February 26, 2020
“My colleagues who work particularly in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry who work in addictions… are talking about an epidemic of benzodiazepine use among youth.”
~ Dr. Sam Hickcox, Physician Lead, Nova Scotia Health Authority
Recently, the Southern California – based Institute for Public Strategies put out a warning for parents: Although overall underage prescription misuse is declining, Xanax abuse by teenagers is increasing.
Benzodiazepines—The OTHER Prescription Drug Danger
“A lot of the focus has been on deaths due to opioid misuse, but research is now showing that many of these people with opioid overdoses have benzodiazepines on board, too.”
~ Dr. Any Swift, MD, Mount Sinai Beth Israel
Xanax—the brand name for the generic alprazolam—belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. “Benzo” medications are typically prescribed to treat anxiety or insomnia. Other popular drugs in this class include Valium (diazepam), Restoril ( temazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Klonopin (clonazepam).
Although they are safe and effective medications when used very short-term, benzodiazepines are extremely habit-forming. In fact, these sedatives are so powerful that even taking them to exactly as directed or “as needed” can lead to dependence.
Of special relevance, benzodiazepine dependence may be so severe that quitting “cold turkey” can be fatal.
Like opioids, tranquilizers are Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants. They slow down heart rate and breathing and reduce blood pressure. And when they are used with other CNS depressants such as painkillers or alcohol, the effects are multiplied.
Approximately one-third of all prescription drug deaths involve benzos.
Why Do Teenagers Abuse Xanax?
“The appeal here is that prescription drugs are seen as providing an exceptional high while being both ‘safer’ Than street drugs and easier to find. They are usually as close as their parents’ and grandparents’ medicine cabinets, in fact. The tragedy of course, is that the drugs aren’t safer at all.”
~ Dr. David Sack, nationally recognized addiction expert
Benzodiazepines produce a euphoric high, drowsiness, and relaxation. Because it is a short-acting medication within a rapid onset of effects, Xanax is the most popularly-abused benzo-class drug. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Xanax is THE tranquilizer of choice among high school seniors.
This is particularly concerning, because Xanax is NEVER recommended for people under the age of 18.
Street names for Xanax include “bars”, “X” and “Zannies”.
Xanax is also popular because it is so easy to obtain. Most teenagers get their Xanax by raiding their parents’ or grandparents medicine cabinets. Increasingly, however, illicit formulations can be purchased on the so-called “Dark Web”.
In general, teenagers who abuse prescription medications mistakenly believe that they are somehow safer than street drugs. Unfortunately, they don’t realize how powerful benzodiazepines actually are. When they mix tranquilizers with other substances, and overdose becomes very likely.
But counterfeit Xanax that did not come from a legitimate pharmacy carries another risk. With increasing frequency, black market pills are laced with other substances. In late 2015, for example, one person died and several others were hospitalized with the “Xanax” they took include fentanyl, an opioid that is 100 times more powerful than morphine.
What’s the Bottom Line?
“They take away an individual’s ability to learn how to tolerate and manage their anxiety and find ways to live with anxiety and solve the problems in their life that may be contributing to anxiety. In the same way that using opioids or using alcohol can take away the person’s distress but in the end, erode their ability to really manage their life.”
~ Dr. Hickcox
Contrary to what too many young people believe, the abuse of prescription medications is NOT safe. In the specific case of Xanax, it is a powerfully-addictive drug, and misuse—especially in combination with alcohol or pain pill—can easily lead to overdose and even death.
The best thing that concerned parents can do is to safeguard their medications. Lock them up, take frequent inventory, and dispose of any unused medications properly.
But if your teenager is already abusing Xanax or do any other prescription drug, you absolutely need specialized professional help. To repeat what was said earlier, abruptly quitting any benzodiazepine is extremely dangerous and therefore NEVER recommended. Xanax detox should be ONLY be done under the close supervision of trained medical personnel.
If you live in Southern California, your best resource is Teensavers Treatment Centers. Located conveniently in Orange County, Teensavers has helped teenagers and families in crisis since 1978. As the most-trusted adolescent drug rehab in Orange County, Teensavers uses a unique, evidenced-based approach that addresses the specific needs of substance abuse and teens.
To get the help and support you need, contact Teensavers TODAY.
Teensavers – “Transforming lives…”
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