A report compiled by a San Diego non-profit highlights the dangerous "drug of choice" being abused by an increasing number of teenagers.
Institute For Public Strategies (IPS) released a report this week warning about the rise of Xanax abuse among teens. The report, compiled from several sources, found most teens gained access to the drug through the medicine cabinets of family members or friends.
Xanax is a Benzodiazepine, also called “benzos,” which is a classification of prescription pills that include sedatives, tranquilizers, muscle relaxers and anti-anxiety medication.
Doctor Roneet Lev, Chief of the ER at Scripps Mercy Hospital, says while the opioid epidemic is now well documented, fewer people recognize the problem with Benzodiazepines.
"With opioid addiction, withdrawing and coming off that is uncomfortable but not deadly. Benzos are different. You can’t stop cold turkey because doing so can result in seizures or death."
Lev said that Xanax is not intended for long-term use. “Anytime a legit prescription for Xanax is written, it's no more than five or six weeks," he said.
Doctors at Scripps are seeing more and more teen Xanax overdoses. They say juveniles mistakenly believe it's safer than other drugs. The IPS report also says that pop culture and social media give teens the wrong impression of the drug.
Recently, three teens in Carmel Valley were hospitalized after an overdose. In Escondido, six students took pills at Rincon Middle School during lunchtime and three needed medical treatment.
The DEA says pills purchased off the street or handed out by dealers at school pose an even bigger threat. One agent told NBC 7 that an alarming amount of counterfeit pills laced with powerful Fentanyl are now crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Drug prevention experts say parents should monitor their kids’ social media accounts and internet history to see if they're inquiring about drugs like Xanax.
According to a recent report by SANDAG, 80 percent of youth at juvenile hall said that tranquilizers like Xanax are the most abused prescription drug among their peers.