Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Prescription Drug Abuse in Teens

The Different Types of Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

Adderall Abuse

Adderall is a powerful prescription drug, one that is, unfortunately, often abused by teens and young adults.

The somewhat infamous drug is a potent combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, both of which act upon the central nervous system.

Adderall is also a substance that many people feel is vastly overprescribed in the United States today, especially among adolescents and teens. When the drug is prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), its most common use, or narcolepsy, its active ingredients – both stimulants – go to work reducing hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.

The pills, however, can have the opposite effect on those who take them who are not diagnosed with either disorder. Rather than decreasing erratic behavior, it creates a “high” as well as a number of effects that may initially seem positive, especially for a teen struggling under the weight of a tight schedule that includes school, homework, sports, and extracurricular activities, standardized testing prep, college applications, work and more. Intensive focus and the ability to maintain a high level of energy for long periods without the need for sleep means that many teens turn to drugs to help them get through “crunch” times at school – but inadvertently develop a dependence upon the substance and are unable to quit without medical intervention and treatment.

Is Adderall Right for Any Teen?

While an Adderall prescription may be somewhat beneficial to a select group of people, the drug comes with so many precautions and warnings that it often seems as though Adderall isn’t really safe or right for anyone. For example, those who suffer from glaucoma, certain types of anxiety, muscle twitching, or Tourette’s syndrome are advised not to take Adderall. Likewise, current and recent users of MAO inhibitors are unable to take Adderall due to potentially dangerous drug interactions, and all users of Adderall must be aware of the fact that the drug can be highly addictive and easily abused.

Abuse of Adderall, which can be defined as any improper or not-as-prescribed usage of the drug or any use of the drug without a prescription, can lead to heart problems, overdose, and even death, whether an addiction is present or not. It is also important to note that Adderall can be particularly damaging for teens because it can, among other things, stunt growth and development in young people.

Alternative ADHD Treatments for Teens

As children grow and hormonal balances change, it is not uncommon for the medication needs to change as well. Some parents grow accustomed to giving their children medication and assume that that must maintain the status quo going forward. However, for many children, the signs and symptoms of ADHD fade as they grow, making it a very real possibility that medication may not even be necessary. Parents are advised to:

  • Periodically take their children off all mood and behavioral medications under the supervision and direction of a doctor to see how they fare without the drugs.
  • Invest time and effort into behavioral training that helps the child recognize and manage behaviors that are disruptive to their ability to flourish.
  • Consider holistic treatments and options per the guidance of medical professionals.
  • Consider cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which can help to address unhealthy and unproductive perspectives, thought processes, and assumptions that may be stopping their child from making positive choices.

Your Teen’s Adderall Prescription

Some teens carry a prescription for Adderall into their teen years due to a diagnosis of ADHD during childhood or adolescence. As they grow, however, the drug can have a different effect on their functionality. Some may begin to abuse the drug when these effects occur; others may sell their prescriptions to friends or others, rather than alert you or their doctor to the changes.

If your teen has had a long-term Adderall prescription, you can help him avoid these issues by:

  • Checking in with him regularly on how he feels about the medication
  • Monitoring his use of the medication
  • Making sure he doesn’t have access to the medication at all if you think it’s an issue
  • Watching for changes in his personality, sleep habits, etc.

Adderall Abuse Is Increasing Among Teens

While prescription drug abuse was once virtually unheard of among American teenagers, recent studies have shown that prescription drug abuse, including Adderall abuse, has risen greatly among teens in recent years. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Partnership at and the MetLife Foundation, one in four of today’s teenagers admits to having abused a prescription drug, with one in eight teens reporting abuse of Adderall or Ritalin, a similar drug.

