GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. – It may not get as much headlines as prescription painkillers and heroin, but Xanax can be just as addictive and deadly for some, experts say. The drug recently made headlines after news the University of Minnesota police were investigating members of the wrestling team for abusing the drug. It is a medication used to reduce anxiety, but too much of it, especially mixed with something else can be dangerous.
“The first time I felt it, I was just hooked immediately,” said Chris, 24. He says he was 16 or 17 when he he tried Xanax for the first time. “I loved it. I loved the high,” he recalled, describing the high similar to being drunk.. Searching to fit in at a new school in Lakeville, he found the answer in the drug also known as Benzodiazepine. “It’s completely destroyed my life. I was stealing from family members, I almost died twice within a year period,” he said. He almost died after overdosing on the drug. He says a friend took him to the hospital. And then a few months later he says he blacked out while driving. “I swerved off the road and crashed at 70 miles an hour. Luckily I wasn’t hurt though,” he said.
Drug experts say the medication has been around for a while.
“It doesn’t really capture the headlines to the extent opiates and heroin do, but it’s certainly been around for a long time,” said Carol Falkowski of Drug Abuse Dialogues. Falkowski has tracked drug abuse for decades. In her latest drug trends report, she found that it is the second most prescribed drug seized by police. The Minnesota Department of Health also reports an increase of deaths related to Benzodiazepines. “We have seen an increase of prescribing for all sorts of drugs, so it’s logical to expect an increase in abuse,” she said.
Chris says he saw an increase in the use of Benzodiazepine among his friends in the south metro as recent as last year. “The medicine has a proper use but people abusing it is happening more and more,” he said. He has left that world behind, now in recovery at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. He credits the treatment and his faith in Christianity that helped him to become sober. He says he’s grateful he’s alive to warn others of his mistakes. “It can cost you your life,” he said.