TIMES Rise of Xanax in Orange County

Xanax, a real life “chill pill” doctors prescribe to help remedy diseases such as anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and withdrawals from other drugs. Xanax is seeing a popular rise within the Orange County community over these past several years.

Xanax’s clinical name is Alprazolam and comes in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and dosages. Classified as a benzodiazepine it affects a person’s neurotransmitters in a way that helps to sedate, lower anxiety, and relax the muscles.

The Xanax pill may sound like a miracle to those diagnosed with these certain symptoms, which could explain a 2009 report stating that 47.9 million Americans were prescribed to Xanax, making it the most popular psychiatric drug according to IMS Health. (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263490.php)

However, people prescribed Xanax aren’t the only ones consuming the drug. Like most prescription pills, they end up being sold on the streets for an inflated price to users unable to acquire their own personal prescriptions. The increase in the pill’s popularity has made it easier to find and Orange County is home to broad selection of doctors willing to hand the pills out like candy and sign off on prescriptions with the flick of their pen.

A former Saddleback College student, William, who asked to have his name remain confidential since he makes money dealing Xanax or “bars”, as he calls them, shares a few words about his views on the drug and its effect on people.

“I first took them because I would have really vivid nightmares and wake up in a panic,” says William as he sits in a blue-striped love seat, pushed into the corner of his room with disheveled clothes spread around his feet. “My friend offered them to me saying that they’d help and it turns out he was right. No more nightmares and whenever I felt anxious, I’d just pop one and problem solved.”

“Fuck yeah I notice an increase [in people requesting Xanax].” says William, slightly laughing which causes him to choke a bit on his water and place his cup back on the table.

He claims people always call or text him asking if he’s available. “I feel bad sometimes because I notice that some of the kids grow desperate for it,” says William “It’s like, not fun anymore to them, it becomes a type of necessity.” He doesn’t get too sentimental over the fact though, and says he’d probably sell more of them if he didn’t consume large amounts of Xanax himself. (http://www.recoverytoday.net/articles/47-xanax-bars-zanies-or-planks-the-deadly-high)


Youtube user, NAFricanAMERICAN, records a video of the following consequences after a night of abusing Xanax.

Clinical trials list the drug as being a safe pharmaceutical, but researchers are still cautious due to risks of misuse for non-medical purposes. Researchers also noticed users had a much higher dependence on the drug. Another recent worry occurred when reports began streaming from all over the nation about “fake Xanax” being sold on the streets that carries a fatal dose of the narcotic Fentanyl in them, resulting in a handful of deaths.

In a recent Orange County Health report, published by the OC Healthcare Agency, it noted, “Unintentional deaths, primarily drug overdose, was the third leading cause of premature death,” and in 2011, 123,000 people nationally were taken to emergency rooms thanks to Xanax.

“Yes, Xanax is dangerous…the body builds a tolerance therefore to feel it, you need to take more and more. Plus, there’s times when a person forgets they even took Xanax and then they take some more,” says Michael, another non-prescribed user who requested to have his name remain confidential.

Michael says Xanax appealed to him because of the particular numbing feeling it had over him and his first time taking the drug was seven years ago when he was in the 6th grade.

“Absolutely. It’s my drug of choice,” says Michael, agreeing about the addictive nature of the drug.

At the other end of the spectrum, people consume the prescribed dosage of Xanax and claim it can work miracles for them. The effects of Xanax on a person’s body aren’t a major problem, and it’s actually known for helping treat stress and anxiety. The main problem with the drug however, is that the pills are produced faster than people can ingest them and they’re acquired by people who abuse them. Research done by OC Health Info. says a majority of people given prescriptions tend to be older adults, but those abusing the drug and eventually hospitalized, are generally in their early 20s. (http://noisey.vice.com/blog/we-asked-a-doctor-about-xanax-addiction)

Amy Levey, a mother of two, says she was given a prescription for Xanax about two years ago as she went through treatment for cancer. Xanax doesn’t help deter cancer cells in any way, but she says it helped her with the anxiety and stress involved in fighting the disease. “It worked greatly,” she says, but unlike the misusers, she’s never felt addicted to it.

“No, it’s a terrible drug, I’d hate to be addicted to it,” says Levey.

Though it helped with some of her problems, Levey realized the negative side effects such as dizziness, lethargy, dependence, and loss of memory far outweigh the benefits. When mixed with alcohol, Xanax can have some very dangerous effects, like temporary blackouts. It also can slow a person’s breathing and heart rate to a sometimes fatal level. People who become dependent or addicted to the drug also tend to experience severe withdrawals when they stop taking it, which is ironic since the drug is sometimes provided in low dosages to patients going through withdrawals from other substances.

Kennedy, who was recently released from rehab for her Xanax addiction recalls her withdrawals as being “one of the worst experiences” she’s ever had to go through.

“I’d wake up in cold sweats that drenched my bed, and painful cramps throughout my whole body. My mind was all over the place, one minute I’d be happy and the next I’m depressed and locked away in my room. I felt like I turned myself into some type of crazy lady.” When she was asked if her love for the pill was worth it in the end, without hesitation she says, “No…not at all now that I’m able to look back on it. It was like every pain and feeling I numbed with Xanax hit me all at once the moment I stopped taking it”.

Kennedy says that in the peak of her addiction, she would eat about 15 milligrams, which is more than quadruple the usual suggested dosage. Her body’s tolerance allowed her to still remain conscious after taking that amount, but she admits that she didn’t function very well. Surprisingly, if Xanax is ingested by itself and without any other substance, especially alcohol, it’s fairly difficult to overdose. People are reported to surviving after ingesting 1,000 milligrams of Xanax, which is seemingly impossible. The reason that so many Orange County residents, especially the younger generation ending up in emergency rooms from the drug, is because either they took some other substance along with Xanax, or their body simply hasn’t built up the tolerance for such large doses.

Xanax is hailed as a miracle worker by some and denounced by others. Every user will react differently to it, such as Levey, who claims it works but still thinks it’s a terrible drug, or Michael, who recognized the dangers of it but still lists it as his number one drug of choice.

The only undeniable fact about Xanax, is that it does an effective job at eliminating anxiety. But that should not be an excuse allowing it to become Orange County’s new drug of choice and effortlessly easy to obtain from a pharmacist or a street dealer.