The rising trend of Xanax use and its hidden dangers


Zoe Wildman

Xanax is a prescription anti-anxiety drug that has become popular for recreational use among teens.

“Xanax [is] the new Heroin. Don’t let ’em fool u,” said Chance the Rapper, a popular artist amongst young people, on Twitter. In this tweet, he is referring to Alprazolam, a prescription anti-anxiety drug commonly known as Xanax, which has become increasingly popular as a recreational drug among teens.

After decades of experimenting with alcohol, marijuana, and various other drugs, some high school students are adding prescription medication to that list of substances.

There are many reasons why teens have begun to prefer prescription pills. One is that they are easy to ingest; there is no smell involved, and they require no paraphernalia.

A Carlmont student, Jane Stevens, whose name has been changed to protect her anonymity, said, “‘Popping pills has become a popular trend for teens, especially those attending raves. Pills are a low-key way to get high without the smell… all you do is swallow the pill and wait.”

Prescription drugs may seem like a safe way to get high because they are regulated by the government, so they shouldn’t be laced with other harmful substances. But what many teens don’t know is that dealers have figured out ways to make drugs that have the same effects of Xanax, but that contain different, and possibly deadly, chemicals.

Administrative Vice Principal Grant Steunenberg said, “It’s more than just Xanax. Xanax is just what is available right now, but it is just one portion of the prescription drug problem, which isn’t just at our school, it’s pretty much society-wide right now because prescription drugs are so easily available. At another school that I taught at it was Oxycontin, and I know that at other schools it’s Vicodin. [Whatever] someone has a pipeline to get easily becomes the popular prescription drug to take.”

Another Carlmont student, John Smith, whose name has also been changed to protect his anonymity, has had a great deal of exposure to Xanax, and understands the trend from both the supplier and the consumer standpoint.

Smith said, “Dealers aren’t always getting [Xanax] from a personal prescription or a person with a prescription. Sometimes they are getting them from doctors who aren’t doing their jobs right. They’ll prescribe like 100 pills of Xanax to someone. And some people aren’t even selling real Xanax; they are making it themselves and it’s made with some bad [stuff].”

The effects or the high users get from Xanax, also known as bars, seems to be the main appeal.

Smith said that when you take Xanax “you don’t remember anything the next day, and when you’re on it it’s like you’re not even there; like you’re drunk, but ten times worse.”

Xanax, which is in a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, can have very serious side effects when combined with alcohol. Xanax and alcohol are both metabolized in the liver, and when combined have a strong depressant effect on the central nervous system. If too much of these substances are consumed, they can cause the user to ‘black out’ and even stop breathing. And since teens may be taking Xanax at parties, where it is likely that they will also drink alcohol, this could have extremely harmful implications.

Xanax and other benzodiazepines are highly addictive and cause the user to become tolerant to them quite quickly. In addition, once a user is addicted, the withdrawal process can be very severe and include a wide range of symptoms.

“It is very easy to become addicted to it. Even people who take the medication exactly as prescribed can become addicted to it, which is why I think it is very dangerous,” said Stevens.

Smith said, “If the buyer likes it then they are going to get addicted to it for sure. It’s like a virus.”

According to the prescription drug label for Xanax by its producer, Pfizer, “Certain adverse clinical events, some life-threatening, are a direct consequence of physical dependence to XANAX. These include a spectrum of withdrawal symptoms; the most important is seizure. Even after relatively short term use at the doses recommended for the treatment of transient anxiety and anxiety disorder… there is some risk of dependence.”

In terms of the Carlmont administration’s involvement with students bringing drugs and other dangerous substances into school Steunenberg said, “We walk a fine line. Our main job is to keep the school safe, which means getting information and trying to use that information to the best of our ability….But at the same time, we want to trust our students….Our students are on the cusp of adulthood and about to be sent out into the world, and it’s not like the police are going to go up and search [them] every time they are suspicious of something, and although we do have that right, we don’t exercise it as freely as we could because we don’t want to break that trust.”

Although experimenting with Xanax may seem like just another way for teenagers to rebel during high school and test the boundaries of what their bodies can handle, this is a dangerous path to follow. Xanax, with its potentially deadly synergism with alcohol, its known adverse effects such as memory loss, addiction, and its possibly life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, is a new and tempting hazard that teens need to learn to avoid as they socialize.

If left unaddressed, the abuse of Xanax may mark the beginning of a frightening new era of teenagers using prescription drugs in addition to alcohol and marijuana to have a good time.