Unfortunately, the lethal dose of fentanyl is incredibly small, and many fentanyl overdose deaths are accidental.
Unfortunately, the lethal dose of fentanyl is incredibly small, and many fentanyl overdose deaths are accidental.
Nightclub overdoses are nothing new; drugs have been a staple of the American club scene for decades. Teenage parties have, more often than not, included alcohol and some kind of drug, usually pot, and sometimes an opioid of one kind or another. However, drugs are becoming more powerful and more sophisticated. The club scene and parties also encourage drinking alcohol, often to excess. This is a lethal combination, especially when combining drugs like Xanax. New drug crazes involve powerful prescription drugs that greatly increase the risks of addiction and lethal overdoses. The addition of unknown amounts of fentanyl to existing drugs such as Xanax makes this mix of drugs and alcohol a potentially deadly night out.
Combining alcohol with any drug is dangerous. Most prescription medications include warnings against consuming alcohol while taking them; alcohol can enhance the negative side effects of a prescription drug, increasing the risk of life-threatening complications like breathing problems and fatal seizures. Alcohol is also a depressant that can easily make a person feel sick and sleepy. When combined with a prescription drug designed to produce calming effects, the results can be fatal.
Xanax on its own is extremely dangerous, when combined with alcohol, even more so. While often effective at treating panic and anxiety disorders with a valid prescription, it is extremely dangerous when abused, potentially causing respiratory depression and death. Fentanyl laced Xanax increases this risk exponentially.
Illegal drug manufacturers have started producing counterfeit Xanax using whatever additives and illicit substances they can find, and fentanyl is extremely powerful even in minuscule quantities. This allows the drug manufacturers to produce powerful counterfeit Xanax pills, and many of the people taking them do not know how to tell legitimate Xanax pills from counterfeit ones.
Xanax has become the drug of choice for teens. It’s easy to get, costs less than $5 a hit and provides a calming high, a respite from their anxiety and stress. Since it is a legal drug, many naïve teenagers feel comfortable using it. Parties provide an excuse to indulge in alcohol, and Xanax is often added to the mix. However, since fentanyl laced Xanax has shown up, teen deaths have been on the rise from accidental overdoses, either from just the pills or the mix of the pills and alcohol.
Misuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs by teenagers, 14 and up, is the third most abused substance, after marijuana and alcohol. Since other drugs, such as cocaine and pain relievers such as Vicodin, are more difficult to get and have fallen out of favor with the school set, Xanax’s popularity has risen and even woven itself into pop culture and social media.
Doctors may prescribe Xanax for the treatment of panic and anxiety disorders, but it is easily habit-forming due to its calming and almost euphoric effects in some users. Over time, a person can easily develop an addiction to Xanax and start taking more than prescribed or altering the pills for enhanced effects. For example, snorting crushed Xanax pills results in a much faster-acting and powerful high than ingesting them.
Many teenagers are able to get Xanax from their parents’ medicine cabinet. With over 13.5 million adults being prescribed the drug, up 67% since 1996, it’s easier than ever. As more and more teens use Xanax, misuse has become commonplace, as bigger and bigger doses are needed to achieve the same high as when they first started using. Doctors prescribe between 1.5mg to 4mg per day, whereas adolescents will use as much as 5mg or more as their addiction continues, especially if they have a ‘stressed out’ day.
Prescribing doctors always strongly advise patients who take Xanax to avoid consuming alcohol at all while taking the drug. Abuse of the drug can cause paranoia, suicidal thoughts, impair memory, and cause respiratory failure during an overdose. Combining Xanax with fentanyl or taking counterfeit Xanax pills made with fentanyl is extremely dangerous and can be fatal.
Deaths from synthetic opioids skyrocketed 75% between 2014 and 2015, and fentanyl is the most commonly cited cause of death in these cases. The lethal dose of fentanyl is about two milligrams (equivalent to 3 grains of sand), a tiny fraction of a lethal dose of heroin, and some drug dealers have started mixing a small amount of fentanyl into heroin to produce more intense highs. Unfortunately, a person buying heroin off the street has no way of telling what is actually in the purchased drugs; there is no quality control system on the black market.
The social atmosphere is incredibly dangerous when it comes to fentanyl. Lethal to the club and teen party scenes, this drug is finding its way to the public through various channels. Even some notable rappers and DJs have publicly sold Xanax or offered it to partygoers at events they have hosted. Undercover footage of these events led to startling results: DEA agents reviewing undercover footage from Fox 11 noted that most of the “Xanax” pills seen in the videos were counterfeit, but the average person would have no way of knowing the difference.
Teenagers, who have no ready access to their parent’s prescriptions, will find a dealer at school or purchase “Xanax” on the dark web. The quality of their purchase is hardly questioned, but is definitely questionable, because fentanyl is now the cutting agent of choice by most dealers, for it is cheap and easily obtained.
