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Substance misuse

Concerns raised over non-medical alprazolam use

Research into the non-medical use of prescription drugs has raised concern that alprazolam use among younger people could be on the rise.



The estimated lifetime non-medical use of alprazolam (Xanax; Pfizer) was 0.32% compared with 1.30% for diazepam

The benzodiazepine alprazolam (Xanax; Pfizer) is being obtained for non-medical use in the UK, particularly among young people, survey results show (4 June 2019)[1].

Alprazolam is not available via the NHS and can only be obtained via private prescription.

Researchers analysed data from 10,019 respondents to the 2017 RADARS Survey of Non-Medical Use of Prescription Drugs, providing a representative sample of the adult UK population.

Overall, the estimated lifetime non-medical use of alprazolam was 0.32% compared with 1.30% for diazepam. Unlike diazepam, for which there was no effect of age on use, the rate of recent use (defined as the past 90 days) was highest among those aged 16–24 years (0.37%) and 25–34 years (0.14%); this was virtually nil in people aged 35 and over.

The findings raised concerns that the popularity of alprazolam could be on the rise among young people. Further research is urgently needed to determine the appeal of the drug in this age group, the researchers said.

“This will enable appropriate public health interventions to prevent short‐term toxicity and long‐term dependence among young adults who are regularly using alprazolam,” they concluded.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/CP.2019.20206746

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