Xanax plague leaves teens ‘dicing with death’

Pill-health: These “Red Devil” pills are a particularly potent form of the drug.

How to fix the Xanax crisis? A BBC report has found that misuse of the drug has led to more than 200 deaths since 2015. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to its potentially lethal effects.

By official figures, the anti-anxiety drug Xanax barely exists in the UK: prescribed only 14 times in 2016. But under the radar — through drug dealers on the dark web and social media, millions of counterfeit pills have flooded the country in recent years, sparking a health crisis that is hitting teenagers particularly hard.

Xanax is a type of tranquilliser called benzodiazepine. While common in America, it is rare in the UK: leading criminals to make bulk quantities of fake pills which are stronger, and potentially deadlier, than the real thing.

And thousands are ending up in the hands of British teenagers.

Because Xanax is prescribed in the US, some think the pills are harmless. But this is not true. Overdoses or mixing it with alcohol and other drugs can be fatal. Public Health England has warned users that they are “dicing with death”.

Indeed, the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme has revealed that misuse of the drug has led to at least 204 Xanax-related deaths in the UK since 2015.

But why are teenagers getting sucked into this dangerous world? Some blame the ever-potent combination of celebrities and social media.

In 2017, rapper Lil Peep died from a Xanax-related overdose — mere hours after he posted a video to millions of Instagram followers of himself taking the pills.

So what can be done to stop the Xanax crisis?

Drug Bust

We must come down hard, some argue. The best way to prevent people from taking the drug is to punish those who deal it, and those caught using it improperly. Without decisive action, it will only get worse.

Education is the key, others respond. Through celebrities and social media, Xanax is planting poisonous roots in youth culture. We must show users empathy and understand why they choose to use the drug — only then can we teach teenagers to make the right choices.

You Decide

  1. Is it immoral to take drugs?


  1. Consider the word “drug”. Make a list of all of the words you associate with the term. Discuss this list with your class. What words came up often? What does this suggest about how drugs are viewed?

Some People Say...

“The best mind-altering drug is the truth.”

Lily Tomlin

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Legitimate Xanax pills are manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer. One study claims it is the third most popular psychiatric drug in the US, however, it cannot be obtained in the UK on the NHS.
What do we not know?
While some suppose a link between celebrities using Xanax and its rising use by British teenagers, it is difficult to establish a direct causal connection.

Word Watch

Dark web
Area of the internet only accessible with specific software which allows users to remain anonymous.
Analysis by the BBC in 2018 showed that over 21 months between 2015 and 2017, more than 1.5 million fake pills were sold in the UK.
For example, pills known as “Red Devils” (see image) were circulated in 2016 — at the time they were the strongest benzodiazepine available anywhere on the illegal marketplace.
A study has found that benzodiazepines contributed to around a third of all fatal drug overdoses in the US in 2014.

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