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Counterfeit Xanax sold on social media linked to several deaths in the U.K.
Posted in Addiction

Anti-anxiety medication Xanax, part of a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, is not available in the United Kingdom except on a private prescription. That has not stopped people, especially youngsters, from obtaining the highly addictive drug illegally. An in-depth investigation by BBC, published in March 2018, revealed that between 2015 and 2017, the U.K.’s illegal drug market saw a surge of over 1.5 million counterfeit Xanax pills. The fake pills were sold on the dark web by savvy dealers who employed aggressive marketing tactics.

Police interventions in mid and late 2017 resulted in the seizure of a huge cache of fake pills and arrests for drug-related offenses. These actions helped in suppressing the glut of counterfeit drugs to a large extent. However, another BBC investigation disclosed that dealers were advertising drugs, which were supposedly Xanax and diazepam, on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Laboratory tests revealed that the drugs were actually etizolam (a benzodiazepine analog banned for human consumption in the U.K.) being passed off as Xanax and diazepam.

Etizolam, also used in the treatment of anxiety, produces an effect similar to that of Xanax. It is addictive, and mixing it with alcohol and other substances can be lethal. It was previously reported that etizolam was responsible for a spate of deaths in Scotland. Officers had seized 2 million pills which were suspected to be etizolam. However, even authentic Xanax bought illegally has been causing widespread damage. In February and March 2018, at least six British youngsters had to be hospitalized after using illegally bought Xanax for recreational purposes.

Dangers of Xanax use in the US largely overlooked

Between 1996 and 2013, there was a 67 percent increase in the number of American adults filling a benzodiazepine prescription – from 8.1 million to 13.5 million. During this period, there was an over three-time increase in the amount of benzodiazepines filled – from 1.1 to 3.6 kilogram lorazepam-equivalents per 100,000 adults. Overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines increased from 1,135 in 1999 to 8,791 in 2015. Despite these developments, the harmful impact of excessive benzodiazepine use, misuse and addiction went largely ignored.

A possible reason for the lower focus on benzodiazepines could be that nearly 75 percent of deaths involving benzodiazepines also involved an opioid. Notwithstanding the higher risk of overdose in individuals using both benzodiazepines and opioids, rates of co-prescription nearly doubled, increasing from 9 percent in 2001 to 17 percent in 2013. From 2004 to 2011, non-medical use emergency department visits involving both opioids and benzodiazepines increased from 11 to 34.2 per 100,000 people, and overdose deaths involving both drugs increased from 0.6 to 1.7 per 100,000 people.

In the U.S., hip-hop artists and DJs have been promoting Xanax through music videos. The drug is available for purchase on social media, particularly Instagram. A popular DJ in the San Fernando Valley took to social media to boast that he sold 400 bars of Xanax. It was recently highlighted that counterfeit Xanax pills laced with fentanyl had emerged in America’s illegal drug market – the lethal drug combination was involved in the accidental death of rapper Lil Peep in November 2017.

Managing Xanax dependency and withdrawal

Benzodiazepines are often used for only short durations.  Even when benzodiazepines are used as per recommendations, they may produce emotional and/or physical dependence (addiction). Physical dependence may develop after two or more weeks of everyday use. Individuals are likely to experience serious withdrawal symptoms if benzodiazepines, which have been used for more than 3-4 weeks, are stopped abruptly. Withdrawal symptoms include dizziness, nausea, seizures, tremor, changes in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat and irritability. The dependency risk can be reduced by limiting prescriptions to 1-2 weeks’ supply.

Sovereign Health offers long-term care for addiction-related disorders, including Xanax addiction, in a safe environment. Drug addiction treatment at our state-of-the-art rehab centers combines residential detox followed by various alternative therapies and counseling sessions. We also impart necessary life skills to help patients adapt to a normal life after completion of treatment. To know more about our Xanax addiction treatment programs, call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online with an expert.

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