Parents are being urged to have open and frank discussions with their children about tranquillisers, after a study suggested thousands of teens may be taking Xanax.
In a survey of 85,000 people aged 13 to 24 by Vice magazine, 35% said their friends used Xanax, a brand name of a class of drugs called benzodiazepinetype, and only 6% had not heard of the drug, which is not available on the NHS but is prescribed in the US to treat anxiety.
Addaction has advised parents not to presume Xanax use is an issue that won’t affect your children, as they know from experience that people from all types of backgrounds and walks of life use drugs.
The charity shared with HuffPost UK an account from an anonymous teenager who is now seeking support after their use of Xanax spiralled: “I first tried Xanax when I was 15 years old, my mate gave me a quarter of a bar for free. Then, not realising the addictive side effects, I built up a tolerance and was taking around a bar every couple days. My reason for taking Xanax was because it was glamorised all over social media.
“My supplier then stopped selling to me because they could see the damage it was doing to me. I would be sweating and pacing without it but I had to get through the withdrawals because I couldn’t find a Xanax supplier anywhere else. I realised what I was doing was harmful and went cold turkey. It is a huge problem and needs to be addressed more seriously.”
Rick Bradley from Addaction said the number of people seeking help for use of benzodiazepines has risen in the past year, “but not too dramatically”.
“There is no denying that the profile of Xanax has increased hugely in popular culture in the past six to 12 months and many of those taking this substance will not be accessing specialist services,” he told HuffPost UK.
Addaction and the Amy Winehouse Foundation Resilience Programme has this week launched a parent’s guide that provides advice on signs to look out for and where to go for additional support, which you can read here.
The guide also details the following steps to encourage an open dialogue about drugs:
* Avoid having the “big talk”: Start the discussion early and talk regularly and openly. This will help avoid you or your child feeling awkward or uncomfortable.
* Plan ahead for the conversation: Do a bit of background reading on www.talktofrank.com. Bradley adds that it is important you make your teen aware of the the potential risks that benzodiazepines can carry, especially in terms of overdose when used in combination with alcohol.
“We must also stress what is sold online and on the street is often not pharmaceutical grade, which presents additional risks when it comes to judging dosage,” he explained. “Maintained use can also lead to dependency and in such cases it is vital that people speak with their GP or local treatment service for specialist medical support as soon as possible.”
* Think about location/environment: Perhaps on a car journey or walk. Ideally you want to be somewhere your child feels safe and comfortable. This will encourage them to open up to you.
* Don’t give up: If the conversation doesn’t go the way you expected, remember an initial chat can help to sow a seed and children do benefit more from a continual conversation rather than a “big talk”. If your child feels reassured that you are available and will support them if they get into any problems, rather than punishing or sanctioning them, they are much more likely to ask for help early on, before any problems get out of hand.
* Talk to other parents: It may be useful to talk with other parents in a similar position to find out what worked or didn’t work for them. This will also help ensure you feel supported.
There is also a free, confidential web chat service available on the Addaction website.