Children as young as 13 are illegally buying anti-anxiety pill Xanax on social media sites such Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, a charity has warned.
Online dealers are openly advertising the drug for as little as 25p to teenagers alongside pictures of pills piled high and boasting of next day delivery.
Experts have warned Xanax – which is 20 times stronger than Valium and designed to treat severe anxiety – is becoming increasingly popular among teenagers.
It is often glamourised in US rap music and is said to be rife among grammar schools where pupils are self-diagnosing anxiety disorders due to the high pressure they find themselves under.
Children as young as 13 are illegally buying anti-anxiety pill Xanax on social media sites such Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, a charity has warned (file photo)
It has led to a growing number of Xanax-related hospital admissions, with six schoolgirls last week rushed to hospital after taking the drug during their lunchbreak.
Xanax, the brand name for alprazolam, can only be legally obtained on a private prescription in the UK – but it can be bulk bought on the dark web in batches of thousands for as little as 25p per pill.
Charity Addaction branded the social media sites ‘unpoliceable’ after seeing a dramatic rise in drugs being advertised and sold over their platforms in the past six months.
On Instagram yesterday, there were more than 3,700 posts captioned with the hashtag ‘xanaxforsale’.
Before viewing the posts, the social media site warns that they may contain ‘graphic content’ and provides a link to information and support on self-harm and suicide.
But a simple click on ‘show posts’ leads to hundreds of posts showing piles of pills and linking to accounts which offer ‘overnight and next day delivery’.
Neil Coles, an early Intervention Substance worker, said social media platforms were easy to access and therefore required little or no specialist knowledge to access the drugs.
He said: ‘On the dark web, 1mg pills can be as cheap as 25p if they are bulk bought. But it is pretty standard to get it from social media such as Instagram now as well.
Online dealers are openly advertising the drug for as little as 25p to teenagers alongside pictures of pills piled high and boasting of next day delivery (file photo)
‘Dealers advertise it to teenagers and then give them a link to an untraceable form of communication called Wickr to continue the transaction.
‘It’s become unpoliceable – the dealers routinely close down their account when they get a certain amount of followers and then open it up again under a slightly different name.’
He continued: ‘I’m encountering Year 9s buying them online and selling them to their peers – that’s children as young as 13 and 14. It’s the trendy thing to do at the moment.
‘It’s the zeitgeist, there’s lots of memes [viral internet pictures] about Xanax and hip hop stars in the US rap about it a lot in their lyrics.
‘We’ve also seen teenagers using it in places you might not expect – like grammar schools and other high-pressure environments. They are self-diagnosing anxiety disorders and then using the pill to self-medicate.’
He told how he had a 14-year-old grammar school boy had recently got into a violent altercation with his parents after trying to ween himself of the drug.
After a classmate had first sold the teenager the drug, telling him it would make his day easier and would help him deal with the stress, he began to take it daily.
However, after taking it for weeks on end he decided to stop after others began collapsing in school having also become hooked.
Mr Coles said that a side-effect of withdrawing though was huge mood swings that resulted in a ‘violent altercation’ with his parents.
Experts have warned Xanax – which is 20 times stronger than Valium and designed to treat severe anxiety – is becoming increasingly popular among teenagers (file photo)
Xanax is an addictive tranquiliser that works faster than Valium – which is the brand name for diazepam – but the effect does not last as long.
It makes users feel very relaxed, but mixed with alcohol increases its potency and puts users at risk of potentially fatal heart and breathing problems.
Earlier this month, a group of schoolgirls at Burntwood School in Wandsworth, southwest London, were rushed to hospital after taking Xanax.
The girls were reportedly unable to walk after trying the pills – which were thought to have been off the dark web – during their lunch break.
Last year, a group of up to 20 teenagers aged between 15 and 16 in Wiltshire needed medical treatment after taking the drug recreationally.
A teenager from Kent, who admitted spending his GCSE year trying drugs on school nights, said he had searched on social media to find dealers.
He told the BBC: ‘It is possible now to go on INstagram and find a drug dealer. You have to find a page which you tell sold drugs, based on either their pictures or whatever.’
He added that the conversation would then move from social media to other apps that could not be tracked and were therefore ‘safer to use’.
Experts recently warned that Xanax – the brand name for alprazolam – had become one of the top five drugs used among young people alongside cannabis and alcohol.