ANXIETY MEDS PUTTING LIVES AT RISK
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Counterfeit Xanax pills laced with a powerful painkiller have become a party drug among some young people. Now Public Health England is warning users they are "dicing with death".
"I was at a party when a friend shared it with me," says Kristello, a 19-year-old rapper from Birmingham, remembering the first time he took Xanax.
The drug, also known by the name Alprazolam, is widely prescribed in the US to treat anxiety and can be obtained on private prescription in the UK.
But among some teenagers and young adults in the UK it has become a popular recreational drug used illegally.
Kristello - who wished to go by his rap name - says his addiction soon grew into a daily habit as he began taking one tablet a night.
"The high felt like it was very floaty, and any worries you had melted away," he tells the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme.
"But what you have to take into consideration is what happens after you take Xanax, which is where the problem really starts."
Nine months ago, after deciding to come off the drug, Kristello struggled sleeping at night and experienced wrenching stomach pains, cold sweats and extreme paranoia.
"It can be really bad on your mental health," he says.
"You can experience blackout with memory loss. Your long-term memory can be affected as well."
Xanax has previously been glorified by hip hop artists, and is often featured in lyrics.
In November 2017, the rapper Lil Peep was found dead after an overdose of Xanax mixed with fentanyl - a powerful synthetic painkiller.
It is a lethal combination which, officials say, users risk being repeated when buying counterfeit Xanax online and through street dealers - because they cannot be sure how the drug has been mixed.
According to National Crime Agency (NCA) figures, 113 people have died using fentanyl in the last 12 months in the UK.
"The danger we've got here is young people who are used to taking the drug [Xanax] who think they know what they are doing," says Tony Saggers, former head of drugs threat at the NCA.
"The great disaster is when these tablets are supplied between friends, and one friend kills another friend because they've sold them something without knowing what it was."
"These are two Xanax bars. I spent Â£5 for both," says 18-year-old "Kieran" - not his real name.Read More...