It’s a sobering truth that as a parent, you can do everything possible to protect your child from drugs – monitor their social media, insist on meeting their friends, always demand to know where they are – but the one place they should be safe and supervised is often the place where they’re going to be exposed to illegal substances. An alarming number of drug deals, or even just instances of kids sharing drugs with their friends, take place at schools. The teenage dealers don’t even have to spend money or risk their safety to procure a product, because they’re stealing it directly from their families’ medicine cabinets.
Addiction experts are expecting an increase in the number of kids using Xanax, which belongs to a class of anti-anxiety drugs known as benzodiazepines. They have similar euphoric properties to prescription opioids and heroin, but kids view them as a safer alternative. The truth is, however, that they can be deadly, particularly if taken with other drugs or alcohol.
For one thing, use of any addictive substance early in life leads to a greater chance of addiction later on in life. According to a 2016 report on drugs and alcohol by the U.S. Surgeon General, nearly 70 percent of adolescents who try an illicit drug before the age of 13 will develop an addiction within seven years. In comparison, only 27 percent of those who first try an illicit drug after age 17 will become addicted.
Clonazepam (traded as Klonopin), diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax), are all being increasingly abused by teenagers. They’re also mixing them with opioids and alcohol, which can be deadly. There are currently no medications approved to lessen withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with benzodiazepine addiction. Benzos need to be tapered off slowly, in order to void the worst of the side effects and possible respiratory depression that comes with quitting suddenly. Instead, doctors are seeing kids come in having seizures as a result of sudden withdrawal.
It’s easy for teens to get their hands on Xanax and other benzodiazepines, because more adults are being prescribed them. According to a review of market data in the New England Journal of Medicine, the number of adults filling a benzodiazepine prescription increased by two-thirds between 1996 and 2013, from 8 million to nearly 14 million. Not only are they easily accessible by teens, but kids are more likely to believe that the medications are safe if they see trusted adults taking them. Many teens don’t even view the use of benzodiazepines as illegal or recreational, believing that it’s medicinal because it helps them cope with anxiety. Unfortunately, that same sort of thinking – that a medication must be safe if a doctor prescribed it – was largely responsible for the opioid epidemic.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.