Outaouais teens abusing non-prescription Xanax they buy online

Teens in the Outaouais are increasingly consuming Xanax pills purchased online — a dangerous trend that's putting them at risk, the region's addiction prevention authority warns.

Addictive anti-anxiety drug widely available through online pharmacies

Teens in the Outaouais are increasingly purchasing Xanax pills online, health officials in the region say. (The Associated Press/Patrick Sison)

Teens in the Outaouais are increasingly consuming Xanax pills purchased online — a dangerous trend that's putting them at risk, the region's addiction prevention authority warns.

Xanax is prescribed for anxiety and panic attacks, but many of the pills the teens are buying are counterfeit.

The problem is so widespread Le Centre d'intervention et de prévention en toxicomanie de l'Outaouais (CIPTO), which works to prevent drug addiction, has asked the region's public health agency to intervene at high schools in the area. 

"It's the popular product this year," said Stéphanie Patry, a youth addictions worker with the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSS).

"It's clear that I have more youth this year who consume Xanax compared to previous years," 

Patry said in a French-language interview teachers in some schools have been informed of the symptoms associated with taking Xanax so they can screen students and offer help.

Stéphanie Patry, a youth addictions worker with the region's health authority, said Xanax is one of the most popular drugs among for teens this year. (CBC News)

Teens who consume Xanax expose themselves to serious risk of addiction, said Tin Ngo-Minh, a CISSS psychiatrist.

"Xanax is one of the benzodiazepine medications that causes the most dependence because it has an immediate effect," Ngo-Minh said in French.

"The high that comes with taking the drug is very strong. People search for this high and when it wears off they want to take more."

Tin Ngo-Minh, a psychiatrist with the region's health authority, said Xanax is even more dangerous when paired with alcohol. (CBC News)

Xanax can also be dangerous when it's mixed with alcohol, Ngo-Minh said. 

"If you take it with alcohol it's like you are taking lots and lots of alcohol," he said.

"People can suffer from respiratory depression, vomiting and aspiration pneumonia. It's very dangerous."

Widely available

Radio-Canada confirmed the existence of online pharmacies offering Xanax without a prescription, many based in Canada.

The pills are available at a low cost and can be delivered to a customer's home within a few days.

Teens often ignore the fact that they might not be taking real Xanax, said CIPTO director Yves Séguin.

"Sometimes it's the real product, like in the pharmacy, but sometimes it's an imitation," he said.

"That is the big risk because we don't know what's in those pills."

Yves Séguin, director of CIPTO, said teens don't know what's in the pills they are buying online, making it even more dangerous. (CBC News)

Pills on the street

Xanax is also being sold on the streets of Gatineau and Ottawa.

In January, Ottawa police arrested a suspect accused of selling large quantities of Xanax and cocaine, and in February Gatineau police seized a variety of drugs, including 700 Xanax pills, from two men.

Ottawa Public Health told Radio-Canada the online purchase of Xanax among teens is not a trend that's currently on its radar.

Parents who discover their teens have purchased Xanax pills should engage in a frank and open discussion with them, Patry said.

"If the parent panics, their children might close up even more," she said.

Parents can also seek help from various addictions resources in the area, Patry said.


Guillaume Dumont

Radio-Canada reporter

You can reach Guillaume by email