Teenagers prescribed sleep or anxiety medications such as Lunesta® or Xanax® are at greater risk of abusing those drugs than adolescents who have never been prescribed such medications, reports new research published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Researchers from the University of Michigan surveyed more than 2,700 middle and high school students from 2009 to 2012. Students who had been prescribed anxiety medications before the study began and did not have a current prescription were 12 times more likely to abuse the drugs than students who had never been prescribed the drugs. Those who abused the medications often obtained pills illegally from family and friends, the researchers reported. More than 3% of students had a current prescription during the study, and they were 10 times more likely to abuse the drugs. Additionally, students were more likely to abuse medications if they were white, female, and had obtained a valid prescription for several years, as noted in a press release by the American Psychological Association.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported in a 2011 survey that 3% of United States teenagers abuse anxiety and sleep medications. To help combat the prescription drug abuse problem, AWARXE offers medication safety and abuse prevention tips for young people on its Students page.