In a speech made to the House of Commons on 15th January 2018, Labour MP Bambos Charalambous spoke of the growing problem of young people using Xanax.
He pointed out that Xanax, or Alprazolam, is a highly addictive sedative from the Benzodiazepine family. He also added that when consumed with alcohol the effects of the drug are multiplied, the effects that can without alcohol last between 10-20 hours.
Much has been made in recent years about the way drugs like Xanax have been made widely available through online pharmacies and the dark web at as little as £1 per pill. The popularity of the drug in the US is also said to be fuelling the desire for it in the UK. It is currently the eighth most prescribed drug in the states and is used to treat anxiety and panic attacks.
The Story Of “Zoe”
The MP referred to a parent that lead him to investigate the use of the drug, he told the story of “Zoe”, an alias, who at the age of 14 became a regular user of Xanax.
“Zoe and her best friend were approached by an older girl at school and introduced to an ex-pupil whom they started hanging out with, together with a group of slightly older people, some of whom were adults. Zoe and her friend started going to private raves with the crowd and to parties in houses across north London where, swept up in the whirl of the excitement of this new lifestyle, Zoe was introduced to Xanax.”
A common introduction, the want to fit in with a group of friends or be part of a cool crowd has always been a main driver of young people falling into drug use. He stated that Zoe and her friend would regularly be mixing the sedative with alcohol and getting themselves into a “zombie-like state” one of the side effects of Xanax is amnesia and he pointed out that Zoe would have no recollection of how she picked up marks and bruises after coming home from nights out. This effect can make users vulnerable and possibly subject to abuse.
He spoke of another common side effect of Xanax being aggression and how Zoe would become violent and abusive towards her mother if she tried to stop her leaving to see the friends she knew were helping to drive her addiction and even got to the stage of calling the police to restrain her own daughter. Zoe had no recollection of what she did to her mother or even her arrest. Zoe was permanently excluded from school when her and her friend were found to be intoxicated on school premises.
It was discovered that a dealer was selling Xanax pills to young people including Zoe from a McDonald’s restaurant at only £1 per pill, an amount even teenagers at school age can afford to buy large amounts of.
Charalambous stated in researching the subject he had found the problem was much more widespread than the individual case that first drew him into the subject claiming he had became aware that on 9th May 2017, 20 15 and 16 year old’s were taken ill in Salisbury and received treatment after taking Xanax. Eight young people in Sussex were hospitalised over the Christmas period and in Scotland there were an “unconfirmed cluster of deaths from people injecting Xanax”. He then said other MP’s had confirmed further cases from their constituencies that resulted in the hospitalisations of teenagers.
A conversation then began about the influence of rap music and its links to the drug following the recent death of rapper Lil’ Peep, who posted a video on his YouTube channel bragging he had just taken 6 Xanax pills. He was found dead on his tour bus only a few hours later having died from an overdose. The popularity of Xanax in rap music is said to be a large factor in the rise in popularity the drug has seen, with it being featured in songs by artists such as Lil Wayne, Future and 6ix9ine. Some rappers however have denounced the drug, Grammy winning artist Chance the Rapper, who spoke openly about suffering addiction to Xanax until 2014 has spoke in interviews of the damaging effects of the drug.
It was pointed out that their is a definitive age divide in the knowledge of the drug with those over 30 mostly not having heard of the drug but those between 12-24 being very aware of the drugs presence in popular culture.
What can be done?
We would back the calls of Charalambous to put in place three actions to ensure this doesn’t become a drug as common place as it currently is in the states. To firstly, run campaigns to raise awareness of the drug and the damaging effects. Secondly, provided more support to those who develop dependency on the drug. Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, commission research into how prevalent the drug is nationally as we do not currently know the scale of young people suffering the effects of Xanax.
This would follow the trend of prescription drugs taking over from the mainstream illicit drugs that people are already aware of. This issue is going under the radar and a lack of knowledge around prescription and over the counter drugs is causing a widespread ignorance that these drugs, because they are often used by doctors simply don’t carry the same consequences as the likes of Cocaine, heroin or MDMA. We find that the drugs becoming more widely used across society are things perceived as safe such as Codeine, Tramadol and in this case Xanax. They are being found more and more in a workplace setting posing incredibly high risk to businesses, especially those in a construction or manufacturing industries where the risks involved in potential accidents can be catastrophic.
If you or someone close to you has an issue with Xanax or any other prescription drug, please get in touch and we can advise you on the best course of action.
the Recovery4Life team