Number of children addicted to anti-anxiety pills DOUBLES

Number of children needing treatment for having an addiction to anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanas has DOUBLED in a year, shock figures show

  • Under 18s hooked on Benzodiazepines has doubled, figures from PHE show
  • The use of Xanax, unavailable on the NHS, has increased by five-fold
  • It’s easier to get anti-anxiety pills over social media than from a GP, expert warns

The amount of under 18-year-olds being treated for addiction to sleeping and anxiety pills has almost doubled in a year, figures show. 

Cases of addiction to Benzodiazepine have increased by 96 per cent from 161 from 2016 to 2017, to 315 in 2017 to 2018. 

Treatment for addiction to Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, saw an increase of five-fold.   

Experts say the figures are just the tip of the iceberg, as many more children may be addicted to Xanax, more than 200 times stronger than Valium.

The amount of young people being treated for addiction to sleeping and anxiety pills has almost doubled in a year, a health report said. Xanax use (pictured) increased by five-fold

The data is collected by Public Health England every year, however this is the first time Benzodiazepine treatment has been highlighted as cases have soared. 

Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam, are prescribed for the short-term treatment of anxiety. 

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Xanax (Alprazolam) can be prescribed in the US, but is unavailable on the NHS, but can be obtained on a private prescription in the UK and from illegal websites. 

Access to it on the black market and social media is leading to an increase in it’s misuse, charities have warned.

These figures show treatment for under 18-year-olds addicted to Xanax rose from eight in 2016 to 2017 to 53 in 2017 to 2018.

Children as young as 13 are being admitted for treatment, after experts have previously warned it is becoming popular among teenagers. 

Its ‘high’ can be euphoric and dreamy. However, Ian Hamilton, a senior lecturer in mental health at University of York said it’s not just a ‘weekend buzz’ young people are after.   


Children as young as 11 are being treated for abusing the anxiety drug Xanax, it was revealed in May this year.

Recreational use of the medication is soaring among young people in Britain following its glamorisation in American rap music.

Xanax, the brand name for alprazolam, is not available on the NHS but can be obtained on private prescription.

However, the drug and associated fake versions are increasingly finding their way on to social media and the ‘dark web’.

One ambulance trust last year attended 240 call-outs for Xanax abuse relating to children and teenagers aged between 11 and 18, an analysis by the BBC found.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the North East Ambulance Service said two of the cases involved 11-year-olds. 

It also recorded incidents relating to Xanax abuse involving children aged 11 in 2014 and 2016.

Leading drugs charity Addaction said it was aware of children of 13 ‘dealing’ the strong medication, which is in the benzodiazepine group of drugs, in schools. 

He said: ‘The report says that a significant amount of people getting treatment have mental health problems.’

Young people with mental health issues are seeking anti-anxiety drugs on social media as a faster and cheaper alternative to seeing their GP, he added.

‘While you might have to wait two days to see a GP, and then wait to get these drugs, your mate or someone you have a connection with on FB can get you them in the same day. And they are very strong and potent.’

Xanax is available to buy illegally on social media websites such Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, a charity warned in February 2018. 

‘This is the tip of the icberg. There is far more children out there that don’t get treatment’, Mr Hamilton said.  

He warns that young people aren’t going for treatment because they have ‘found their solution’. 

He said: ‘For some, they want to feel other way other than what they do right then. It gives them a form of escape from something like anxiety or bullying.’

Commenting on the figures, Rosanna O’Connor, Director for Drugs Alcohol and Tobacco at Public Health England said: ‘There is limited evidence and data for these drugs so we do not have a clear picture of changes in use.

‘Benzodiazepines are risky when taken without medical supervision, and mixing them with alcohol or other drugs increases the risk of harm, particularly when mixed with other sedatives.’     

But Mr Hamilton warns: ‘A lot of kids are naïve and don’t know how much of a drug to use or how long to wait inbetween doses. That increases the risk of overdose more than with an adult who may be more likely to realise how long a drug takes to kick in.

‘These kids are combining it with alcohol as well. Benzodiazepines and alcohol both supreses respiratory performance, which can reduce your breathing.’ 

Withdrawal symptoms from sedatives including Xanax can cause anxiety, panic attacks and hallucinations. 

Online dealers are openly advertising the drug for as little as 25p to teenagers alongside pictures of pills piled high and boasts of next day delivery.

Mr Hamilton said: ‘Young people are buying drugs through WhatsApp, Facebook or other social media platforms. We know dealings go on here and information about drugs is shared.

‘Although the policy of social media is you have to be of a certain age to participate, we know these rules are broken.’  

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