Clearly, Adderall abuse is and should be a growing concern among parents of teens, especially when some of the other devastating findings of the survey are considered. These include:

  • One in four teens report lax parental attitudes toward prescription drugs as compared to parental attitudes about illegal drugs, showcasing a dangerous and untrue belief that prescription drugs are “safer” than illegal drugs.
  • About 33 percent of teens surveyed felt that using prescription drugs without a prescription was acceptable.
  • Approximately 20 percent of the teens who admitted to abusing prescription drugs used the drugs before reaching the age of 14.
  • About 26 percent of teens surveyed stated that the use of prescription drugs such as Adderall was acceptable when the drug was being used as a “study aid.”

Adderall Use Among College Students

As made clear by the survey findings above, teens are starting to abuse Adderall and other prescription drugs earlier and earlier. Even if your teen is lucky enough to make it through high school without ever using prescription medications for any reason, a whole new world of temptation awaits him once college starts.

On college campuses across the US, Adderall is commonly used as a “study drug.” Many students say it allows them to stay up for longer periods of time and to stay focused on their work. It is not at all uncommon for students to take an Adderall pill or two or three or four the night before a big test or project and to study and work for several hours at a time. In fact, according to a study discussed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, around 6.4 percent of college students reported the use of Adderall without a prescription, and a large number of these students were also engaged in binge drinking. When combined with alcohol use, Adderall abuse can be even more dangerous than it already is.

Some other findings from that study included the following:

  • Fulltime college students were twice as likely as non-fulltime college students to abuse Adderall.
  • About 6.4 percent of college students admitted to unauthorized Adderall use from 2006 to 2007.
  • College students who abused Adderall were three times as likely to abuse marijuana, eight times as likely to abuse prescription tranquilizers, and five times as likely to abuse prescription painkillers.
  • Cocaine use is more common among college students who use Adderall, and students who use both drugs face an increased risk of heart attack, heart problems, and stroke.

Adderall Addiction in Teens

While all of the risks and side effects associated with Adderall use are dangerous, perhaps the most dreaded effect of all is the high potential for addiction. When a person becomes addicted to Adderall, he or she will require the drug in order to function and will often go to great lengths to acquire the drug, including stealing, “doctor shopping,” putting oneself in dangerous positions and situations, and more.

True addicts will continue to crave and use Adderall regardless of the legal, financial, personal, academic, professional, and relationship problems it can cause. Therefore, if your teen is abusing Adderall, it’s in your teen’s best interest to seek professional help as soon as possible – the sooner the better.

Some of the signs that could alert you that it’s time to enroll your son in a teen-specific drug abuse program include:

  • Frequent complaints of severe headaches
  • Complaints of dry mouth or excessive thirst
  • Shaking
  • Stomach pains
  • Nervousness or constantly feeling “on edge”
  • An inability to fall asleep and/or to stay asleep
  • Other changes in sleep habits
  • Nausea
  • Changes in bowel movements or the ability to have a bowel movement
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • The sudden development of seizures
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Paranoid delusions
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Impaired speech
  • Hallucinating
  • Uncharacteristic aggression
  • Changes in vision
  • Swelling and/or puffiness

If you notice any of these signs in your teen or if you notice Adderall missing from your medicine cabinet, it’s time to talk to them about their use of the drug and your concerns. Additionally, whether or not you notice signs of Adderall abuse or if your son has a prescription for the drug, it is important to keep a close eye on its effects on him as he grows.

Ambien Abuse in Teens

Experimenting with prescription drugs of all kinds is not uncommon among teens, but should they come across Ambien, the results can be devastating.

Many people have great difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Because of this, there are several prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids on the market sold with the sole purpose of helping people overcome sleep disturbance.

One of the most potent and commonly prescribed sleep aids is Ambien or zolpidem. This sedative drug acts upon certain chemicals in the brain to induce sleep quickly. Some types of Ambien are also designed to help the user stay asleep without waking up in the middle of the night or early morning. While a drug that can help you get a good night’s rest may sound like a wonderful thing, Ambien is far from perfect; in fact, this medication is rather strong and can have some serious side effects, including addiction.

Unfortunately, though the drug is rarely prescribed to those under the age of 18, another risk of its use is the abuse of the medication by teenagers who live in or visit the house of someone who has a prescription.

