(Newswise)–Although prescription drug abuse among adolescents is on the decline overall, Xanax addiction among teens is on the rise. Xanax is a sedative classified as a benzodiazepine, or ‘benzo’ for short.
It’s glamorization on social media and how easily teens can obtain it are partially to blame for its popularity and increase in use.
Twelfth graders use Xanax more than any other tranquilizer, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In San Diego County, 80% of youth housed in juvenile hall said that tranquilizers are the most abused prescription drugs by youth, according to a report by the San Diego Association of Governments.
Benzos are just as dangerous and addictive as prescription opioids and heroin, yet teens think it is a ‘safer’ way to manage anxiety and academic and social stress. They mistakenly think that because a doctor prescribes it, then it must be safe.
Rap pop culture on social media gives teens the wrong impression of Xanax. On the day of his death from a fentanyl-tainted Xanax overdose in 2017, famed rapper Lil Peep posted on YouTube that he had just popped six ‘Xan.’ Lil Pump marked his success of reaching 1 million Instagram followers by celebrating with a Xanax-bar shaped cake. Lil Xan’s stage name is derived from the drug and his debut album is appropriately titled ‘Total Xanarcy.’ Rapper Mac Miller, who was very open in his music about his struggles with depression, paranoia and drug addiction recently died of an overdose, although toxicology tests have not yet concluded what drugs were in his system at the time of his death. Miller admitted to smoking marijuana when he was 14 years old, and transitioned to cocaine and opiates at the age of 15.
Teens reported that they mostly obtain Xanax from their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinet or from a friend, according to the Monitoring the Future report.
A small but growing marketplace for youth is the Dark Web, and anecdotal evidence on online forums suggests that it is easy for adults – particularly drug dealers – to purchase Xanax online.
“Any time you buy something off of the Dark Web, you are playing with fire,” Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent Bob Harkins said. “There’s no such thing as quality control on the Dark Web.”
Xanax pills that are not dispensed by a pharmacy could be counterfeit or laced with other illicit drugs such as fentanyl, Harkins warned. Drug dealers can make a huge profit by flooding the market with dangerous pills that have the same color and pharmaceutical stamp as an actual Xanax.
Xanax – prescribed or not – is never recommended for those under the age of 18.
Parents should become social media-savvy and know the trends that kids are following. This includes monitoring their Internet usage and encouraging an open dialogue about difficult topics such as mental health, drug use and teen culture. Concerned individuals can also visit the San Diego County Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force for resources related to addiction and treatment.