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Substance misuse

Why we need to make sure young people have the facts about Xanax

A group of young adults sit together on a bed in a cosy bedroom. One holds a glass in their hands. Overlaid is text that reads: "Drugs Awareness Poster Hub".

Steven Bird is the manager of Surrey Young People’s Substance Misuse Service. When his team noticed an emerging trend of Xanax use they decided they needed to act.

There is currently nationwide concern about Xanax misuse- particularly amongst young people.

In our service, we have seen a 10% increase in Xanax use amongst the young people we support. This appears to be a result of the declining New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) use, which have become much harder to obtain since changes to legislation last year.

Whilst the majority of Xanax use has been occasional and experimental, for some young people this has led to ongoing problematic use. As with all drugs, it becomes particularly dangerous when people use it to alter emotional states or cope with difficulties in their lives.

Of those young people accessing the service, we have needed to provide pharmacological support for four individuals using Xanax. Every young person we’ve supported has also received psychosocial support. This type of support is even more vital when the person has been taking Xanax, due to the risks associated with the high level of dependant use and of withdrawal.

We’ve got a responsibility to make sure young people know the risks.

Understandably, the trend has been widely covered in the media but most young people still don’t fully understand the risks of using Xanax. Stories in the news can be confusing, scary and sometimes incorrect.

So when we started to spot Xanax use rising we knew we needed to share reliable information about the risks. Our team worked closely alongside Public Health Surrey to produce a leaflet that puts information about the drug in plain English.

We’ve shared this widely with local schools, colleges, other local services and across Catch22. We are also raising awareness in the training we deliver to professionals; educating other local services to respond to concerns about Xanax from an informed perspective.

The impact of this is twofold: young people have the information they need to truly understand the risks of Xanax, and they know they can turn to us if they’re worried about themselves or a friend.