If your teen is abusing Ambien, has a chronic problem with the drug, or is dependent upon the medication, don’t wait to take action. Contact us at Muir Wood now and learn more about our specialized, teen-specific rehabilitation program for boys here in Northern California.

Ambien Packs a Serious Punch

Ambien tends to act upon the user very quickly, and its results are reported by users as quite intense. In fact, many, including members of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have speculated that Ambien is a little too intense in its efficacy; that’s why, in 2013, the FDA lowered the recommended dose for Ambien, with the hope of cutting back on “drowsy driving” among users who took the drug at night but still were groggy due to its effects the following morning.

Ambien is designed to be a short-term measure to help patients attain quality sleep, and it is a last resort, at that. Too often, patients feel that Ambien is so effective when they first begin taking the drug that they are disinterested in going back to the sleepless nights they experienced prior to the medication. Additionally, after a period of taking Ambien to help get to sleep at night, many find that it is even harder than before to get to sleep without assistance. Even before the physical dependency develops, many – even teenagers who experiment with the drugs – find themselves psychologically dependent, feeling as if it is impossible for them to function without the medication due to its overwhelming initial effects.

Ambien and Teen Use: Not for Sharing

Whenever possible, all sleep disorder patients are encouraged to exhaust natural sleep aids and every holistic option and combination thereof before considering harsh and potentially dangerous prescription medications like Ambien. However, those who are prescribed the drug are encouraged to be responsible with their medication and keep it well out of reach of curious teens.

Additionally, it is never advised to offer your teenager a dose of Ambien, even if they too are struggling with sleep issues. Several factors, including gender and age, play a role in determining the exact dosage and type of Ambien prescribed, so you could accidentally be giving your child an overwhelming amount of the drug. Allergic reactions, the foundation of an abuse or addiction problem, and other complications are also possibilities. A far safer choice is to help them experiment with different holistic methods and see a doctor if the problem persists.

Impaired Thinking and Reaction Time

Even when a person has been prescribed Ambien, he or she may suffer some ill effects as a result of using the drug; the risk for these ill effects increases when a person is taking Ambien without a prescription or is purposefully abusing the medication.

One negative effect of Ambien, for example, is that it can significantly impair a person’s reasoning and thinking skills temporarily and slow their reaction time. This can lead to making poor decisions while under the influence of the drug and to an increased risk of accidents and injuries. The risk of these happenings is particularly high for women and teens who use Ambien.

What Does it Mean to Abuse Ambien?

The following are all ways that people can abuse Ambien or any other prescription medication:

  • Taking more than the prescribed dose
  • Combining Ambien with the use of other substances, including other prescription sedatives or painkillers, alcohol and illicit drugs
  • Taking the drug without a prescription
  • Getting multiple prescriptions for Ambien or for a combination of sleep aids, sedatives, and/or painkillers without the oversight of a single doctor

If your teen is using Ambien for any reason and doesn’t have a prescription, this is Ambien abuse and should be addressed immediately.

Ambien and Teens

According to the Partnership at, many of today’s teens abuse Ambien. Often called “A-minus” or “Zombie pills,” the kids who take them report experiencing hallucinations or blackouts while under the influence of the drug. How is a sleep drug abused recreationally? Rather than trying to go to sleep, teens who take the drug work hard to fight off sleep while they are on the drug in order to experience its mind-altering effects.

NIDA says that the abuse of Ambien among teens has been steadily rising, and that abuse of sedatives in general has almost doubled in the past few years.

Is Your Teen Abusing Ambien?

Knowing whether or not your teen is abusing Ambien can be difficult, but if you monitor your teen closely, you will likely be able to spot the signs of Ambien abuse. Noticeable issues may include some or all of the following:

  • Regular episodes of nausea, often followed by vomiting
  • Increased difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Skipping school and/or declining academic performance
  • Suffering from strange delusions or hallucinations
  • Acting euphoric
  • Memory problems
  • Financial problems and/or stealing
  • Withdrawal symptoms when without the drug

You may find the pills in your teen’s possessions or hear them speaking in a coded way with their friends about getting or taking pills or about events that happened when they last used the drugs. Pay attention to little changes and be sure to follow up on your suspicions.