Anyone who misuses prescription drugs runs the risk of developing an addiction. Breaking a prescription drug addiction is also extremely difficult; a person who attempts to go “cold turkey” after developing a benzodiazepine addiction may experience a resurgence of intense symptoms of the condition the prescription originally intended to treat. For example, a person with a Xanax prescription for anxiety may start to experience intense anxiety attacks and feelings of paranoia after Xanax cessation. Anyone taking this prescription drug must carefully consult with the prescribing doctor about appropriate use and cessation, if needed.
Prescription drug addiction is especially dangerous because prescription medications are generally easier to obtain than illicit drugs on the street. They are also legal with a valid prescription. If someone starts abusing Xanax, the habit can easily lead to full-blown addiction. Teenagers are more at risk, because they are often stealing the pills from their parents and are not aware of the perils involved.
Opioids are some of the most addictive substances on the planet. While doctors often prescribe opioids for pain management, they must do so with care and explain the risks of addiction with any prescription. Although most of the fentanyl in the U.S. arrives illegally, it also exists legally for the treatment of severe pain that does not respond to morphine or other less powerful painkillers. Doctors may administer fentanyl as an injectable medication, a lozenge, lollipop, or with an extended-release patch. However, even legitimate use carries a significant risk of addiction.
When it comes to fentanyl in the club and teen party scenes, most of the people developing opioid addictions or experiencing overdoses are unaware they have taken fentanyl. Counterfeit drugs and laced prescription drugs are incredibly dangerous. When fentanyl is involved, there is not merely the risk of addiction but also a much more significant risk of accidental death from overdose.
If an individual abuses fentanyl laced Xanax and develops symptoms of opioid and/or benzodiazepine addiction, finding treatment as soon as possible is essential. These forms of addiction progress very rapidly, and, while the club scene inherently encourages reckless, excessive drug use, teenage parties are no less reckless, especially with their naiveté of the drug’s true potential danger. Once an individual develops an addiction, the chances of treatment succeeding decrease the longer the addiction continues.
An intervention can be a pivotal turning point in any addiction case. The individual struggling with addiction is confronted by his or her friends and family and those affected by the addiction. A constructive intervention can be the push a person needs to acknowledge his or her problem and commit to seeking help. When drug use plays a role in social activities, breaking those connections can be incredibly difficult. Staging an intervention for a person who has developing prescription drug addiction as a result of regular attendance at clubs or parties may be difficult. He or she may be unwilling to break from his or her social activities, furthering the risks of addiction and overdose.
If a loved one has been experimenting with drugs, it is vital to have a conversation about the risks of counterfeit pills and combining different drugs and/or alcohol. These issues are difficult to discuss, and a person in the early stages of addiction may deny his or her problem or fail to recognize the negative effects of their behavior.
Teenagers are more challenging, because the portions of the brain that regulate impulse control and decision-making are still in development until age 25, according to the National Institutes of Health. This means that teens have a tendency to make decisions based on immediate rewards, instead of long-term consequences. They don’t see the dangers and are less apt to listen to the voice of reason.
If you suspect your teenager to be using drugs, first talk to him or her. Explain your concerns in detail. He or she may be ready to talk about his or her problem. If he or she denies any substance abuse, don’t let it go, monitor him or her. Finding evidence of substance use, such as pill bottles or other paraphernalia, posts on Facebook or texts about buying, using, or selling drugs can help force the issue.
Unfortunately, experimenting with potentially lethal party drugs is one of the most dangerous types of drug abuse, and there is no telling whether the next dose is the last one. On top of that, an individual who is addicted, should never try to quit Xanax cold turkey, for anxiety, paranoia, cramping and seizures can set in along with suicidal thoughts and other serious side effects. A professional interventionist can help plan and mediate a constructive intervention that offers a better chance of successfully encouraging a person struggling with addiction to admit the need for treatment and agree to rehab.
*If this is a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.
CEO, Founder of Bright Future Recovery
Knowledgeable. Passionate. Relentless. Inspirational. These are just some of the words that would describe Bright Future Recovery Center’s Founder and CEO Cheree Ashley. But there is so much more. To know Cheree is to embrace all that she experienced in her life. Instead of allowing adversity to curtail personal vision and success, she used it to catapult her forward and thrive. This is the essence of what she holds dear and wants to help others achieve the same sense of achievement.
As a Certified Intervention Professional, Registered Addiction Specialist, Medication Assisted Treatment Counselor, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor and Certified Addiction Specialist, Cheree is sought after by her peers for her deep understanding of the nature of addiction. She travels throughout the country as a public speaker and educator.