Drugs Q & A

Xanax On The Black Market

A black market is an illicit trading system that avoids government regulation. It operates outside the law and is driven by the opportunity for profit and the needs of consumers. It is subject to the economic rules of supply and demand and can be rapidly subverted by a change in the laws that make possible its existence. Because the legitimate business of selling prescription drugs is very profitable and highly regulated, opportunities for black market entrepreneurship of these drugs exist in both developed and developing countries.

Regulations that govern legitimate access to pharmaceuticals are set by the state, national, and international bodies. Many countries especially in Asia are circumventing international patent law by creating a national black market, thereby making it legal to copy a medicine that has been patented elsewhere as long as a different and unique manufacturing process is used.

The opportunity for a broader range of types of black market prescription drugs also exists in countries like the United Kingdom and the United States with vastly greater per capita incomes. The illicit manufacture or importation of counterfeit drugs in these countries takes place but is actively monitored and controlled mainly by customs agencies and organizations such as the US Food and Drug Administration. Inner-city street markets in which individuals divert a portion of their own medications through illicit sales are common in the United States and Europe.

What is Xanax?

Xanax is a brand of alprazolam, a powerful benzodiazepine that is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain. The medication comes in the form of a tablet that quickly dissolves in the mouth, an extended-release tablet, or a concentrated oral solution.

Benzodiazepines can have therapeutic anti-anxiety, anti-convulsant, muscle relaxing, and sedative effects. Xanax works by increasing the effects of a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which promotes calmness and produces a relaxed feeling. The drug decreases the level of excitement in the brain to treat anxiety and panic disorders.

Alprazolam is among the most prescribed benzodiazepine drugs in the U.S. and is among the benzodiazepines most often found in the illegal market, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Xanax is often prescribed for mental health disorders related to anxiety. It can be used to treat general anxiety, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobias. It can also be used to treat seizures. For people who suffer from anxiety, it can create a sense of relief to focus on their lives without issues of anxiety or phobias plaguing them. When used as prescribed, it can calm people down and make them feel relaxed.

Xanax can also reduce physiological symptoms of anxiety and fear, such as a racing heart or hyperventilation. These drugs are so often prescribed because they work well on anxiety and they’re cheap.

However, many people use Xanax for nonmedical reasons, taking it in larger doses or more frequently than prescribed because it can create a euphoric feeling, especially at higher doses. Xanax tends to start acting quickly after a person takes it, and the euphoric effects of the drug will usually manifest themselves within about an hour after taking it.

A tendency has grown in some social circles to view Xanax, as a type of “alcohol” in pill form. It’s become socially acceptable among these groups of friends to get together and share Xanax with one another. Of the 30.5 million people who used benzos in 2015, 17.1% misused them. Misusing Xanax or combining it with other substances like alcohol can amplify its effects, but the results can also be deadly.

Along with recreational use, many people rely on Xanax to deal with issues like situational anxiety without having to commit to therapy, which can be expensive and time-consuming. Xanax is popular in America, for example, because there is a tendency for people to love things that are looked at as a quick fix. Xanax isn’t a long-term medication, so some people “take it when they need it” for relief. The temporary relief they feel can help in a fast-paced world with constant exposure to negative world news, stressful jobs, and uncertainty.

How Legal Xanax Ends Up On The Black Market

When legitimate medications like Xanax make their way to distribution channels not authorized by drug manufacturers, it is considered the black or gray market Xanax. Largely, these medications are diverted out of the legitimate supply chain due to price point differentials and or availability gaps in different geographies. In these markets, you will find blue Xanax bars, green hulk Xanax, the yellow school bus Xanax, and foreign Xanax like Farmapram amongst many others.

Xanax diversion to black markets has significant health, legal and social implications. Deaths from misuse of prescription drugs account for a significant proportion of overdose deaths.

Diverted Xanax is most often sourced from a family member or friend, but is also sourced from overseas pharmacies or laboratories, or bought from drug dealers. Some of these foreign Xanax are responsible for the rising cases of overdose deaths because they do not contain alprazolam the active ingredient in the real Xanax but fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.

It is dangerous to purchase Xanax on the Internet or on the black market. The sale and distribution of medicines outside regulatory confines do not comply with safe-use regulations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These medications may contain dangerous ingredients, or may not be distributed by a licensed pharmacy.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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