Ambien Addiction is Deadly

While many parents and teens may think that Ambien is a relatively harmless drug because it is not an illegal substance and because it is “only” a sleep aid, it is important to understand that Ambien abuse and/or addiction is incredibly serious and – like any substance abuse or addiction problem – can lead to death without medical and psychotherapeutic intervention. As such, don’t just brush it off if you find that your teen is abusing Ambien; take the matter seriously and look into getting professional help for him. It’s not uncommon for teens who abuse the drug to experience:

  • Accident under the influence
  • Disease and infection caused by sexual activity while unaware
  • Acute medical emergency
  • Complications of underlying medical or mental health symptoms
  • Overdose
  • Coma
  • Death

Professional Help for Teens Facing Prescription Drug Abuse

When choosing a rehabilitation center for your teen, it is important that you choose one that, first and foremost, understands the unique challenges teenagers face and the unique needs they have as they seek to recover from drug abuse and addiction. Prescription drug abuse of any kind is a dangerous disorder for teens and adults alike, but it is important that your son undergo treatment at a program that caters specifically to teenagers.

Why? Teens are at a different developmental point than adults. They have had different experiences and faced different struggles. The rehab program that you choose for your son should address those issues, minimize exposure to adult problems, and focus on helping your child to better understand himself and learn the coping skills that will carry him in the future.

Here at Muir Wood, we can help your child to address drug-specific issues as well as the issues that he faces on a personal level, including:

  • Academic struggles
  • Co-occurring mental health issues, like anxiety or depression
  • Stress management
  • Family problems (e.g., divorce, moving, sibling issues, etc.)
  • Self-esteem and confidence

A wide range of traditional, holistic, outdoor, and cutting-edge treatments are chosen to help your son work through the issues that may have been driving his drug abuse and help him identify more positive choices. Long-term aftercare support is crucial, as is the positive support of family members. To learn more about how we can help your son to progress and grow after addiction, download an application today or contact our call center.

The Dangers of Ativan Abuse

While almost anyone could choose to take Ativan for fun, just to see what the drug is like, there are some types of teens that seem to have an enhanced risk of developing an addiction to this powerful drug.

It can be hard to understand why a teen might be willing to take a powerful prescription drug like Ativan. After all, this medication has been associated with profound sedation and relaxation in adults. It’s so effective in delivering sedation, in fact, that it’s sometimes provided to people who are restless and nervous in the hours that lead up to a surgical procedure. People like this might jump off the prep table and walk home, but with Ativan, they seem too tired to do much of anything at all. Since many teens seem intensely relaxed during an average day, especially in the early morning hours, it’s hard to know why they might seek out a drug that could augment a sensation they have regularly.

The answer might lie in chemistry. Benzodiazepine medications like Ativan, also known by the generic name lorazepam, can also cause a burst in the production and uptake of chemicals that are associated with feelings of pleasure. In short, taking these drugs can make teens feel sleepy, but they can also make teens feel high. Ativan may be particularly adept at bringing these happy feelings about, according to a study in The International Journal of the Addictions, as those who were given a variety of benzodiazepines rated Ativan among the most euphoric.

Instead of experimenting just once, some teens may take the drug over and over again, each and every day, and they may be unable to curb their use and abuse with time. These are just a few of the characteristics that are common among teens who develop an Ativan addiction.

Doctor-Sponsored Use of Ativan

An article produced by the Stanford School of Medicine suggests that benzodiazepines like Ativan aren’t commonly provided to adolescents, as they often produce undesirable side effects that can make teens feel terrible, or teens under the influence might display behaviors that their parents find awkward or unusual.

