Study warns of dangers of teen sleeping pill prescriptions


Teens who are prescribed anxiety drugs or sleeping tablets are 12 times more likely to illegally abuse them later than those not given the medication, researchers have found.

The study by the University of Michigan School of Nursing found that nearly 9% of the 2,745 adolescent study participants had received a prescription for anxiety or sleep medications during their lifetime.

"I recognise the importance of these medications in treating anxiety and sleep problems," said the study's lead author Carol Boyd, Professor of Nursing. "However, the number of adolescents prescribed these medications and the number misusing them is disturbing for several reasons."

She warned of the dangers of the drugs when mixed with illicit narcotics and alcohol, using actor Heath Ledger as a cautionary tale.

"What happened to Heath Ledger could happen to any teen who is misusing these medications," Boyd said.

The study included students from five Detroit-area schools grouped into three categories: those never prescribed anxiety or sleep medications; those prescribed those medications within the three-year study period; and those previously prescribed those medications but not during the study period.

White students were twice as likely as black students to use other people's medications, and females older than 15 and teens who had prescriptions for longer periods of time were more likely to abuse them, the study found.

It's the first longitudinal study to determine whether teens' recent medical use of anxiety or sleep medications is associated with later taking somebody else's prescription medication illegally, either for self-treatment or recreational use.

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