Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety disorders and panic disorders. As a central nervous system depressant alprazolam regulates chemicals in the brain in order to decrease abnormal excitement. Alprazolam can be habit forming and addictive, and long-term use of alprazolam can cause serious health problems or death. The risk of serious side effects and overdose increases significantly, when alprazolam is taken in combination with alcohol or other drugs. Alprazolam causes users to experience feelings of relaxation and lack of inhibition, so alprazolam is taken recreationally and is often abused.
Government Control of Alprazolam
Alprazolam is only available by prescription. Classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration alprazolam can only be obtained legally by prescription in the United States. The International Narcotics Control Board also lists alprazolam as a Schedule IV drug that can only be obtained by prescription.
Alprazolam is available worldwide, so the rise of alprazolam abuse is an international issue. In the United States alprazolam is one of the most frequently abused pharmaceutical drugs. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association reports that alprazolam was the most commonly abused anxiety medication in 2009. The report states that abuse of anxiety medications accounted for 33.6% of emergency room visits due to nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals. Of those visits, 29% were due to benzodiazepine abuse with 10.4% involving alprazolam. The abuse of pharmaceutical drugs is an increasingly serious problem, as medical emergencies due to nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals increased 101% from 2004 to 2009 from half a million to over a million. While the increase in prescription medication abuse is widespread throughout age groups, it is becoming increasingly popular with teens.
Reasons for the Rise in Alprazolam Abuse
The increase in alprazolam abuse can be attributed to a variety of factors including the following:
- The widespread availability of alprazolam makes the drug easy to obtain. As the fifth most prescribed drug in the United States benzodiazepines are easily accessible. Three million Americans use benzodiazepines daily. In addition technology increases the accessibility of alprazolam by making prescription drugs available through online pharmacies.
- The increase in prescription drug use and abuse creates social acceptance. Prescription drug use and prescription drug advertisements are becoming increasing common which leads to a greater knowledge of prescription medications. Prescription drug abuse is increasingly popular and often seen in pop culture, causing a growing social acceptance of prescription drug abuse.
- The growing popularity of “pharm parties” leads to increased drug abuse. Increasingly popular among teens, “pharm parties” are social gatherings in which prescription pills are shared and often taken in combination with alcohol or other drugs.
As prescription drug abuse becomes more socially acceptable and prescription drugs become more easily accessible, alprazolam abuse will likely continue to increase.
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