The growth of Xanax misuse among young people in the UK

Xanax for sale on Dream Market, a dark web marketplace. Image: Arlie Adlington 

The last few months have seen increased media reports on young people using the prescription drug Xanax (alprazolam) for recreational use and to self-medicate against stress and anxiety.

In a Snapchat survey by Vice, 35 percent of the 85,000 respondents answered ‘yes’ to the question ‘Do any of your friends take Xanax?’

Vice says their Snapchat audience consists mostly of 13-24 year olds.

This year also saw the opening of the AtOM clinic – the UK’s first ever drug clinic dedicated to medicine bought online – and issues around Xanax misuse were highlighted in a parliamentary debate.

Xanax is a type of benzodiazepine, a category of minor tranquillisers which are prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders.

While Xanax is not available on the NHS, it can be prescribed privately in the UK.

The charity Addaction, which provides support for people struggling with drug use, wrote a blog post about Xanax misuse following the growth in coverage of the issue.

They confirm they are seeing a ‘new trend’ emerge, and suggest young people may be buying the drug online:

Xanax® has been mentioned increasingly in our services over the past six months or so. It’s not clear where this new trend has come from, but Xanax® has been referenced in popular culture for many years, primarily through American media.

Some young people have mentioned references on social media making the drug of interest. As Xanax® is not available through the NHS it’s most likely the supply routes are through street dealers or online.

It takes just a few minutes to gain access to a dark web marketplace where Xanax can be bought and sold.

VPN software (which stands for ‘virtual private network’) is used to hide a user’s location, and the anonymous web browser ‘Tor’ is used to access URLs on the dark web.

One marketplace, Dream Market, is easy to find using the default search engine on Tor.

Once registration is complete, a user can browse through categories of items including ‘Drugs’, ‘IDs and passports’ and ‘Hacking’.

While there are limitations on the products that can be sold on Dream Market, illicit drugs and other illegal items are easily available.

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Searching Dream Market for the word ‘Xanax’ yields over 2,000 results.

Users can buy pills from sellers around the world using the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

One seller shown in the video below offers 100 2mg bars of Xanax for just over £1 per pill, demonstrating the ease with which the drug can be accessed in the UK.

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