Even so, teens can develop a variety of conditions that might merit a prescription for Ativan, including:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Seizure disorders
  • Chronic insomnia
  • Mania

The drug tends to take hold quickly, bringing about an intense sensation in mere minutes, so it could be profoundly helpful for teens in need. Unfortunately, the drug’s sedating effects can become less pronounced with prolonged therapy, meaning that teens might find that they can take higher doses and feel euphoria without feeling tired at the same time. They might begin to take their doses at inappropriate times, or they might double up on their pills to boost the sensations they feel.

A prescription provides a teen with easy access to the substance of abuse, and since it’s common for people to become tolerant of the drug, it might be easy for teens to escalate their use under the supervision of a doctor. Teens might also claim that they’ve lost their prescriptions or dropped their pills, forcing their parents to get refills for the drugs teens crave. Some teens even visit different doctors in neighboring communities on their own time, accessing drugs from unsuspecting professionals.

It’s important to note that some teens take Ativan for real problems and that they never escalate to addiction. They use the drug as it’s prescribed, and they don’t take the drug specifically to feel high or euphoric. But those who have a prescription for the drug remain, unfortunately, at risk for developing an addiction, simply because they have access to the drug on a regular basis. It’s all too easy for people like this to tweak their behaviors just a little bit, and allow a terrible addiction to take hold.

Self-Prescription Rates of Ativan

While some teens might snatch pills from family members and friends due to the intense fun they hope to have, there are some teens who experiment as a form of self-medication.

While these teens may not have visited a doctor with their concerns, they might have:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Deep-seated feelings of sadness or loss
  • Feelings of anxiety in social situations
  • Mounting stress due to the demands of work and home

These teens might take Ativan on a recreational basis and find that it’s wildly effective in helping them cope with their worries. In a sense, they’ve found a solution to a very real problem. But teens like this often have no idea how Ativan should be used. They don’t know how much to take and when to take it, and they have no idea what sorts of interactions and side effects the drugs might cause. A teen like this might take a pill only when feeling bad, and then take six or eight pills in the same evening when the feeling doesn’t go away. This is a very inefficient way in which to take drugs for a mental health concern, as often, medications need to build up in the bloodstream over a period of weeks in order to be effective. But teens who take drugs on their own just may not know that, and the way in which they use drugs could be setting them up for addiction issues.

Seeing the Signs of Ativan Abuse

Looking for sedation isn’t the best way to spot an Ativan addiction in play, as many teens with advanced cases of abuse just don’t seem sleepy or sad. However, teens who do develop addictions might choose to research conditions that might merit a prescription, and they might demand doctors’ appointments. In those appointments, they might ask for Ativan by name. Teens who do this should be evaluated for an addiction.

Savvy teens might be leery of asking for doctors’ appointments, and when they’ve exhausted all of their typical sources for drugs, they might be driven to go online to find the drug. A number of overseas pharmacies would be thrilled to sell a teen with a credit card Ativan, even if the teen doesn’t have a prescription. High bills with no reasonable explanation, along with mysterious packages from pharmacies, could help parents spot teens like this.

Those who abuse Ativan may also have behavioral differences parents can see. These teens might seem unaware and unresponsive much of the time, drifting in and out of conversations and sliding from one thought to another. They might seem muted and muffled as if the world isn’t really happening to them, and they might not be capable of showing any kind of emotional response, even when something terrible has taken place. Deaths, breakups, health problems and more might pass right by without comment. These sorts of changes should at least merit a conversation about drugs, and sometimes, they prompt a teen’s entry into a recovery program.

Teen Valium Abuse

Teenagers know quite a lot about things their parents find baffling. They might be able to parse the difference in rap lyrics produced in Boston and in New York, for example, or they might find it easy to explain the computer programming that stands behind Tumblr and Instagram.

Unfortunately, teens might also know quite a bit about how prescription drugs work, and what they’re designed to do. These young people have grown up in a world saturated with prescription solutions, and they might even know dozens of peers who take medications for very real medical conditions. When these teens face a mental health issue of their own, not surprisingly, they tend to reach for a drug solution. Often, that drug is a benzodiazepine known as Valium.

