Xanax as a party drug: British teens fall victims to a dangerous new trend glamorised by celeb culture

Xanax as a party drug: British teens fall victims to a dangerous new trend glamorised by celeb culture

Xanax is commonly prescribed to manage anxiety and panic disorders, but more and more teens in the UK have been taking it as a party drug, inspired by celebrities and pop culture.


Xanax, the brand name for the drug Alprazolam, is only available through private prescription here in the UK, but a growing number of British teens have been using it liberally from ages as young as 11. According to recent investigations, British teens can now find Xanax pills almost as easily as alcohol, including dangerous counterfeit versions, from social media, the dark web or from underage dealers. In the midst of an emerging crisis, psychologists and addiction specialists point out that celebrity culture is one of the main drivers behind the Xanax trend and that teens are influenced by their favourite artists to use this drug recreationally.


Figures show a rise in Xanax misuse and Xanax-related deaths

Xanax demand is on the rise in the UK. The “Xanarchy”, as journalists call it, has led to a booming new industry, one of improvised labs where dealers make fake Xanax pills for a growing teen clientele. In as little as four years, Xanax misuse has been linked to no less than 500 death across the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics, there was a 43% increase in deaths caused by benzodiazepines, a class of psychoactive drugs which also includes Xanax.  According to paediatrician and ER reports, more and more teens are admitted to hospital as a result of Xanax abuse, a phenomenon that was incredibly rare in the past.


Addiction experts jump in on the issue, explaining that Xanax was nowhere near as popular two years ago as it is today, and that this surge in popularity is due to a number of social factors. Frequently stigmatized in the past, mental health issues such as anxiety and panic attacks now benefit from increased awareness. Recognising the symptoms of anxiety, teens are looking for a quick solution to this problem, one that their friends are using and that doesn’t involve talking to their parents. And, as the second-largest black market for Xanax counterfeits, the UK definitely delivers.


Needless to say, we shouldn’t be tempted to see the increase in mental health awareness as a scapegoat for the UK’s Xanax crisis, because the problem has many complex causes. One of them, experts explain, is the toxic influence of celeb culture and social media, which is becoming harder to manage.


Social media and celebrity culture are changing the face of the drug market

Teenagers have always been influenced by celebrities, and singers glamorising drug use is definitely not a new phenomenon. However, unlike previous generations, the young generation of British teens has far wider access to social media, toxic subcultures, and underground sources of anxiety pills.


In an age where news travels in the blink of an eye, teens are exposed to complicated events that they can’t always make sense of. Take Demi Lovato, whose dramatic battle with addiction went viral and sparked a surge of online reactions in 2018. The singer was open about her struggle with mental health and substance abuse and, in a documentary, she revealed that she almost died of an overdose after mixing cocaine with Xanax.


Grammy winner, Internet start and teen idol Drake also mentioned casually popping Xanax pills in his songs, while Soundcloud rappers base their entire careers on themes like anxiety struggles and how Xanax helps them cope.


Media interest peaked in 2017, when emo Soundcloud rapper Lil Peep died at 21 from an overdose of Xanax, fentanyl, and a cocktail of several other drugs. This death sparked shock and concern in the community, revealing a serious problem that parents had been blind to: other Soundcloud rappers had been glamourising Xanax for years. For example, in one viral Instagram post, rapper Lil Pump posed with a Xanax-shaped cake.


Teachers and headmasters across the UK said that they had been pointing out this problem to parents for years, and that for a worrying number of teens popping Xanax pills during lunch breaks is a common practice. This also happens at parties, where teens make dangerous combinations of Xanax and alcohol. In lack of a better understanding of Xanax side effects, many students see Xanax as a safer alternative to illegal drugs that also doubles as a remedy for anxiety or sometimes, hangovers.


Even more worryingly, Xanax is surprisingly easy to obtain. In theory, the drug isn’t available on the NHS and it can only be prescribed at private clinics in the UK, but teens can find an online supplier in less than a minute. And even if they don’t actively look for it, an ad on social media can still pop up, tempting teens to buy a Xanax pill for as little as 70p.


What is Xanax and when does it become dangerous?

Xanax is the trade name for the drug Alprazolam, a short-acting benzodiazepine prescribed in the management of generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Benzodiazepines produce dopamine in the brain, generating feelings of relaxation and helping patients cope with symptoms such as restlessness, trembling, increased heart rate, sweating, or the feeling of impending doom.

However, specialists recommend caution when taking Xanax and benzodiazepines in general, because these drugs are highly addictive. Prolonged use has been associated with harmful, even life-threatening side effects that range from drowsiness and tiredness to depressive and suicidal thoughts.

