Fake Xanax: Designer Emerging Benzodiazepine Epidemic Linked to Morbidity and Mortality a Narrative Review

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Neurology and Therapy


Etizolam is a thienodiazepine derivative which produces an anxiolytic effect similar to benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax). Like classic benzodiazepines, etizolam has a high affinity towards the GABAA receptor, and allosterically potentiates the effects of GABA resulting in neuronal hyperpolarization related to chloride influx. When taken in therapeutic doses, etizolam produces a similar effect to Xanax. Counterfeit Xanax tablets contain variable amounts of etizolam. Tablets with high amounts of etizolam can cause toxicity if ingested, especially when combined with other substances. When toxic symptoms occur in patients, they may include severe sedation, unconsciousness, and depression of the medullary respiratory center. In this regard, there is the potential for death. Additionally, the rise in fake Xanax tablets containing etizolam and other counterfeit medications has been exacerbated by the difference in regulations regarding these substances in different countries as well as the illegal drug trade. Healthcare providers may also play a role through the over- or underprescribing of certain medications. Thus, in order to combat the rise in counterfeit medications such as fake Xanax, international cooperation, regulation, and enforcement of laws pertaining to the manufacture, prescription, and distribution of these substances are needed.

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