Mistaken Impression of Valium by Teens

In a study conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America in 2011, 58 percent of teens claimed that they did not approve of the idea of using a prescription drug for the express purpose of getting high. By now, many teens know that these drugs can be seriously dangerous when they’re abused, and they seem to understand that taking a drug that’s meant to solve an illness for the purpose of feeling a rush of pleasure is at least unsavory, if not flat-out wrong. However, these teens might make exceptions for their own drug use.

In a separate study in the journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, researchers found that teens who took benzodiazepines like Valium claimed that they did so due to “therapeutic reasons.”

These teens might tell themselves that they need the drug in order to help them deal with a very real mental health issue, even if they don’t have a prescription for that drug at all.

Valium is a Powerful Medicine

If these teens paid attention to songs like “Mother’s Little Helper” or watched old movies like Valley of the Dolls, they might know that Valium is often used to help people deal with overwhelming nervousness and anxiety. They might know that the drug can help people deal with the tedium of life without feeling overly anxious about the future. Often, teens feel as though they need this help.

A modern teen faces all sorts of pressures, including:

  • Grades. Teens must keep their academic scores up, even as they might be participating in large classes with few student-teacher interactions.
  • Tests. A low score on an academic exam like the SAT could keep teens out of college.
  • Growth. Teens who develop just a bit slower than their peers, or those who develop just a bit too quickly, might be subject to ridicule.
  • Peers. Friends can entice teens to make all sorts of bad decisions by threatening social isolation as a price for non-compliance.

Transitioning from childhood to adulthood is difficult, especially when all of these pressures are in play, and teens might reasonably think that they need medications to help soothe their pain. Valium might seem, at first glance, like an excellent therapeutic choice.

While Valium can slow electrical activity inside the brain, making feelings of nervousness and anxiety fade away into nothingness, the drug can also cause a separate chemical reaction that can make a teen feel silly, happy, and euphoric. It’s the same chemical pathway used by very powerful drugs like heroin, and in no time at all, teens who abuse Valium may find that they simply don’t feel well without the drug. Their brain cells become accustomed to the sedation that comes with a Valium hit, and those cells can respond with enhanced signals of anxiety when none of the drugs is available. Teens might be forced to keep taking the drug, just to keep those symptoms at bay.

At the same time, teens might find that they need to take higher and higher doses of Valium to feel those soothing sensations. Their bodies have adjusted to low doses, so only big hits will do. Some teens find that they’re taking life-threatening doses of Valium during the course of their addiction, but they don’t know how to stop their use.

Where Can Teens Get Valium?

Few parents simply hand out Valium tablets to their children to use and abuse at will, simply because most parents know that these substances are dangerous and shouldn’t be part of a teen’s day-to-day life. Parents might, however, leave their own prescriptions in conspicuous places that teens can quickly access.

Leaving pills in the family medicine cabinet, for example, might allow teens to simply steal a few here and there when they’d like to soothe a rough day.

If other family members live nearby and those people also take Valium, the teen might be compelled to take drugs from those medicine cabinets as well. A simple request to visit the bathroom might be all that’s needed in order for a teen to score very valuable drugs.

Teens might also have connections they can lean on at school in order to obtain Valium. They may have classmates with anxiety disorders who are willing to sell their pills to needy friends, or they might attend school with troubled teens who make a living from selling drugs to their peers. Heading to school might be the best way for addicted teens to get Valium if they have many connections who use the drug.

Teens can also buy the drug from online retailers. Overseas pharmacies are often willing to ship medications to people who pay via credit card, and those pills might come in discreet packaging that seems completely innocent. It might look like the teen is ordering books or movies, but in reality, that teen might be ordering Valium for a private party.

