Children as young as 11 are being treated for abusing the anxiety drug Xanax, the BBC has found. Drugs charity Addaction said it was also aware of 13-year-olds “dealing” the tranquiliser on school premises.
The BBC has seen a number of letters from head teachers to parents raising concerns over increasing abuse of prescription medications.
Xanax, the brand name for the drug Alprazolam, is used to treat anxiety and panic attacks.
It is widely prescribed in the US and can be obtained on private prescription in the UK. But among some teenagers and young adults in Britain it is increasingly being abused.
To gain an idea of the scale of Xanax abuse, the BBC sent a freedom of information request to six ambulance services about its call-outs to Xanax ingestion incidents where the patient was aged under 18.
The North East Ambulance Service was the service that provided the most comprehensive details about when Xanax had been ingested – other services recorded all incidents involving the family name of the drug, benzodiazepine – and it said that in 2017 it had attended 240 call-outs for Xanax abuse by children aged between 11 and 18.
Kerry Robinson, a paediatrician at London’s Whittington Hospital, said she had treated children aged under 16 for Xanax abuse.
“The cases that I’ve seen it’s not a recreational party drug,” she said. “Young people have taken it during the school day, then stumbled into their next lesson and someone has picked up that things are not right.”
She said symptoms included slurred speech, unsteadiness, and looking drunk, but without the lack of inhibition associated with alcohol.
Read more about Xanax Xanax: Children as young as 11 taking anxiety drug
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