An epidemic of numbing proportions

There is an epidemic of Xanax abuse in Australia. It has overtaken Valium and Serepax as the most desirable benzodiazepine on the market. First released here in the 1990s as a drug to treat anxiety associated with depression, it is now indicated only for the treatment of panic disorder on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme as an authority prescription.

Because it is a short-acting benzodiazepine, it provides relief of anxiety symptoms within an hour of ingestion. This makes it a favourite of those with intractable anxiety or panic. Problems arise, however, because of tolerance to this medication and a gradual escalation of dose.

The 2mg presentation is the one most commonly sought after. Xanax is a powerfully addictive medication, particularly to patients who have alcohol or opioid drug dependence. According to Medicare Australia, 122,433 prescriptions were written for the 2mg preparation across the country from July 2011 to June 2012. A proportion of these end