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Substance misuse

Xanax: Understanding the risks

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".

Substance misuse is an issue which cuts across our organisation and we have worked with frontline staff at Surrey Young People’s Substance Misuse to produce downloadable resources that anyone working with young people, or who would like to know more about emerging trends, can download, print off and share.

Xanax is the trade name for alprazolam, a type of a benzodiazepine. They’re oblong in shape and scored into four parts, but they can be in other forms.

Xanax may commonly be called: ‘Xanax bars’ or ‘Bars’.

Xanax is not prescribed in the UK by the NHS. When it’s prescribed elsewhere, this is to manage severe anxiety and is only recommended for people over 18. Benzodiazepines are only ever recommended for short-term use because of the risk of becoming physically dependent if used repeatedly. Xanax should not be used unless prescribed by a doctor.

Xanax is used recreationally for the feeling of relaxation or euphoric high it causes. It’s also used for coping with the come down following the use of other drugs. Using it for this reason increases the risk of harm or adverse effects, as the other drugs might still be in your system.

Xanax acts very quickly but often the euphoric or high feeling passes quickly which can lead people to take more. Repeatedly using Xanax increases the likelihood of developing a tolerance, which can cause people to take higher volumes to get the same effect. This increases the risk of physical dependence and overdose.

There is no safe level of drug use. It is important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

Ten things you need to know

  1. Xanax is a Class C controlled substance, which means it’s illegal to buy or supply. If you’re caught, you could be sentenced up to 2 years for possession, 14 years for supply as well as possibly receiving an unlimited fine. It is also illegal to drive under the effects of Xanax.
  2. Xanax should only be used orally which means swallowed as a tablet. It should not be snorted or injected as these methods increase the risk of overdose and physical harm.
  3. If you buy Xanax illegally, you don’t know what you’re getting- strengths vary, it could be mixed with something else, it could be fake or a different drug entirely. As with any drug bought illegally, you never really know what it is.
  4. 2mg Xanax tablets are up to eight times the recommended dose for an adult. Xanax tablets are sold in different shapes, colours and strengths, so it’s really important to know how much you are taking and what strength as it’s easy to underestimate this.
  5. It can stay in the system for over 11 hours after use. So even if you think it’s worn off, it’s dangerous to take more.
  6. It can cause confusion, disorientation and a toxic overdose, even in relatively small quantities. The effects can be unpredictable and vary each time you use.
  7. It can cause death if misused and not in line with a doctor’s prescription.
  8. Taking it together with alcohol or other drugs is dangerous, especially with other benzodiazepines, alcohol or opiates and can lead to death. This is because these drugs also slow down your breathing and heart rate.
  9. It can cause both psychological and physical dependence if used regularly.
  10. If physically dependent, there are significant risks of harm from withdrawal if you stop using. People who are physically dependent should seek medical help to stop using, as there is a risk of death from withdrawal.

Catch22 Surrey Young People’s Substance Misuse service is a service for young people aged between 11 and 25. We offer free confidential advice and support. If you would like to know more about the risks and effects of alcohol or drugs, and/or would like to access support – we will listen and work with you with to achieve the changes you would like to make.

Symptons of Xanax withdrawal

Symptoms of Xanax withdrawal include headaches, muscle pain, extreme anxiety, tension, restlessness, confusion, mood changes, difficulty sleeping and irritability.

Severe withdrawal symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, sweating, stomach cramps, muscle cramps, a feeling of detachment from reality, unusually sensitive to light, sound or physical contact, numbness and tingling of the feet and hands, hallucinations (seeing or hearing things which are not there whilst awake), tremor, and

If you have used Xanax and you’re feeling unwell or notice someone else is unwell whilst using, after using or after stopping using MDMA , then seek medical attention urgently. Contact 111 for urgent medical advice or 999 in an emergency.