Over the last year there has been an increase in coverage in the media about alprazolam (typically called it’s trademark name Xanax) which has highlighted what’s seen as an increase in quantity of teens who are taking the drug. The majority of the reports have focused on individual cases or stories from treatment facilities but there was no discussion of research findings or actual information.
Like all coverage of potential changes in the trends in drugs there’s a chance there is a chance that evidence for the change in trend doesn’t get well given or even available and that highlighting the benefits of a specific drug could cause a surge in interest from users.
PHE has been studying the evidence available, and this blog will explain what we have learned and what’s currently being investigated and what needs to be planned for the future.
What exactly is alprazolam?
Alprazolam belongs to the benzodiazepine family of medications. The most frequently prescribed benzodiazepines are to treat insomnia and anxiety. they also are used to treat epilepsy-related seizures.
The most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine medication in the UK is diazepam, which is known by its trade name Valium. Comparatively, alprazolam is a faster taking drug and is approximately 10 times more powerful, which means that it may induce a feeling of sedation.
As with other benzodiazepines like alprazolam, it could cause problems if used with no medical guidance. In the short-term the misuse of alprazolam can lead to an overdose, collapsing, and excessive sedation. Longer-term use could lead to physical dependence and withdrawal when stopping or reducing usage.
Additionally, taking any benzodiazepine in combination with alcohol and/or other substances increases the chance of harm. This is the most common scenario when benzodiazepines are combined with other sedative substances.
Alprazolam isn’t available through the NHS However, it is bought with a private prescription from the UK. Illicit alprazolam is usually available sold in counterfeit Xanax tablets is available at street-level drug stores and also is available for buy from websites that are illegal as well as social media apps.
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What do people think concerning the drug alprazolam (Xanax)?
There has been an increase in the amount of personal stories being reported through the news media mostly about teenagers who are suffering from alprazolam (Xanax) and as well as reports from people who use Xanax as a self-medication for anxiety.
There have been discussions about alprazolam within political circles. In January of this year an MP Bambos Charalambous led the first discussion at the House of Commons to discuss the use of alprazolam.
Sometimes the use of the drug alcohol (Xanax) is depicted through the media to be a massive problem among teenagers. There is no evidence currently for this, however as we will explain further down, there’s some evidence of an increase in the prevalence. It is crucial to recognize the ways in which patterns of use alter with time. Certain drugs are discovered quickly, and then use decreases. Other drugs remain and cause lasting harm. It’s too early to tell what category alprazolam falls into.
What is the current knowledge about the use of alprazolam?
The media coverage of alprazolam is continuing, PHE is being asked to make a statement, especially on current trends. There is evidence that suggests that it is increasing in particular among teenagers or young adults. However, the information available do not provide an accurate picture of the frequency of alprazolam usage, since certain of the data are for all benzodiazepines but are not focusing on alprazolam specifically, which makes it harder to identify shifts in the use.
Hospital admissions data from England for 2017 shows that there is an upsurge in the numbers of patients who are younger than 20 years old admitted to hospitals for poisoning caused by benzodiazepine. In the same time requests made to the National Poisons Information Service about the treatment for poisoning caused by alprazolam have risen significantly. PHE has reviewed UK police seizures for the drugs submitted for analysis by forensic experts. The results indicated that the amount of seizures involving alprazolam was significantly more than in previous years. growing from less than 10 seizures in 2016 to more than 800 in 2017.
The majority of Xanax tablets sold on illegal markets aren’t of quality pharmaceutical and are actually counterfeit. This is of great problem because these fake tablets may have very different levels of alprazolam. This makes it difficult for those taking drugs to know how much to take. Counterfeit Xanax is also known to contain other substances or possibly dangerous adulterants.
We have received information from TICTAC which is a drug analysis lab confirms that samples made to resemble authentic Xanax tablets in fact contained different substances, including etizolam another benzodiazepine that has been linked to a number of fatalities in Scotland. TICTAC also discovered that fake tablets that contained alprazolam varied in strength as some tablets contained greater than the usual dosage of an authentic Xanax tablet.
The indeterminacy of dosage is extremely risky for drug users , who may not be able to determine the amount of alprazolam (or other substituted drugs) the tablet contains until they’ve consumed it and experienced adverse consequences.
What’s being done and what needs to be done?
What is PHE doing? PHE is doing?
At PHE we’ve been looking over all national data as well as other information to understand the extent of alprazolam usage in England. We’re also in contact with experts and others to create an accurate picture.
Locally based PHE Centre teams are working closely with local authorities to provide them with guidance, data and other support personalised to assist them in assessing the local need for treatment, and to commission services that satisfy the needs. This could include support for people who are using alprazolam dependent on the severity of the issue within their region.
We are testing Report Illicit Drug Reactions (RIDR) which is an online reporting system that tracks the harms caused by illicit drugs specifically, especially New psychoactive substances (NPS). The system also identifies dangers of misused drugs such as alprazolam.
When new substances or patterns of use are discovered and are associated with health issues, the specific consequences that they bring may not be recognized initially. For instance, bladder issues due to ketamine were not first recognized until various treatment facilities began to connect the dots and identify connections to the other. RIDR strives to speed the detection of harmful conditions, to ensure that healthcare and treatment facilities can quickly provide the most effective interventions. PHE is encouraging frontline workers to utilize RIDR to report the clinical problems they encounter in their communities. This aids in developing more understanding of new issues and their geographic distribution.
PHE hosts the quarterly meeting of the clinical network with experts in new developments in drugs and emerging trends in drug use and trends. This gives us the chance to talk about data from RIDR as well as the most current research related to NPS, as well as other sources. At the end of every meeting, we update our RIDR dashboard to track recent issues and issues. Alprazolam is featured on the dashboard since September 2017.
We also provide updates to FRANK with current information, including an article on alprazolam.
Which local governments and facilities are required to do?
Some treatment providers respond to the growing usage pattern by learning about it, training their staff, preparing materials for youth informing them of the issue locally, as well as offering support, advice and assistance to children with issues.
Drug Watch, an information network, has put together an overview of alprazolam for professionals as well as the general public.
Local authorities should try to discover their personal patterns of using drugs and be aware of emerging trends; ensure that employees who work in the areas of services that interact to vulnerable populations, including child referral services and social careare aware and are able to assist in the development of appropriate actions.
It is crucial for any local messages to youth and professionals are in proportion to increase awareness and understanding without promoting interest or seeking out drugs.