The '80s is coupled with cocaine, the '90s with Prozac, and the era of EDM is paired off with Molly. Today, college students are seduced by a new drug of choice: Xanax. It is the cool kid in high school, name-dropped by U2 and Future alike. Xanax takes no prisoners, and pharmacists and doctors are letting this epidemic sweep the nation, starting with our generation.
Xanax was created to ease the effects of anxiety. Originally prescribed to calm nerves before a flight, it is now commonly washed down with a cup of jungle juice du jour in an effort to completely black out. Xanax belongs to the benzodiazepine family tree, along with other ‘downers’ Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin. There were 94 million benzo prescriptions doled out in 2014 alone, and Xanax is prescribed more than Ambien (a sleeping pill) and Zoloft (an antidepressant).
Copping a scrip from the family doc is no longer necessary. Within the college culture especially, benzos are passed like a peace pipe, gleefully given to anyone who wants to pop one in a time of stress or ennui.
Instead of solely soothing the patient, however, these drugs often take users to a state of extreme meditation and then some. It works almost instantly and can relieve symptoms in a matter of minutes, unlike antidepressants that take up residence in the body before working their magic. It is highly popular for students and young adults to take a Xanax to offset the stressful surge of anxiety and paranoia after a night of heavy drinking, doing blow, or rolling. These toxic and fatal combinations are not lamented against enough.
In the media, Xanax is hyped up: Real Housewives lean on it like life support, and even Bill Maher has joked that President Obama keeps a few in his nightstand to maintain his cool and collected persona.
This might sound like it is coming from your narc-y Aunt Joan, but the pitfalls of Xanax and its extremely high level of addiction potential are not broadcasted well enough to its users. Overdoses on benzos are on the rise and have increased more than fivefold since 1996, according to The Washington Post. Access is easy, doctors are handing these pills out like candy and rarely does a fiend have to venture into the deep, dark, black market. Forbes refers to us as Generation Rx, and after three years of college, their reasoning is as obvious as the kid tweaking in the library who is clearly on Ritalin.
Of course, there are cases where anxiety is paralyzing enough to necessitate the use of intense medications. In moments of panic, Xanax swoops down like a guardian angel, carefully guiding the user back to serenity. However, doctors should be more careful when deciding whether to hand out a Xanax prescription—it's not a medication to be distributed casually.
Meg Zukin PZ '17 is originally from the Silicon Valley, majors in Media Studies and minors in nothing.