Anyone with a stake in young adult treatment in North Carolina will take an interest in new research suggesting that there is a greater likelihood of teens who have been prescribed anxiety or sleep medications abusing them later, than those who have never had such a prescription. Teens reported that they used these medications for the self-treatment of insomnia or anxiety or to get “high.”
Prior to this research, there had been no longitudinal study examining adolescents’ nonmedical use and medical misuse of anxiety and sleep medications. It was conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan, with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).
The findings of the study indicate a need for strategies aimed at preventing prescription medication abuse among youths. According to the research abstract, the longitudinal study was carried out with the aim of determining whether there was a link between adolescents’ recent medicinal use of anxiolytic or sleep medication and an increased incidence of using someone else’s prescription for these classes of medication (nonmedical use).
The research entailed the collection of data from adolescents attending five secondary schools in the Detroit area between December and April in three consecutive academic years from 2009 to 2012. There were three mutually exclusive groups to which respondents were assigned for the analyses: those who had never been prescribed anxiolytic or sleep medication in their lifetime, those who had been prescribed such medication in their lifetime, but not during the study period and finally, those who had been prescribed the medication during the study period.
Of the sample, nearly nine percent had received a prescription for anxiolytic or sleep medication during their lifetime, while 3.4 percent had received at least one prescription during the three year study period. When compared to adolescents who had never been prescribed such medication, those who had been prescribed them during the study period were 10 times more likely to use it for such nonmedical reasons as “to get high” or “to experiment”. There was also a three times greater likelihood of such adolescents engaging in nonmedical use to self-treat anxiety or to sleep.
Meanwhile, adolescents who had received an anxiolytics prescription during their lifetime, but outside the three year study period were 12 times more likely to use another person’s anxiolytic medication than those who had never been prescribed it. In the concluding words of the abstract, and as will be heeded by many of those involved in or receiving young adult treatment in North Carolina, “these risk factors have significant implications for later substance use problems.”