are on potentially-addictive drugs, talk to your children about the dangers of abusing medications, and watch for signs of prescription drug abuse once their medication runs out.

Stop Prescription Drug Abuse by Teens

Worried your teen may be abusing prescription drugs? Test Smartly Labs of Kansas City offers confidential drug testing, including prescription drug monitoring. Since we work with licensed Medical Review Officers, we can even determine if your teen is taking a legally prescribed medication, or abusing a prescription they have obtained illegally. Don’t risk the false positives and negatives that can come with a DIY at-home drug test kit — work with experts in drug testing!

Call (816) 875-0464 today to learn more about our Kansas City drug testing services.

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