Dangers of Xanax overshadowed by Opioid crisis

Dawson Lindahl

Within most high school circles, Xanax is considered to be dangerous. Yet, with Soundcloud rap’s social media endorsement of the drug, the Xanax crisis develops from the counterfeit bars which are often laced with other drugs, including fentanyl. Fentanyl is an incredibly strong opiate that is responsible for deaths across the United States

Alprazolam, often referred to as Xanax, is a small pill that can cause damage to the human body when abused. It is a benzodiazepine that is often prescribed to treat acute to severe anxiety disorder. Drugs that are within the “benzo” classification were originally thought to be unable to be abused, but that has changed. Treatment facility admissions for Xanax abuse increased tenfold between 2003-2012, (American Addiction Centers), and those are only the reported cases. There’s no question that Xanax abuse is rising, both nationally and within our community. However, its use is overshadowed by the much larger opioid epidemic.

Most people wouldn’t even say that Xanax is an issue within our community.“Probably fentanyl [is the biggest issue in our community]… I think everybody is [affected by the opioid epidemic.] We all have individuals that we know, or knew, or hung out with, or a friend of a friend that has either been affected by an overdose or an overdose death,” said school resource officer Jason Abel. Xanax abuse isn’t a massive problem to most high schoolers within Fargo-Moorhead because of the lack of accessibility to the anxiety medication.

Xanax becomes the most dangerous when counterfeit pills are produced, which are often laced with fentanyl, a strong opiate. Abusers often turn to street dealers once their prescriptions run out. Fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine (FDA), and it is incredibly dangerous. These pseudo-bars have caused many deaths in the last year in the United States.

But how many students actually have used (or abused) legitimate pills without a prescription? An anonymous student (further referred to as “Student X”), says that many of his friends use the drug. “I would say that a good 20% of my friends have used Xanax at least once.” He went on to say that he realizes that the drug is a problem in our community that often goes unchecked, and that he would never use it. “I do lots of bad stuff, but Xanax is messed up. Tons of people die from it, and I don’t want to be the next victim. I know I can’t stop my friends that use it, so I tell them to not take it with alcohol or any other drug.”

Student X is correct in claiming that mixing Xanax with other drugs can be devastating. According to the American Addiction Centers, mixing Xanax with alcohol alone can lead to an increased risk in overdose, liver and kidney damage, decreased heart rate, and many other dangerous side effects,

Other students have tried the drug, and recognize it as dangerous. “I’ve tried it once, and I ended up sleeping in the middle of the day for seven hours, so I’ll never try it again,” said anonymous student Y. Student Y later explained that they only took a half-bar (or 1mg) of Xanax, and that they worry for other people that take full bars for recreational purposes. They continued, explaining that their friends get them from their parents’ medicine cabinet, and that they don’t trust xanax “dealers” due to the fear of being laced with deadly compounds.

It may seem that laced drugs within Fargo is not a large concern. However, nationwide, it is becoming mainstream. On Nov. 3, nineteen year old Gunner Burdwick and his friend, Jake Morales, were found dead in Burdwick’s Phoenix home after taking what they assumed were Percocets, an opiate which is often prescribed as a pain reliever. However, what they had actually taken was fentanyl wrapped in a Percocet label.

Yet, Xanax use seems to be overshadowed by the opioid epidemic as a whole. It’s no surprise that adults are oblivious to teenage consumption of the substance, regardless of how minor it seems. Several students from the Fargo metro have come forward about their dependency on the drug, referring to themselves as slaves to the bar. This raises a question – how many of these students have taken counterfeit Xanax pills and opened themselves up to a possible overdose?

As Xanax takes more victims as time goes on, it’s crucial that the drug, along with the risks that come with its consumption, are not viewed as okay just because pop-culture embraces it.