Fake Xanax “easily” bought on Facebook in UK

Counterfeit Xanax that contains a drug called etizolam and is responsible for an epidemic of deaths in Scotland can be bought quickly and easily through sites like Facebook, according to BBC report.

The BBC’s Disclosure programme uncovered hundreds of accounts on Facebook advertising pills in plain sight, including diazepam (the active ingredient in Valium) and Xanax (alprazolam). They made a test purchase in 25 minutes, and a da and a half later received a package containing Xanax that – on lab analysis – was found to contain etizolam.

A recent report looking at substances implicated in drug related fatalities in Scotland in 2017 found that 299 of 934 deaths in the year were linked to etizolam, ranked third behind methadone and heroin. The data doesn’t indicate how many incidents involved counterfeit tablets, and is complicated by the fact that many deaths involve cocktails of drugs.

Interestingly, etizolam fatalities were way in front of fentanyl, which has previously been found commonly in fake Xanax, particularly in North America where it is thought to be responsible for an epidemic of deaths in the last few years.

Xanax is not available on the National Health Service in the UK, only via private prescription, but the number of enquiries to the National Poisons Information Service about the treatment of alprazolam poisoning has increased “substantially” in the last couple of years, according to Public Health England.

The BBC contacted Facebook to request an interview, but the company declined. It did say it had taken down 27 accounts that it found selling counterfeit Xanax and other tablets, including those highlighted by reporter Chris Clements in the programme (UK access only), but that’s just a fraction of the 200 or so Clements says he discovered during the investigation.

There seems however to be little to stop the criminals behind the accounts setting up again under a different identity.

“Many of the Xanax tablets available on illicit markets are not of pharmaceutical grade, but are in fact counterfeit,” says PHE.

“This is a major concern because these counterfeit products may contain very variable amounts of alprazolam, making it hard for drug users to decide how much to take. Counterfeit Xanax has also been shown to sometimes contain other drugs and/or potentially dangerous adulterants.”

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