Anti Anxiety Medication Pros and Cons in Teens Mental health professionals use the term anxiety to denote a state of fear, dread, nervousness, or unease. Feeling anxious now and then is a natural part of being human. However, if anxiety occurs too often or is particularly strong, this can negatively impact one\u2019s well-being and ability to function. Specific types of these conditions include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. A significant number of U.S. teenagers are affected by significant levels of anxiety or sleeping difficulties that impair their daily functioning. In some cases, doctors prescribe medications to help teens deal with anxiety as well as sleep-related issues. So let's take a closer look at the anti anxiety medication pros and cons. Teens and GAD Adolescents have a 25 percent lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorder, and of those, about 6 percent of cases are severe. For example, in adolescents, excessive worrying typically involves: \tFuture events \tPast behaviors \tSocial acceptance \tFamily matters \tPersonal abilities \tSchool performance Teens with GAD often do not realize that their anxiety is disproportionate to reality, so adults need to be cognizant of potential symptoms.\u00a0Red flags for GAD\u00a0in teens include: \t\u201cWhat if\u201d fears about situations far into the future \tPerfectionism, excessive self-criticism, and fear of making mistakes \tFeeling that they are responsible for disasters of any kind, and the belief that worrying will prevent these tragic events \tThe belief that misfortune is contagious and will happen to them \tNeed for frequent reassurance and approval Teens and Sleep Problems Teens require eight to ten hours of sleep each night to keep their minds and bodies working at peak levels. In the early 1990s, a widely recognized phenomenon known as sleep-phase delay was uncovered in teens. Their circadian rhythm (internal biological clock) shifts to a later time, making it more difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. Most teens do not get enough sleep. A 2006 study found that only 1 percent reported sleeping 8 1\/2 hours on school nights. A 2011 survey showed that by the time students are high school seniors, they are sleeping an average of 6.9 hours a night, a decrease from an average of 8.4 hours in sixth grade. A 2015 study confirmed the connection between lack of sleep and anxiety. Underlying\u00a0reasons for sleep-related difficulties in teens include maintaining highly active daily routines (e.g. school, home, social, and work life), the demands placed on the brain and body as part of adolescent development and the average teen\u2019s failure to make sleep a priority. For example, many teens suffer from treatable sleep disorders including narcolepsy, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea. Teen Drug Abuse While signs of drug abuse depend on the substance being used\/abused, there may be changes in sleep, mood, appetite, weight, behavior, and personality. In 2015, about one percent of high school students said they took a prescription drug of any kind\u00a0without a physician\u2019s prescription. A different survey indicated that nearly 50 percent of teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer than illegal street drugs. About 60 percent to 70 percent of teens said that home medicine cabinets were the source of their drugs. Impact of Anti-Anxiety and Sleep Meds in Teens According to several studies, the prescribing of anti-anxiety and sleep medications in teens has increased over the past decade. Along with this increase, we have seen an increase in the abuse of these drugs. A 2011 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimated that three percent of adolescents in the U.S. abuse these medications. A November 2014 article published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors uncovered\u00a0negative implications and side effects\u00a0regarding the use of anti-anxiety medications and sleep medications in teens. A total of 2,745 Detroit-area adolescents took part in this\u00a0University of Michigan study. Nearly nine percent had been prescribed potentially addictive anti-anxiety meds or sleeping pills. More than three percent of students had a current prescription during the 2009 to 2012 study. Select Study Findings \tStudents with prescriptions were 10 times more likely than their peers to obtain anti-anxiety or sleep medications illegally for reasons such as experimenting or getting high. \tStudy participants with a lifetime history of using a properly prescribed anti-anxiety medication were nearly 12 times more likely to abuse this type of medication than peers who were never issued such a prescription. \tStudents were more likely to abuse anti-anxiety or sleep medications if they were white, female or had a valid prescription for several years. \u201cWhen taken as prescribed, these drugs are effective and not dangerous. The problem is when adolescents use too many of them or mix them with other substances, especially alcohol,\u201d said lead researcher Carol J. Boyd, Ph. D. The authors warned that physicians and parents should closely monitor the use of these medications in teens. This helps prevent anti-anxiety and sleeping pill addiction and abuse. 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