The Director of Adolescent Addiction Treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital, Sharon Levy, said that the use of benzodiazepines among adolescents has “skyrocketed.” More kids are being admitted to hospitals for withdrawals from the drugs, which often cause dangerous seizures.
Levy said that those working in addiction treatment centers tend to see these trends before they’re reflected in national data, so it’s something we can expect to hear a lot more about in the future.
Making matters worse is the fact that many of the young people who take these drugs are taking very high doses of them on a daily basis. Some are even mixing them with opioids and alcohol – a combination that can be fatal.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Addiction Psychiatrist Mark Fishman concurs. He said that benzos are surpassing opioids as the preferred prescription drug of abuse in young patients, and many of them are extreme users who take high doses.
According to Levy, many young people are initially drawn to these drugs because they believe they are harmless. She said that many adolescents tell her that they think they’re safe because their parents take them – and in many cases, that’s where they are first getting them. In addition, they say they are not seeking them to get high; instead, they just want to feel “normal.”
Levy said: “Some patients even ask me to just prescribe Xanax for them so they don’t have to buy it illegally. They think it’s good for them.”
“That one idea — that something is safe or beneficial or medical — has launched many an epidemic in the past. So, my colleagues and I are watching this with trepidation.”
It’s normal that young people – and people of all ages – believe that pills are safe just because they come from doctors, and Big Pharma does its best to perpetuate that myth in its quest for higher profits. Anyone who has ever seen an ad for any type of pill can tell you what a rosy picture they paint of how great your life will be if you start taking these medications.
Unfortunately for those who get drawn in, benzodiazepines, which are often prescribed for anxiety, stop working over time, so users need to take more and more in order to get the same effect. Young people who can’t get these pills from legal outlets end up purchasing them on the street, on the dark web, or even try to make it themselves. And unlike opioids, no medicines exist to help alleviate the withdrawal symptoms that come when people try to give up benzodiazepines. That’s why patients normally must enter residential treatment where an expert can slowly taper them off of the pills. Quitting them too quickly can cause seizures, and it can even be fatal.
Addiction specialists say that they are expecting to see an onslaught of teenagers who are addicted to Xanax and similar drugs as the school year gets underway. During the summer, adolescent drug use can fly under the radar, but it tends to become more obvious when school is in session and students are failing tests, falling asleep at their desks, or exchanging pills in hallways.
Whether it’s benzos, opioids, antidepressants, or ADHD meds, Big Pharma is all too happy to see its next generation of customers getting hooked on pills as early as possible.
Sources for this article include: