CDC Sounds Alarm About ‘Designer Xanax’ Responsible for One in Seven Overdoses in the US – and There’s No Antidote
Health officials in the United States are sounding the alarm about ‘designer’ Xanax, which is increasingly responsible for more overdose deaths.
Bromazolam is a benzodiazepine – a class of drugs used to treat anxiety – that has been enhanced in the laboratory to be more powerful than approved sedatives such as Xanax and Valium.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that in 2021, only one percent of toxicology cases submitted to the National Medical Services Labs tested positive for bromazolam. By mid-2022, this number had risen to 13 percent.
Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are sedatives that cause sedation and slow down the body and brain. However, high potency benzos such as Bromazolam can cause loss of coordination, drowsiness, dizziness, respiratory depression, coma and death.
Bromazolam can be sold as tablets, powders, and gummies and is often found mixed with opioids such as fentanyl.
The Center for Forensic Science Research and Education (CFSRE) reported the first positive blood test result for the drug in September 2020.
Between then and June 2023, a total of 1,791 post-mortem blood samples were provided to the organization by coroners and medical examiners that tested positive for bromazolam.
The CFSRE reports that Bromazolam once made up just four percent of new benzos in circulation in 2021, but estimates that its presence increased to 73 percent of supply in the first six months of 2023.
And it is increasingly being mixed with the deadly opioid fentanyl. The CFSRE reported that 83 percent of its samples tested positive for fentanyl.
It is sold under names such as ‘XLI-268’, ‘Xanax’, ‘Fake Xanax’ and ‘Dope’.
The drug can be sold as tablets, powdered form or as gummies. On various websites selling the drug in China, Europe and the US, prices range from $20 for two dozen 3 mg tablets, $8 for a single 1 mg tablet and $356 for an unspecified quantity of 5 mg tablets.
The effects of Bromazolam occur within 15 to 45 minutes after ingestion and can last five to eight hours.
a case study of three people described in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report describes “previously healthy young adults” who took pills they thought were alprazolam — the generic version of Xanax — but were actually bromazolam.
The three subjects were found on February 1, 2023 in a suburb of Chicago.
The two 25-year-old men and a 20-year-old woman became unresponsive and could not be revived with naloxone, the antidote to quickly reverse opioid overdoses.
One of the men found had elevated blood pressure, a high heart rate and fever.
He suffered multiple seizures, was intubated, and was admitted to the ICU for 11 days. upon discharge it was reported that the man was experiencing persistent neurological deficits.
The other man had a slightly elevated temperature, was intubated and admitted to the ICU.
The man also suffered from epileptic seizures. He was discharged from the hospital on the fourth day and reported some hearing loss.
The woman became unresponsive and suffered multiple seizures, eventually leading to intubation. She suffered from prolonged and multiple seizures that did not respond to medication and was in a persistent coma. After eleven days she was transferred to another hospital, but no follow-up information was available.
All three patients were found to have elevated levels of a protein in their blood, which is seen in people having a heart attack.
Biological samples from all three people confirmed the presence of Bromazolam, but detected no fentanyl or any other opioid.
The CDC said these patients’ symptoms were unusual for an expected benzo overdose, indicating that Bromazolam has unknown properties from other benzos that have more serious health effects.
The health department said that “the constellation of reported findings should prompt close involvement with public health officials and regional poison control centers, given the more serious findings in these reported cases compared to those expected in routine benzodiazepine overdoses.”
In August, the Indiana Department of Health issued an emerging drug threat in the state after doctors and first responders reported an increase in the number of people using the drug.
In the first six months of 2023, 35 people who overdosed in Indiana tested positive for the drug.
Illinois has seen increased use of the drug, and Canadian provinces warned in May that the drug had been found in the country’s drug supply.
And the police are confiscating more and more quantities of bromazolam. The CDC reported that seizures in the U.S. increased from zero to three per year between 2016 and 2018, to 2,140 in 2022 and nearly 3,000 last year.