Five students – all boys aged 14 or 15 – of the San Pasqual High School in Escondido had to be hospitalized in September 2017 after allegedly consuming Xanax pills. In October 2017, six students from the Rincon Middle School, also in Escondido, became ill after apparently ingesting the anti-anxiety medicine. In the San Pasqual incident, two students from the school were charged with selling a controlled substance on campus, which is considered a potential felony.
Such recent incidents indicate an uptick in students’ abuse of anti-anxiety drug Xanax on certain San Diego school campuses. This new and worrying trend is gradually leading many to believe that a larger problem exists within the community and the county. Drug enforcement specialists suggested that the sudden availability of the drug is being driven by mounting sales of illegal sedatives or spurious street drugs peddled as prescription medication. Students’ sources of such drugs, whether counterfeit or otherwise, are also a cause for concern.
Amy L. Roderick, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in San Diego, said, “We have seized counterfeit prescription pills that were made to look like Xanax, that did not contain any alprazolam.” Alprazolam is the generic name for Xanax. According to her, drug traffickers had “no idea” about what was in some of the pills that they were selling. “They don’t know if it’s Xanax, nor do they care,” she said.
Prescription opioids being substituted by other drugs
Significant attention is being given to control the rampant opioid epidemic in the U.S. The abuse of prescription opioids like OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet and others have caused widespread devastation across the nation. Due to tighter rules around prescription opioids, experts believe that dealers as well as drug users are substituting narcotic drugs with other medication, including Xanax and other anti-anxiety pills. Although Xanax may not be as powerful as OxyContin, it is being preferred by drug users due to its easier availability, which in turn, is an outcome of comparatively lower scrutiny.
Higher scrutiny on opioid drugs has also resulted in counterfeit drugs flooding the market. Imitation drugs, produced inexpensively from fentanyl and other assorted ingredients, are trafficked from Mexico and passed off as prescription drugs like OxyContin or Xanax. According to Roderick, doctors and pharmacists have been adhering to requests for controlling over-prescriptions. “So there’s fewer pills on the street, and the cartels fill that void. And they don’t care how many Americans die from overdoses,” she said.
Tara Anderson, district counselor for Escondido Union High School District and overseer of the Prevention and Diversion (PAD) program, said that although there has been an uptick in Xanax use in the community, it mirrors trends seen in the case of prescription pills across the U.S. “Xanax just seems to be kind of the creeper. I don’t think kids are being prescribed the pills. They’re getting them off the street,” she said.
Communities intensifying prevention efforts
Community organizers revealed that there were no referrals for prescription drugs between 2013 and 2016. However, during the 2016-17 academic year, the Escondido Drug-free Community Coalition handled 11 cases involving Xanax use by Escondido teens, indicating the possibility of the drug being abused. Community organizers are trying to identify the source since the drugs do not appear to be originating from pharmacies.
While schools, community organizers and local authorities are working to identify the sources of prescription drugs, prevention efforts are also being intensified. Escondido middle school students in grades seven and eight are participating in Project ALERT, a classroom-based substance abuse prevention program. High schools are also proposing to organize parent nights on all campuses to increase awareness among families regarding teen drug abuse. These programs aim to help children complete their education and be successful in life.
Dealing with prescription drug addiction
Sovereign Health understands the plight of teenagers suffering from addiction to prescription medicines and other illicit drugs. Our Rancho San Diego facility provides a host of necessary treatment procedures and behavioral therapies for its young patients. For more information about teen drug addiction rehab, call at our 24/7 helpline. Alternatively, you may chat online with our representatives for expert advice about teen drug abuse treatment in your vicinity.