The Signs of Valium Abuse

Teens might feel as though they’re clever about their addiction issue, and that their use might never come to the attention of the parents who love them. There are some signs of Valium use that can be difficult for parents to ignore, however, and they might prompt a candid discussion that reveals the truth about the teen’s choices.

While addictions can look different in different people, an article in American Family Physician suggests that these are the signs commonly associated with the regular use of Valium:

  • Drowsiness, confusion, or lack of coordination
  • Memory loss
  • Enhanced excitement, aggression, or hostility
  • Depression
  • Lack of emotional response

Teens with drug addictions might also become increasingly concerned about issues of privacy, and they may fly into rages when asked about their personal lives. They may come home from school seeming upset and unwilling to share, and emerge from their rooms seeming relaxed and at ease just a few moments later. They may still, however, be unwilling to discuss the problem.

They may form friendships with other teens who have drug addiction problems or difficult histories, and they may pepper their conversations with code words for Valium. These teens may also see their grades fall, and they may drop out of their extracurricular activities.

Teens like this are headed down the wrong path, as these choices will keep them away from a vibrant future. Colleges may not accept students with no extra-curricular activities and low grades. Internships might fade away as teens refuse to show up for their responsibilities. Sponsors and mentors may give up their work. The teen might be trapped in a short of twilight childhood, unable to move forward as an adult, but unable to make changes.

Recovering from Valium Addiction

Teens with a persistent Valium addiction may think that they just can’t get better, particularly if they’ve tried to heal on their own without assistance from a medical professional. This drug can cause persistent changes inside brain cells, slowing them down to such a degree that they become unaccustomed to the regular pace of life. If a teen abruptly shuts off the flow of Valium, these cells can awaken suddenly, and the electrical activity that follows can be so fast and so furious that it’s frightening. Teens in this stage might feel worried or anxious, and they might even develop seizures. Taking Valium makes those episodes stop, however, so teens might run right back to their drugs when they begin to feel ill. One episode of sickness stopped with Valium could be a powerful motivator that keeps a teen addicted.

In a treatment program, however, teens have access to medical help that can allow them to get sober without feeling ill. They’ll also have the help of counselors who can help them learn how to deal with feelings of anxiety and nervousness without leaning on any drugs at all. Treatment programs for teens might even provide educational support, so teens can stay on track with their career goals and transition into a healthy adulthood.

Talking to teens about Valium isn’t easy, but it’s clear that leaving the addiction in place is just too risky. If you’d like your teen to get comprehensive help for his addiction, please contact us at Muir Wood. We can start the enrollment process right over the phone, and we can set up an integrated treatment program that could really make a difference for your son. Please call us for a confidential consultation today.

Teen Xanax Use and Abuse

In the summer of 2013, a clothing designer came under intense fire for a line of shirts that contained the names of prescription drugs. Parents felt that shirts with the word “Xanax” should be pulled from the market immediately, as they made light of what is a very serious problem that might impact their children. Teens who read this story might have a very different opinion, however, and they may believe that parents are just overreacting to what is, in essence, a fashion statement.

This little story demonstrates just how pervasive teen Xanax abuse might be. Parents might think that the use of this drug without a prescription is so deadly that it shouldn’t be mentioned in a joking manner, but teens think that the substance is benign and common and not worth worrying about. Reaching these teens and convincing them of the dangers of drugs can be difficult, but leaving the abuse in place could be catastrophic.

Understanding Xanax

According to IMS Health, Xanax ranked 13th in a list of the top 25 medications dispensed by doctors in the United States in 2012. For many people, it’s a remarkably helpful drug. People with anxiety disorders, for example, might struggle with rambling and terrifying thoughts that just won’t stop. Xanax can slow down electrical activity inside the brain, allowing those rapidly firing cells to relax and release their destructive thoughts. For some people, this is the best way to find relief.

The drug can also be attractive to drug abusers, however, as it seems to have the ability to interact and connect with the brain’s pleasure pathway. By turning on specific receptors while turning others off, the drug has the ability to increase the sensation of pleasure, allowing a person to feel outright euphoria. Blending that happy feeling with the sensation of relaxation could be almost unforgettable, and it could make people crave the drug.