Doctors also point out that the counterfeit versions of Xanax that are so popular in the UK pose an even greater threat, because benzodiazepines are mixed with other dangerous substances. For example, one investigation at Robertsbridge Community College revealed that students had been taking cheap fake tablets that had been laced with Fentanyl.

Even when the pills are not counterfeit, Xanax can still be dangerous as a party drug. Combined with alcohol, it can slow down heart rate and breathing, leading to respiratory arrest, coma, and even death.

How to get help for Addiction

If you or anyone you know is suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction and want to seek help then take the first step and call us for free on 0203 955 7700 where an Addiction expert is ready to take your call and provide impartial advice. Call now.

Dipesh / 19th December 2019/ Posted in: Latest News


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    Detoxification (detox) is the medical intervention required for someone who is physically dependent to drugs or alcohol. If required, medical detoxification would be the first step taken in residential rehab. Detox is used to prevent uncomfortable and dangerous (even fatal) withdrawals symptoms resulting in suddenly becoming abstinent from alcohol/certain drugs.

    The goal of a medical detox is to aid in the physical healing required following long term addiction and rid the body of all together of substance whilst providing a cushion for unpleasant symptoms of withdrawals. Detox is not considered the whole treatment for drug/alcohol addiction and it is always recommended that a comprehensive rehabilitation program is used along side to help maintain long term abstinence.

    Medication is often required for alcohol detox. If you are dependent on alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms it is vitally important to seek medical advice prior to stopping. There is a long list of medications used when treating alcohol addiction and the exact medication given to an individual will depend on their needs/medical history. Some of these include;

    • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
    • Lorazepam (Ativan)
    • Diazapam (vailium)

    Librium and Valium are the most commonly used detox medication in the UK. All medication used to help with alcohol detox have been proven to help reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

    There are also a number of drugs recombined by the NHS to help treat alcohol misuse. Some of these include:

    • Naltrexone
    • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
    • Nalmefene
    • Acamprosate (campral)

    Medication is always required for heroin detox. For someone suffering from heroin addiction, the thought of detoxification (detox) can be exceptionally daunting. Withdrawal symptoms from opiates, such as heroin, can be severe and include pain, vomiting, nausea and shaking.

    There are different ways that heroin detox can be carried out, most usually either ‘maintenance therapy’ or ‘full medical detox’.

    Attempting to switch from heroin to a heroin substitute, usually on a controlled prescription, is known as Maintenance therapy. Subsites used are most often methadone or buprenorphine.

    A full medical detox from heroin will always be carried out in a residential rehab setting and will allow the individual to switch form heroin to a substitute and slowly withdraw completing treatment free of all substances. Someone using a heroin substitute can choose to have a full medical detox at any time, however detoxing substances such a methadone can often add to the length of detox required. Drugs most commonly used to fully detox from heroin are, Subutex, Suboxone and Methadone. Much like alcohol, the exact drugs used will be dependent on the individuals needs/medical history.

    Once detoxed from heroin the risk of overdose is much higher following relapse due to tolerance following withdrawal.

    The length of treatment in a residential rehab depends on a number of elements. Some substances require longer periods of detox than others.

    Private paying patients will also often choose a length of stay that suites their therapeutic and financial needs. As a rule, a full treatment program in a rehab is considered to be 28 days (often referred to as a month), however, treatment is offered in several different ways and lengths starting at 7 days.

    Treating alcohol addiction will always require a minimum of 7-10 days, this would be considered the detoxification (detox) faze. The length required for treating drug addiction can vary drastically depending on the substance being used. Detox for Heroin addiction is generally around 14 days minimum, with more time required if substances such a methadone are being used. Treating prescription drug addiction can often take the longest. The time required for treating gambling addiction, eating disorders and sex addiction will be based on the individuals needs.

    Rehab programs can be as long as an individual requires but primary treatment is normally caped at 12 weeks, with the offering for further secondary and tertiary treatment thereafter.

    *based on average rehab stays, everyone will vary dependant on needs and medical requirement/history.

    There is no need for your employer to know that you are seeking help for trauma and addiction unless you choose to involve them with the process. All employers should have a policy that explains what you do if you cannot come to work due to illness – illness to include treating alcohol addiction/treating drug addiction.

    If your work absence extends over 7 days your employer is likely to require an official statement of fitness to work which would be obtained from your GP. This would need to supply evidence of your illness as well as any adjustments required for returning to work, fazed return or reduced hours, but does not need to specify in detail the reason why you have been absent.

    If you are absent from work for 7 days of less, for example entering rehab for a detoxification (detox) on a Saturday for 7-10 days taking a full week away from work, you can self-certify your illness by letting your employer work you will not be attending work for that period of time. Exactly how an individual would do this would be dependent on a specific companies’ policies on taking sick leave.

