Sometimes, teens will take anything to get high, even old prescription pills like Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin. Each of these drugs are categorized as Benzodiazepines and are commonly prescribed for anxiety.
The risk with Benzodiazepines, however, is that they are highly addictive and have severe withdrawal symptoms. Of course, any teen taking prescribed psychotropic medication, whether anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, should be closely monitored, especially at the beginning of treatment.
Yet, for those who are taking these drugs without a prescription, there is a high risk for health hazards. When teens get a hold of and use prescription drugs in a way other than how they are prescribed, it is considered abuse. Research indicates that 20% of teens that have abused prescription drugs reported that they did so before the age of 14. Also, 33% of teens believe that using prescription drugs not prescribed to them is okay. Sadly, many teens believe that abusing prescription drugs is safer than abusing illicit drugs such as cocaine. However, teen depressant abuse, particularly by at-risk youth can easily lead to irreparable consequences.
Certain medications are necessary for the treatment of mental illness, addiction, or physical ailments. Examples of these are antipsychotics, barbiturates, beta-blockers, cholinergics, cortico-steroids, estrogens, and those mentioned above – depressants, also known as benzodiazepines . The most common depressant drugs that are abused among teens are Xanax and Valium. The side effects of taking depressants, such as Valium include slower brain activity, uncoordinated sensation, drowsiness, constipation, difficulty breathing, and depending on the amount taken, can even cause death. For some teens, the high is similar to getting drunk, and it’s a high that alcohol only enhances. Long-term abuse of Valium can be severe including memory loss, hallucinations, difficulty breathing, slowed pulse, and comatose state.
Along with heroin, prescription drugs are becoming a major health concern for adults and teens alike. Despite the crackdown on prescription drugs, abuse of these drugs among teens continues to be at an alarming rate. Every day in the United States, an average of 2,000 teenagers use prescription drugs without the consent of a physician. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has found that among teens between the ages of 12 to 17 years old, 14.8% reported nonmedical use of prescription drugs in the last year. Also, according to NIDA’s Monitoring the Future Survey, prescription and over-the-counter drugs were the fifth most commonly abused drug by 12th graders. Drugs abused more than prescription drugs were alcohol, marijuana, synthetic marijuana, and tobacco.
If a teen is prone to risky behavior, it might be worth exploring the dangers of each of these drugs with him or her. And if the communication with your teenager isn’t at its best, which is common in adolescence, then perhaps you might request your teen’s therapist to explore the subject with your child. If your family is not working with a therapist or psychologist, then invite a mentor in the community, an aunt or uncle that your teen trusts, or a teacher or counselor at school to open the conversation. Of course, it is essential your child has a positive and trusting relationship with this adult or the conversation may not go very far.
By educating teens about the symptoms and effects of depressants like Xanax and Valium, perhaps drug use might be curtailed. Perhaps they might learn by an adult they trust, alternative forms of coping especially when confusion, sadness, or anxiety arises. Discussing teen depressant abuse with your teen is a conversation that could save his or her life.
Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.