According to, Xanax can reach a peak concentration in the blood within one to two hours, but it tends to stay in place for up to 24 hours. This means the drug tends to take hold quickly and produce a big effect for a long period of time. Drugs like this are just rewarding, overwhelming the brain and keeping it amended, and cravings can quickly follow the use of a drug like this.

Routes of Teen Xanax Use

Some teens take their Xanax pills orally, swallowing entire tablets with a mouthful of liquid. As mentioned, they may feel a response within an hour, and the oral route of administration may allow a sensation of ease and pleasure to slowly wash over a teen’s body in a slow and steady wave.

Impatient teens may be resistant to the idea of waiting for a change to take hold, however, and an hour to an impatient teen might seem like an eternity. As a result, these young people might chew their tablets and swallow the sticky paste, allowing the substance to overwhelm their bodies just a little faster. Teens might also crush the pills and snort them, bypassing the digestive system altogether.

Teens also tend to take huge amounts of Xanax at once, completely disregarding the normal dosing rates for their weight.

Taking three or four pills at once might seem remarkably dangerous to an adult, but a teen might feel that augmenting pills with more pills is the best way to ensure a remarkable experience that simply can’t be beat.

Common Patterns in Teen Xanax Use

Teens who take Xanax might pop their pills almost anywhere, including:

  • At school
  • In their rooms
  • In the family bathroom
  • At parties
  • At the homes of friends

They might focus their attention exclusively on the use and abuse of Xanax, but they might also choose to take these pills in concert with other illicit substances. Often, teens blend their use of Xanax with the use of other prescription drugs, like Vicodin or OxyContin. A study conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America found that two in five teens felt that prescription drugs were significantly safer to use when compared to illicit drugs like heroin or cocaine. Teens who feel this way may develop complex patterns of use in which they take any prescription drug they can find, in any combination that seems right to them at the time. They might take in Xanax alone one day, take Xanax with alcohol the next, and then take Xanax with Vicodin the next.

If there’s a silver lining in this practice, it comes about due to addiction rates. Since teens might not be focusing exclusively on Xanax for their abuse, they might not have a specific chemical addiction to the substance. Addictions to drugs tend to come about due to chemical changes that take hold due to persistent abuse of the same drug over an extended period of time. If teens take Xanax in a rotating pattern, they might not develop a Xanax-exclusive addiction.

A study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence seems to support this theory, as only 7.9 percent of users studied qualified for a benzodiazepine dependence issue, while 22.6 percent qualified for a diagnosis of benzodiazepine abuse.
Studies like this seem to suggest that more teens are using the drug than developing addictions to it.

Treatment Options for Xanax Abuse

While teens with a Xanax habit might feel completely isolated and alone, there are literally hundreds of people in the United States who also deal with the same problem. In fact, according to a study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 60,200 people entered treatment programs in 2008 due to some aspect of benzodiazepine abuse. Many of these people were young.

It can be terrifying for young people to even think about entering an addiction treatment program, as they may wonder how the treatment will impact their:

  • Friendships
  • Status in the community
  • Educational prospects
  • Reputation

Teens who move past these fears may find, however, that treatment really is helpful. In therapy, they have the opportunity to examine their motivations for using drugs, as well as the habits that seem to support continued drug use. They can look at their friendships in a new light and develop a robust sense of self-esteem that can allow them to move past peer pressure to use drugs. Teens might even discover new methods for handling stress and anxiety, so they’re even less likely to use drugs at all.

At Muir Wood, we focus on helping adolescent boys and girls struggling with issues of addiction and/or mental illness. We have a staff of trained professionals, all of whom are passionate about helping young men achieve a healthy, happy adulthood. We even provide a state-of-the-art educational experience for our clients, allowing them to stay on track academically. If your son is abusing Xanax, we might be just the place he needs. Please contact us to find out more.