    Any time longer than 7 days it is likely an employer will require a note from the individuals GP certifying their sickness and a fit note on return. Most companies have a clearly outlined policy on sickness and receiving sick pay so the exact requirement can vary. A rehab will always be willing to advise on time off work.

    How much does rehab cost is a very frequently asked question. The cost of treatment can range from £1,000 per week upwards depending on the place, with luxury rehab being the most expensive.

    There are free options available on the NHS but the waitlist of those looking for free treatment is longer than that for privately paying patients. Some private health insurance policies will cover treatment in some rehabs around the country.

    Choosing the right rehab centre will often be based on priced but it is important to follow guidance on the most suitable treatment centre for an individual’s needs which our expert team of advisers are on hand to offer.

    There are certainly pro’s for both treatment near by and traveling for treatment with one of the most asked question being should I get rehab near me? There are rehabs all over the UK and around the world that all offer expert programs, let’s look at how to choose a rehab.

    Local treatment

    Being close to home gives certainly has benefits. Visitors are normally permitted in rehab following the first 7 days stay, therefore if an individual is in treatment for a length of time longer than that being local will make it easier for loved ones to visit.

    Most rehab centres will also provide a full aftercare plan for someone following treatment, this will include ongoing aftercare in the specific treatment centre. Living close by can make it easy to take full advantage of ongoing aftercare. There can also often be the option for ongoing care with an individual therapist, again being close by will allow that treatment to be carried out face to face.

    Some individuals wish to be local but are willing to look broader, for instance the greater city of residence (London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc)

    Treatment Away

    Getting treatment away from home can be very appealing to some. Being out of the local area makes it a lot harder to just walk out of treatment as resources locally are unknown. Some also take comfort in knowing that they are not near home and focus more on treatment.

    As the price for treatment can vary so much from one residential treatment centre to another, private paying patients often would rather travel to keep the cost down. Those using private health insurance may also have to travel to find a treatment centre covered in their policy.

    When opting for treatment away from home this can be anywhere in the UK and also abroad. Aftercare can still be carried out and very successful using tools such as The Online Rehab.

    There is no right or wrong when choosing where to go to residential rehab, but our expert advisors are always on hand to help provide information on all possible options.

    Whilst millions of people in the UK have taken recreational drugs (amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, GHB, heron, ketamine, methadone, and prescription drugs) and drank alcohol not all become ‘addicted’. Most recent reports show that 279,793 individuals were in contact with drug and alcohol misuse services in the last year with over half of that being from opiate addiction and a quarter for alcohol.

    There are several risk factors invoiced in addiction and those using drugs and alcohol socially, simply take the risk. These risks are as follows;

    Tolerance – basically, if a substance is used repeatedly an individual’s tolerance to it will build. This will result in more of the same substance being required to get the same effect. In the long run this can easily lead to addiction and physical dependencies.

    Environmental risks – these can include influences such a peer pressure and stress as well as physical or mental abuse of an individual (particularly as a child). Overall, those who live with frequent pressures and stress are more likely to reach for a substance to cope and are therefore at higher risk of becoming addicted.

    Drug type – it is very well known that certain drugs are simply more addictive than others. Using substances such as heroin increases the risk of becoming addicted for need to ‘chase’ a high as well as physical dependency.

    Drug administration – how a drug is administered can affect its addictive qualities. A drug injected rather than smoked or snorted will release a quicker and more intense high thus making it psychologically (and in many cases physically) more addictive.

    Biological factors – it is now widely reported that being an addict is not only psychological but also biological. This includes your genetic makeup, mental health, sex and age. It is also reported to be 8 times more likely for the child of an addict to become an addict themselves.

    Its believed that addiction is approximately half genetics and therefore some are 50% more likely to become addicted than others.

    How do you help a loved one trapped in addiction?

    The first step is to help and encourage the individual to become willing to accept help. They do not need to be shouting this off the rooftops, but they do need to be willing to go into treatment. There are ways to help someone become willing to get treatment for alcohol or treatment for drugs.

    Set boundaries – set boundaries and stick to them. Once you have laid them out follow through with whatever consequences you have set however hard it is.

    Stop finances – if you are financially supporting someone stopping these finances can be the quickest way for the addict needing to ask for help. With no money to acquire a substance an addict’s options become very limited.

    Intervention – getting together with other family members/friends/colleagues and staging an intervention is often very successful in the fist stage of acceptance and gaining an admission to residential rehab.

    You can’t make them quit, this can lead to dangerous withdrawal. Boundaries are very important in helping someone become willing to get help. Unfortunately you cannot do someone’s recovery for them and without self-motivation it is very hard to make it work.

    The next step is to call our highly trained advisers 0203 955 7700.

    There is a huge range of rehab options available and where to start can be completely over whelming so let us help.