Benzodiazepines (also known as “benzos”) are a class of drugs that slow down the nervous system, producing a relaxing or euphoric effect for the user. Benzos are increasingly prescribed for anxiety or sleep problems. However, rates of abuse and overdose of these drugs are also on the rise. Because benzos are commonly prescribed, these drugs pose a particular concern for teen drug abuse.
- Alprazolam (e.g. Xanax)
- Diazepam (e.g. Valium)
- Lorazepam (e.g. Ativan)
- Clonazepam (e.g. Klonopin)
- Temazepam (e.g. Restoril)
These drugs are also the most commonly sold on the illegal market. Access to these drugs may tempt teens to experiment with them, increasing the risk for future drug abuse or drug dependence.
Teen Benzodiazepine Abuse Statistics
Many parents worry about their teens misusing illegal drugs. However, teens now misuse prescription drugs more frequently than illegal drugs (aside from marijuana). In the past several decades, prescription drug abuse among teens has increased by 212%. Furthermore, approximately 9% of 12th graders have used prescription drugs.
Another study has shown that 2% of teens misuse prescription tranquilizers like Xanax and Valium. Only a minority of teens who misuse prescription drugs take them to get high. Most teens who use prescription drugs report taking them as a form of self-medication to ease sleep or reduce anxiety. Nonetheless, taking medication that has not been prescribed poses serious risks.
Most Common Benzodiazepines Used by Teens
Teens using prescription drugs will often take advantage of what is available to them. Therefore, the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines are usually the ones abused by teens.
Benzos may be prescribed to teenagers for medical conditions such as anxiety. This can directly increase the availability of the drug for a teen and their peers. Many of the most common drugs misused by teens are simply the drugs such as benzos that are most commonly prescribed, and therefore have higher numbers in circulation:
- Alprazolam (Xanax): Xanax is one of the most common benzodiazepine prescriptions for anxiety. Teenagers have likely heard of Xanax and may consider it a safe drug option. They may even have access to it through friends or relatives.
- Clonazepam (Klonopin): Klonopin is often prescribed as an anxiety medication for teenagers. While teens can take Klonopin if prescribed, taking someone else’s medication or taking too much is dangerous.
- Diazepam (Valium): Valium is another very commonly used benzodiazepine. Teens may abuse Valium to get high or for its sedative effect.
- Lorazepam (Ativan): Ativan may also be prescribed for teenagers who experience anxiety or sleep problems; teens often abuse Ativan because it takes effect quicker than other benzos.
While benzo use in teenagers is itself a serious problem, it is also associated with illegal drug use which can increase the risk of overdose.
How Teens Acquire Benzodiazepines
Research has shown that few teens are getting prescription drugs from strangers. Instead, the source of these drugs is often much closer to home.
Research shows that most teens get their drugs from a friend or relative. When teens access drugs from people they know or love, they may perceive the drugs as less dangerous or seriously underestimate the consequences of taking them. Similarly, benzos like Xanax and Valium are often discussed in the media, which can normalize taking benzos recreationally.
Taking prescription drugs that are not prescribed for you always comes with risks, including dependence or addiction. Teens can underestimate how dangerous taking benzos are, even if they believe it is helping them. If you or your teen is struggling with benzo use or addiction, Next Generation Village can help. We have a range of inpatient and outpatient treatments available that can help support your recovery. Reach out today to discuss the treatment options available to you.Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.