Xanax, also identified by its generic name of alprazolam, is a type of benzodiazepine that is primarily used to treat anxiety and panic disorders as well as depression. It is a prescription medication, although it has become a commonly misused street drug as well.
Xanax is highly addictive, so its use is closely monitored when prescribed by a doctor. Misuse of the drug can lead to addiction, overdose, and even death.
Health care professionals have recognized Xanax as one of the most addictive legal drugs available. An estimated 50 million prescriptions for the medication are filled each year, but millions more obtain it through nonprescription means. Xanax is also frequently mixed with other depressant drugs and alcohol by people who are seeking an even greater high. This behavior only increases the risk of addiction.
About 125,000 people end up in the emergency room each year because of Xanax use. Once addicted to Xanax, people may take 30 to 50 pills per day. These pills are obtained legally, sometimes through multiple prescriptions or illegally off the streets.
Xanax is one of the top 10 best-selling drugs in the country, and its rate of prescription has increased by roughly 9 percent per year since 2008.
The Dangers of Nonprescription Xanax
While it is illegal to consume Xanax without a doctor’s prescription, that does not stop people from doing so. The effects of Xanax depend greatly on the dosage you take, which can only be effectively monitored by a doctor. If you do not feel a reduction in anxiety or a greater sense of calm after taking the drug, you can speak with your doctor about increasing the dosage. If your doctor feels it’s safe to do so, they may change your prescription.
When obtaining nonprescription Xanax, however, you have no guarantee of the dose you are consuming or if it is safe for you. The risk of overdosing on the drug increases greatly when you purchase it illicitly.
There Are Dangerous Side Effects of Xanax That Can Also Indicate an Overdose. Those Include:
- Thoughts of suicide
- Racing thoughts
- Increased energy and risky behavior
- Agitation and hostility
- Tremors and seizure
- Pounding and/or irregular heartbeat
- Heart attack
- Respiratory depression
In addition to the risk of experiencing the above negative side effects or an overdose, you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms once you stop taking the drug if dependency has already occurred. When obtained through a prescription, a doctor closely monitors Xanax use. It is not safe to quit the drug cold turkey, as life-threatening withdrawal symptoms like seizures can occur.
If you are ready to stop using Xanax, your doctor will likely create a tapering schedule to gradually wean you off the drug. This allows your body to adjust over time to increasingly smaller amounts of the drug in your system. When done correctly, uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms will be minimized. Without medical supervision, the withdrawal process can be very dangerous.
Drug Cutting & Illicit Xanax
When sold on the streets, Xanax can be identified by various slang terms, such as Xannies, Bars, Z-Bars, Zanbars, Xanbars, Handlebars, Planks, or Bricks, among others. The drug is typically sold as pills or tablets but can also be injected. People abuse Xanax for its relaxing qualities that cause sensations of calmness and euphoria.
Medical professionals warn that it is dangerous to buy Xanax online or from distributors other than licensed pharmacies. Products sold by such vendors often contain dangerous ingredients that are not monitored by the Food and Drug Administration. Many people end up in the emergency room or suffer fatal consequences for consuming Xanax that has been laced with products unbeknownst to them.
Another danger of buying Xanax illicitly is that it is sold in highly potent variations. Health care professionals have worked with teenagers who have bought Xanax bars on the streets at much higher doses than what a doctor would prescribe. Various versions of the drug that are commonly cut with other substances are often marketed online as research chemicals and can be purchased by anyone. Mixing even small amounts of alcohol with such drugs, as many people using Xanax recreationally do, can be fatal.
Illicit Xanax has become particularly dangerous because it is more and more commonly cut with fentanyl, the strongest prescription painkiller available. Fentanyl is approximately 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. Because of its strength, very little of it needs to be used for the illicit production of fake Xanax, which is why many illicit drug manufacturers have turned to using it.
Fentanyl can be deadly with first use, even in the smallest of doses. What makes it even more dangerous is that many people do not know they have purchased a drug that includes fentanyl. They are not aware of what side effects to watch out for. People who have purchased fake Xanax laced with fentanyl have suffered heart attacks, heart failure, respiratory depression, and death.
How To Identify Fake Xanax
Fake Xanax is often sold in areas where access to prescription or real Xanax is limited. Illicit dealers decide they need more of the drug to distribute and take matters into their own hands. Since 2015, stories have surfaced about drug dealers who order alprazolam powder from China that they can press into pills and then resell for a high profit. It is a lucrative business for the drug dealers that comes with many risks to the consumers.
Incidents involving the use of fake Xanax have sent many people to the emergency room with fatal consequences. The risk of use can be decreased, however, if you can recognize fake Xanax. One way to identify fake Xanax is by evaluating the source. If you aren’t buying it from a licensed pharmacy, it is likely fake. Secondly, consider the price. Illicit distributors are aiming to make a profit. If they are selling a drug at highly discounted prices, it probably isn’t real.
Ultimately, it can be difficult to identify fake Xanax just by the looks of it. Fake Xanax tablets often look exactly the same as the real ones, and people have no idea they are buying a fake product. Even scientists have a difficult time identifying fake Xanax just by looking at it. Oftentimes, the only way they can tell it is fake is by running tests to determine exactly what chemicals are in the pills.
A string of hospitalizations in San Francisco in 2015 and 2016 revealed the dangers of consuming fake Xanax laced with fentanyl. Multiple users died, and many others ended up in the emergency room after consuming what they believed was only Xanax. Blood tests of the victims revealed fentanyl in each of their systems, though they only reported the use of alcohol, cocaine, and Xanax.
It wasn’t until one young man in his 20s arrived at the hospital with some of the pills still in his possession that testing was able to confirm that the Xanax pills did indeed include fentanyl. The pills looked just like real Xanax, though they were not.
Health care professionals warn that whenever you buy drugs through illicit sources, you are putting yourself at risk for consuming fake products that may not be exactly what they claim to be. Unless you obtain Xanax through a doctor’s prescription, you cannot guarantee what is in it or how your body will react to it.
The Rise of Fake Xanax
Despite the well-documented risks associated with consuming nonprescription and fake Xanax, growing numbers of people around the world continue to purchase it. Xanax, like all benzodiazepines, is a highly addictive and habit-forming drug.
Once people have become addicted, they are willing to go to extreme and risky lengths, such as buying fake Xanax to get their fix. Drug dealers have recognized a market to provide fake Xanax as a cheaper and easily accessible form of the drug. While health risks are clear, consumers around the world continue to support its production by creating a demand for illicit markets to fill.