Do Risks Come With Prescribing Drugs to Teens at a Young Age?
April 22, 2019
In this day and age, more and more teens are being prescribed medications specifically for different mental illnesses. Mental illness is more commonly found in teens today than in previous years because of the negative stigma that previously surrounded mental illness.
Pediatric Mental Health Specialist and Wayzata High School Graduate LeAnne Rohlf said, “Depression and anxiety are both increasingly common in the teenage population. Medication is an option to help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.”
According to an article done by Live Science, one in every five teens suffer from a mental illness. Therefore many teens are prescribed medications in order to help them on a daily basis. North Hennepin Community College Sophomore Erin Stark said, “I take Paxil for depression/anxiety. It often stops my brain from thinking so much and helps with impulsivity and irritation.”
Some parents are concerned with the fact that psychiatrists are prescribing drugs to teens at such young ages. These teens can succumb to peer pressure to share the drugs with others or attempt to “self-medicate,” with the teens themselves deciding their own doses of the drugs.
Rohlf said, “It’s important to work with a professional for treatment, as treatment is very individualized. Taking a medication that is not prescribed by a professional could have detrimental side effects or worsen symptoms.”
“One of my friends sells his anxiety and ADHD medication and those are pills doctors are aware of that teens tend to sell to others” said Sophomore Annick Van Luik.
Today, if teens are selling their medications, it is mostly anti-anxiety or ADHD meds, such as Xanax or Adderall. Stark said, “As a teen, I know Xanax is a party drug that becomes very dangerous when mixed with alcohol. Adderall is often taken by overburdened students to help them stay awake for testing and studying. I think no one intends to use drugs dangerously but sometimes they use it for fun, or with the intention of improving some aspect of their life.”
Though there is a calculated risk of prescribing drugs to teens at such a young age, the positives outweigh any potential negatives. Rohlf said, “Because the use of medication is very individualized to the person and what they are experiencing, it is difficult to access the
risk. Everything has risks and the potential for side effects, but medication can be a tool for some teenagers. Sometimes, early treatment can prevent more severe and long lasting problems as an adult.”
Van Luik said, “For me, I don’t think it’s risky because it teaches teenagers at a young age how to deal with prescriptions and in the long-term it is very helpful for us.”
Rather than prescription drugs, therapy is also encouraged depending on the person and illness. Keeping up a healthy diet can also create positive effects for struggling teens. “Therapy is a great option and I almost always recommend this to teens who are struggling with their mental health. I also always stress that good nutrition, exercise, and good sleep are essential to mental health,” said Rohlf.
“Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. You deserve the best life you can have, and that requires introspection and hard work. There are so many people with mental illnesses who
have stories to tell,” said Stark. “For those who are struggling to come to terms with it, know that you are unconditionally loved and accepted.”