Xanax and the Dark Web
What is it?
The drug alprazolam is often called Xanax, after one of the most common brand names. We know that using alprazolam has caused some young people to end up in hospital, particularly when they have mixed it with alcohol.
Alprazolam is an anti-anxiety medicine in the benzodiazepine family and is similar to diazepam (Valium) but it’s about 20 times stronger and has a quicker, shorter-acting effect. If you take alprazolam you might very quickly feel relaxed, tired and sleepy.
But you are also at risk of serious harm if you take alprazolam. Like other benzos, long-term use could mean you become physically dependent on it and then suffer withdrawal symptoms if you stop using it. Alprazolam can also cause blackouts and put you at greater risk of being taken advantage of sexually. If you mix it with alcohol you’re at a big risk of overdose caused by heart and breathing problems – and this can lead to death. ref Talk to Frank
Where does it come from?
In the UK the NHS does not prescribe Alprazolam so it has to be accessed via private prescriptions or more commonly the internet. This takes place on 'the dark web'. I know a lot of you reading this will have heard the term but have no idea what that means. It's not something you access via google. You need a specific browser. The most commonly downloaded browser used to access the dark web is called Tor. If a young person you know downloads Tor or has friends who have, here are some things to discuss:
- Talk about internet ethics and what constitutes illegal activity.
- Talk to your young person about protecting their privacy and discuss online behaviour, including ‘grooming.’
- Make sure they know even ‘just visiting’ the dark web is risky.
- Urge your child to NEVER accept anything purchased on the dark web.
Accessed via special software that hides your identity and encrypts traffic, the dark web is a network of untraceable activity and sites. Site content doesn’t appear in search engines and users typically have VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) that hide internet activity from government agencies. VPNs give a user a fake IP (internet protocol) address, which is a number that identifies a network — sort of like a street address for your network.
An increasing number of people — including teenagers — are using the dark web to order drugs. With a credit card, a little know-how and one click of a mouse, anyone can place an order on illegal marketplaces, with delivery right to your doorstep.
One of the issues is that the amounts being brought in are relatively small in each shipment and these pills/powders are concealed within other items.
The dark web is well known as a trading route for illegal activity and having young people accessing it will see them potentially coming into contact with a range of criminals from drug dealers to identity thieves through to child pornographers.
One other thing to note is the dark web is accessible through your mobile phone with apps that are configured to work with Tor so again young people with smart phones would be able to access the dark web if they really wanted to.
Having open discussions with young people is often the first step in guiding them around making good choices. The dark web is likely to be around for the foreseeable future so we need to prepare the next generation on how to stay internet savvy and safe.