In recent years, Xanax usage has expanded from its traditional purpose of treating anxiety and panic attacks.
Xanax is developing a sizable street market as a popular party drug.
As a common reference in lyrics, entertainment, art and fashion, a sort of cultural zeitgeist has formed around the drug—especially among younger populations in the U.S. and U.K.
The reasons behind Xanax’s recent rise to popularity are a combination of several different factors, each complex and worthy of study.
Consumers Aren’t Aware of Side Effects
Xanax and its generic form, Alprazolam, is among the most prescribed drugs on the pharmaceuticals market.
For many, Xanax serves a beneficial role in helping to treat anxiety and panic disorders.
But, as with any other controlled substance, there are dangers and risks of misuse, so it is important to understand how it works to be able to understand the side effects.
First marketed in 1960, Xanax belongs to the group of drugs called benzodiazepines or “benzos.” Today, one in every five prescriptions of controlled substances is regarding benzos.
Besides Xanax, other benzodiazepines include Librium, Ativan and Valium.
The danger of using Xanax regularly is a result of its short half-life.
The shorter half-life a drug has, the more quickly it affects the user, therefore there is a high potential for abuse.
As a short-acting benzodiazepine, Xanax’s onset of action is less than an hour, while the duration of the action can reach up to six hours.
Due to the fact it takes a shorter time to feel the effects of the pill, Xanax creates a calming effect shortly after its use.
Xanax increases GABA brain activity, thus if someone takes Xanax regularly, they decrease their own production of GABA naturally. Therefore, here is where the addiction and dependency is surfaced.
More and more people are using the drug while partying, which can ultimately result in overdoses. In the U.S., overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines have quadrupled between 2002 and 2015.
Overdoses occur when Xanax is mixed with alcohol or other substances, or if large quantities of the drug are consumed in a short time. Additionally, as recent trends show, fake Xanax pills are sold to unsuspecting customers.
The Xanax Market
In the United States alone, the benzodiazepine prescription market is expected to reach nearly $4 billion by 2020.
According to data from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., which makes benzodiazepines a go-to choice for the nearly 40 million Americans who suffer from anxiety each year.
One factor explaining benzos’ unprecedented popularity is that they can be purchased legally at an affordable cost.
Publishing Xanax prices, Drugs.com shows that it costs only $4.47 to buy a .25 mg unit with a prescription.
The cost of a .5 mg oral tablet of Xanax is usually sold for around $5.55. The most you can pay for a Xanax pill is $12.48 for a 2 mg oral tablet.
While the drug can be purchased at a low price with a prescription, most Xanax abusers do not obtain it through legal means.
In fact, the illegal market is quickly growing to outsize the regulated market.
The increase in legal Xanax prescriptions directly correlates to its increased availability on illicit markets.
Prescription forging and so-called “doctor shopping” are common methods used to obtain and later resell controlled substances.
Almost every dark web marketplace you can visit contains a significant number of vendors that sell Xanax, some for much higher cost and some for a much lower price per unit.
For example, on Wall Street Market, you can find the pill at a starting price of $.23 per piece, all the way up to $32.99 or more.
On Tochka Market, the drug can be found available for bulk purchases. For example, 100 Xanax 2 mg pills are listed for $320, or Xanax bars for $8 each.
Although the U.S. has been leading illicit Xanax sales for years now, it’s becoming more and more popular in the U.K. as well. Since 2015, Xanax abuse has led to more than 200 deaths in the U.K. alone.
The United Kingdom is the second-largest market for untraceable Xanax sales in the world.
One study from 2017 found that the U.K. accounts for 22 percent of worldwide Xanax sales on the dark web.
Another more recent study published earlier this year found that Xanax is the second most-purchased psychiatric drug among darknet users in the U.K., behind sedatives.
As Dark Web News has reported, a group of undergraduate students from Durham, England revealed last year that they’re earning thousands of pounds per month from reselling drugs bought on the dark web, including Xanax.
The U.K.’s Fake Xanax Craze
Britain, today, has a counterfeit Xanax crisis, never known as such before.
Many young people nationwide are getting hooked on fake benzos which are designed to mimic the look and feel of legitimate Xanax pills but with altered chemical makeup containing dangerous synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
Fake Xanax is made by using powder, often imported from China. These Xanax bars and pills are one click away for the users, as they can be found on the dark web and are usually cheaper than the original Xanax pills.
However, because they are made of questionable substances in unregulated underground labs, these Xanax pills are much more dangerous.
In most cases, the users and the manufacturers of the drugs do not know the full content nor the dosage of such pills. As a result, misuse and overdoses occur.
According to UK Addiction Treatment, a health group, the number of people admitted to rehabilitation and treatment centers for Xanax addiction increased by 200 percent last year.
Over half of those suffering with addiction were under the age of 24.
Regarding this problem, the authorities believe this epidemic stemming from the trade of Xanax pills on the streets and from darknet markets comes as younger populations are encouraged by cultural figures to experiment with the drug.
References to Xanax are increasingly found in rap and pop lyrics, and some artists are even calling public attention to glamorization of the drug.
Another reason why a lot of young people are using the anti-anxiety pill is that a growing number of these individuals suffer from such mental disorders.
Accordingly, Xanax seems to them like a cheap, quick solution to cope.
According to data from AnxietyUK, 13.3 percent of young people aged 16 to 19 years and 15.8 percent of people aged 20 to 24 years suffer from anxiety.
Although there are many different types of anxiety, the drugs belonging to the group of benzodiazepines are often recommended for use.
Entertainment’s Influence on the Drug Market
Inspired by the entertainment industry, British teens and teens around the world are developing a strong appetite for addictive drugs.
Labs based in the U.K., where the dangerous fake pills are cooked, meet the demand for such benzos.
The reason why the drugs gain so much popularity is related to the pop culture component, where these pills are painted in far different light than the reality.
Often found in the song lyrics of famous rappers and pop stars under the nicknames such as “chill pill,” “Xannie,” “Xanny,” or “Xan,” Xanax is mentioned more than older populations are aware of.
Accordingly, younger audiences are less likely to be informed about the negative side effects.
Top artists such as Drake, Future and Lil Pump contribute to the skyrocketing popularity of Xanax in the past few years, though these contributions may be indirect.
As a health issue, the media took interest in Xanax trends in 2017 when popular rapper Lil Peep died from an overdose at age 21.
The rapper recorded himself taking six “Xannies.” Alongside Xanax, Lil Peep mixed the drug with fentanyl, marijuana, cocaine, Tramadol and a cocktail.
This mixture proved to be fatal—the rapper was found dead in his tour bus several hours after he made the recording.
Some artists openly talk about their addictions or love towards the drug, dedicating whole songs to it.
Reasonably, generations who are raised listening to this genre justify its use, and fail to comprehend the dangerous consequences of overusing or misusing the drug regularly.
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