Young people from schools and universities across the UK have been using a fake version of the drug Xanax.

An article by the BBC last year found that “children as young as 11 were being treated by ambulance services after taking fake versions of it.”

These fake versions are said to possibly contain Fentanyl, East Sussex County Council has told the BBC. Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller which is about 100 times more potent than morphine and has been linked to as many as 125 deaths in the UK.

Secondary schools across the Sussex area, including in Ringmer, Chailey and Lewes, confirmed that they were briefing parents on the dangers of children taking drugs such as Xanax.

Parents were also being warned of the potentially deadly side effects of taking the drug which include: dizziness, fainting, hearing loss, loss of consciousness, coma and, in extreme cases, death.

Xanax – a powerful tranquiliser, around 20 times stronger than Valium and widely used in the US to treat anxiety and insomnia – is not available through the NHS and it is feared that fake and potentially deadly versions of the drug are being introduced into the UK by dealers looking to take advantage of the cheaper cost.

Over 200 deaths in the UK have been linked to the misuse of versions of the drug since 2015 and more than £1m worth of counterfeit tablets have been seized at UK ports and airports since 2016.

Public Health England has warned that people who buy the drugs online are “dicing with death”.

Last year BBC South East revealed that Xanax was being sold illegally to children on social media sites and drugs charity Addaction said that children as young as 13 had bought the drug online.

Known generically as Alprazolam, Xanax has – over the past few years – become increasingly more accessible to those prepared to seek it out and can be bought from street dealers, online pharmacies or the dark web for as little as £1 a-pill, raising deep concerns in Parliament. Shadow Health Secretary Jonathon Ashworth commented on the apparent increase in usage, saying that: “We need to raise awareness and have a proper understanding of the implications of [Xanax use]. I hope that the government … plans for greater research on the impact this is having on many adolescents’ lives.”

Fellow politician and Labour MP Bambos Charalambous, raised the issue after one of his constituents in London borough Enfield Southgate reported that her daughter had been groomed using Xanax. Mr Charalambous said: “Some young people are using Xanax to self-medicate to cope with anxiety, while younger teenagers are being groomed and exploited by drug pushers taking advantage of the drug’s ‘zombie-like’ effects.”

He went on to say that: “The government needs to research its use and gather clear data, raise public awareness and put support in place for those who have developed a dependency.”

In 2017, Kyle Remzi, a 20-year-old computer science student at Essex University, died of an overdose after taking a counterfeit version of Xanax. His mother commented saying: “He just thought it was a party thing. He was educated, loved by everyone – all the love in the world didn’t save him.”

In the same year, the rapper Lil Peep was also found dead after a suspected overdose of Xanax mixed with Fentanyl.

Xanax is currently classed as a class C drug and those who illegally produce or supply it can face a prison sentence of up to 14 years, an unlimited fine, or both. 

If you know a young person who may be at risk of drug addiction, Brighton–based group Ru-ok offers a free and confidential service to young people aged 18 and under.

They can be found at: 1 Regency Road, Brighton BN1 2RU. Or you can phone them on 01273 293 966. You can also find them online at


Image Credit: Flickr: Dean812

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