Dangers of Anti-Anxiety and Sleep Medications In Youth: Opt for Natural Sleep Remedies and Anxiety Solutions Instead

Dangers-of-Anti-Anxiety-and-Sleep-Medications-In-YouthDoes your kid need help sleeping? Are they anxious and unable to stay calm? Don’t just head to your doctor for some sleeping pills or anxiety meds – these prescriptions could be dangerous for your child. Kids given prescriptions for sleeping pills and anti anxiety medications are much more likely to go on to abuse these drugs later on, so try natural sleep remedies or anti-anxiety solutions first.

Xanax, Valium, Ambien, and more

In the last decade, prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications and sleep aids have been increasing.[1] And this trend isn’t just true for adults; many adolescents are written prescriptions for these drugs from family doctors. But as with many conditions, drug treatment should be a last resort, not the first thing you turn to. 

These medications can be quite dangerous and come with long-term risks. Use of sleep medications like Ambien can cause impaired motor and cognitive functioning during the daytime, and is associated with a greater chance of getting in a car accident or falling. They also may have carcinogenic effects and may be related to increased rates of cancer. One study found that people with prescriptions for hypnotics (sleeping pills) had about 4.6 times higher mortality risks than people who didn’t use these drugs. Even those who used hypnotics sparingly were at an increased risk of mortality.[2] Anti-anxiety medications come with similar serious risks.

Increased likelihood of drug abuse in adolescents

Another problem with exposure to sleep aids and anti-anxiety medications is that they are commonly misused; they are often used without a prescription to self-treat conditions like insomnia, or for sensation-seeking behaviors like getting high off of the drugs. A study published in the journalPscyhology of Addictive Behaviors showed that adolescents who have previously been given a prescription for either anxiety or sleep medications have an increased risk for misusing those drugs (using someone else’s illegally) in the future.[1]

Adolescents who were prescribed these drugs during the study period of three years were 10 times more likely to use other people’s prescriptions “to get high” or “to experiment.” Those who had had a prescription for anti-anxiety medications at some point during their life, but not during the three year study, were 12 times more likely to use someone else’s anti-anxiety medications compared to those never prescribed the drug themselves.[1] Exposure to these drugs through a prescription seems to substantially raise the risk of youth abusing these drugs in the future, something that can come with harmful side effects and health risks.

Natural sleep remedies and anti-anxiety solutions

Don’t look to prescription drugs as a first-line solution for insomnia or anxiety in your child. Try out the variety of effective, natural solutions instead that address the root cause of the problem.

For insomnia, your first goal should be to establish a regular sleep schedule. Help your child to pick a time to go to sleep and wake up; stick to this schedule every day, including weekends. Avoid naps during the day, as well. Make the bedroom a sleep-promoting environment by removing bright lights, clocks, and other stimuli that may disrupt sleep. Don’t let your child do anything else in their bed but sleep. The bed should be associated with falling asleep, not reading, watching TV, or talking on the phone. For more strategies, you may also consider visiting the NHA Library for our complete guide, Fatigue Causes and Relief: Natural Remedies for Excessive Tiredness and Chronic Fatigue to help your child find relief from daytime fatigue without drugs.

There are numerous strategies to naturally fight anxiety as well. Supplements like serotonin, passionflower, orniacinimide may help to relive some of your child’s symptoms. You may also help your child to try strategies like yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises to reduce stress and symptoms of anxiety. Our guide, Natural Remedies for Depression: Beating Depression Without Drugscan provide additional help as well.

You’ll feel better helping your child through diet, lifestyle changes, and supplements that in no way put their health in jeopardy.

Share your experience

Does your child suffer from insomnia or anxiety? What are your favorite natural sleep remedies? What about anti-anxiety remedies? Share your tips in the comments section below.


[1] Psychol Addict Behav. 2014 Nov 24. [Epub ahead of print]

[2] BMJ Open. 2012 Feb 27;2(1):e000850.

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