XANAX AND FENTANYL: A DEADLY COMBINATION
Parents need to be aware of one of the most commonly prescribed drugs,
Xanax, as it has also become the most commonly abused prescription drug
by teenagers. In general, teenagers tend to minimize the risks of drugs
that are “legal”, or that are prescribed by a physician. The
fact that it is not prescribed for them, or that their supplies are not
from pharmacies but from the web or the dealer on the street, often is
ignored by teens, and can lead to serious, and even deadly consequences.
Xanax is the trade name of alprazolam, which is a tranquilizer, and anti-anxiety
medication in the category of drugs known as benzodiazepines. The use
of Xanax in the adult population has risen dramatically, with prescriptions
increasing by 66% in the last twenty years. Even when prescribed properly,
an estimated 10-25% of long time users become dependent. Used in combination
with alcohol or opioids, benzodiazepines become extremely lethal, and
account for a third of fatal overdoses. One reason it is so popular with
teenagers is that it is glorified and popularized in music, social media,
movies and TV. Popular teen cultural heroes are seen on line exclaiming
the fun benefits, and showing party scenes made to look appealing. Children
as young as 8 or 9 recognize Xanax from the music they listen to.
The drug is usually sold in the form of bars – strips split into
four blocks. The street names include Xannies, Zannies, handlebars, bars,
and blue footballs. Using it produces a “Xanax high”, which
is a relaxed, sedative feeling, often reinforcing the desire for continued
use. It does however, depress the central nervous system, impacting respiration
and heart rate, which can be fatal. Xanax is used by more than 10% of
adolescents ages 18-25, which is nearly double the rate of adults who
abuse the drug.
Symptoms of Xanax Abuse: Symptoms of use include drowsiness, trouble concentrating, muscle weakness,
slurred speech, poor memory, impaired judgment, difficulty breathing.
In the most severe cases, a child can take Xanax to relax or calm down,
and be perceived as resting when in reality they may be experiencing a
life threatening reaction. Those around them are often unaware of the
seriousness of the reaction.
Signs of Teen Xanax Abuse: Similar to abuse of other substances, Xanax abuse leads to behavior changes,
aggressive behavior, withdrawal from friends and family, engaging in risky
behavior like driving while under the influence, progressive desire to
use more of the drug and more often.
Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms: Long term use of Xanax produces tolerance (need more of the drug to achieve
the feeling), and physical withdrawal symptoms when one tries to stop.
Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, depression, insomnia, increased heart
rate and blood pressure, sweating, tremors
Two issues significantly compound the problems of Xanax use. One is mixing
benzodiazepines with other drugs or alcohol. Teens will often drink and
use Xanax, which is an extremely dangerous and deadly combination. The
other significant issue is the source of the drug. One of the main sources
is adult medicine cabinets. Teens will siphon off pills that their parents
(or friend’s parents) are keeping in the home. The other primary
source is to obtain them from the internet/dark web, or from street dealers.
Unfortunately, there is no control over what is actually in the drug they
are taking under those circumstances.
Fentanyl: One of the most dangerous substances that illegal suppliers of Xanax lace
their product with is Fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is
50 times more powerful than heroin, and 100 times more powerful than morphine,
and is finding its way into counterfeit Xanax sold on American streets.
As little as three to five grains of the substance, (similar to grains
of salt) are enough for a fatal dose. A child, or an adult, taking a counterfeit
pill just to relax, may never wake up again. It is as frightening as it
sounds, but important to be aware of and vigilant about with your children.
What can parents do: Similar to the use of any substance, insight, knowledge, and open lines
of communication are essential. Additional approaches include:
- Knowing the signs and symptoms
- Do not take any use lightly. Accidental death can easily occur, even if
a child does not have a problem with abuse of dependency of the drug.
- Educate and implore your children to not obtain any drugs illegally. There
is no way to know what is in the pill they are taking. They must understand
that the suppliers of the drugs do not have their interest or safety as
- Monitor your prescription drugs, and keep them safe and secure. Dispose
of drugs that are not being used. Police stations and hospitals have drug
drop off programs.
- If your child is experimenting with benzos, get medical help. Any discontinuation
of the drug must be monitored by a physician to ensure health and safety.
Remember, if you have issues you would like to see addressed, please email me at
Moe Gelbart, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Thelma McMillen Center