We will take a closer look at Xanax in this blog post, the reason for its popularity with teens and how to identify the warning signs.
Xanax – the Drug Many Parents Dread
This is probably the scariest drug that parents have to deal with. Teens are increasingly using this prescription anti-anxiety medication at their party scenes.
The white tablets have a distinctive oblong shape and come in blister packs like regular tablets, so naive teens think the drug is safe and legal to use. However, it is a Class C drug. They are relatively inexpensive at around £1 per pill and are readily available online. Parents have a difficult time detecting them because they are odourless and there is no drug paraphernalia for its use.
Xanax is very addictive and potentially hazardous. Six students from the respected Burntwood School (secondary girl’s school) in southwest London were rushed to hospital after ingesting Xanax while on their lunch break. This was following a spike in hospital admissions of “Xans” or “Xannies” during the Christmas break in Somerset, Kent, Sussex and Cumbria.
Xanax Use Has Skyrocketed
In a very short time frame in the UK, the drug’s availability has skyrocketed. A lot of it is due to experimentation by teens, but teens that are stressed are also self-medicating.
The benzodiazepine family of drugs includes Xanax (alprazolam) and Valium. The NHS doesn’t prescribe it, but it is available via private prescription and is used in the US for the treatment of anxiety disorders and is 10 – 20 times stronger than Valium (diazepam). The maximum dosage in clinical use is 4mg or 2 tablets per day. This sedative removes inhibitions, which makes the user less anxious.
Teen users are combining it with alcohol or cannabis at parties, which intensifies the sedative impact, or with energy drinks high in caffeine. It is even used with modafinil, a prescription drug used to counteract the calming impact. Xanax slows down the heartbeat and central nervous system, making the user lethargic and sedated. Memory loss and blackouts are common with first-time users.
Teens usually divide a bar into four vertical parts and they might take anywhere from 1/2 a tablet to 2 tablets throughout a party. It is very addictive as the users build up tolerance very quickly. The first two times the user might take the same number of tablets to feel the effect, but the third time they will have to take more tablets to get a similar impact. Withdrawal symptoms show up quickly. Mixing Xanax and alcohol by teens should be avoided, even if taken on different days as the drug remains in the system for 50 hours and overdosing can easily happen.
This is due to the fact that alcohol and Xanax affect the same part of the brain, they are both sedatives and impact the brain’s GABA receptors, and therefore mixing them intensifies the sedative effect and the harmful outcomes.
Depression and memory problems are the long-term effects of taking Xanax on a regular basis. This is usually accompanied by withdrawal symptoms like tremors, muscle pain, anxiety and numbness.
The availability of the drug online is attracting new users who would not have been tempted otherwise. Since it is a prescription drug instead of an illicit drug, users feel tend to think it is safe. This is further reinforced as the user can buy the drug from home using their credit card, instead of having to meet their dealer in person.
The drug isn’t readily available in the UK and the supply there is deemed to be fake. Users don’t actually know what they are buying. Xanax might be a possibility, it could be an alprazolam chemical substitute or it might not be medicine at all.
Xanax is available to teens via local dealers. Other teens get it from US dealers who advertise on Snapchat or Instagram or from the dark web using bitcoins to make their purchase.
Teens who take Xanax usually don’t take other illegal drugs are often on the outside of the “cool” crowd. Cocaine users and Xanax users don’t usually mix, Xanax users are at a lower social level, but they use it to fit in.
The signs are the same as if they were taking cannabis, but if they take it you will know. They appear drunk and have slurred speech. They’re somewhat anaesthetised giving muted responses or none at all. Weed users usually have more life in their eyes and will be chatty, especially about life and meaning. Xanax makes them seem sluggish the following day.
Other signals include extended sleeping, having bruises or scrapes from falling and sometimes more withdrawn and moodier than usual.
One reason teens enjoy Xanax is the feeling of disinhibition it provides. Others use Xanax to get rid of the feelings that they don’t like such as low mood, panic or anxiety.
Between the ages of 11 and 12, parents should be having regular conversations about drugs even if their child isn’t on drugs. You can ask if they are learning about drugs at school to open up the conversation, or what their friends think about the drug. Another way to kick-start the conversation is to talk about celebrities who are dealing with drug problems.
You want to let them know that it is ok to talk to you about drugs. It isn’t taboo, it’s just one of the challenges they have to deal with as they go through life. Parents usually hate having these talks as they can be emotional and very tough, but keeping communication open with your teen is very important.
Xanax Drug Test
Xanax use can be detected with a benzodiazepine drug test. At Zoom Testing we offer drug test kits that can detect the drug, so if you are a concerned parent, you can check that your child is not at risk. The simplest drug test we offer is a urine test for benzodiazepines. Xanax can also be detected by a saliva drug test or one of a variety of multi-panel drug test that can detect Xanax as well as a number of other drugs. If you would like advice on any aspect of drug testing, please contact us via the enquiry form.
Zoom Testing is a leading UK drug testing company and a supplier of Drug Test Kits.
This post was originally published in February 2018 and has been updated regularly since.