The opioid epidemic has claimed countless lives over the last two decades, and the government has been working with physicians’ organizations, pharmaceutical companies and law enforcement agencies to limit the abuse of prescription medications. However, dealers continue to circumvent these efforts by pressing pills and selling them as if they were real medications. Pressed xans are sold as if they’re Xanax but may contain other dangerous ingredients. This article covers what you need to know to avoid these dangerous counterfeits.

An Introduction to Pressed Pills

As more doctors become hesitant to prescribe narcotic medications, drug dealers have come up with alternative methods of selling opioids. Xanax, often referred to as xannies, z-bars, white boys, bricks, blue footballs, planks, benzos and pressed bars, is a drug commonly sold on the street. Pressed xans look identical to prescription Xanax pills, and it’s hard to verify their purity or whether they’ve been mixed with other medications such as fentanyl or methamphetamine.

The devices needed to manufacture pressed pills are easily accessible and very difficult to trace. This has allowed criminal networks to market counterfeit medications such as Xanax, Vicodin, OxyContin and Adderall over the internet. According to the DEA, there have been over 93,000 deaths in the United States linked to overdose, and many of the pills involved were counterfeit medications such as pressed bars.

Because of the other substances in these pressed pills, it’s easier to become addicted to them. Fentanyl is one substance found in pressed pills that increases the risk of a deadly overdose. Sometimes it takes only a single pill for someone to experience a lethal overdose.

Pressed Pill Identification

Because these pills are made in the same shapes as prescription medications and have the same markings, they’re notoriously hard to identify. One difference between pressed pills and actual prescription medications lies in how durable the counterfeit pills are. Because they’ve been pressed using equipment designed only to form them into an appropriate shape, they’re more likely to break apart under pressure.

A joint study between the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators and The Partnership for Safe Medicine revealed it costs just $500 for criminals to purchase the equipment they need to press counterfeit pills. The devices can be bought on the internet, and law enforcement agencies have little ability to track them down or confiscate them.

If a criminal is found in possession of a pill presser, the law doesn’t provide much in the way of punishment. This means criminals often receive very minor jail sentences and return to the streets quickly.

For safety reasons, you should never obtain medications from any source other than a licensed pharmacy. Any website that claims to sell prescription medications without requiring a doctor’s approval is a probable scam. It’s important to remember that even if you have the pill in your hand, there’s often no way to tell what’s inside until it’s too late.

How Common Are Counterfeit Pills?

So, how common are fake pills? As dangerous as counterfeit medication can be, it’s thankfully rare in the United States. A survey done by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that counterfeits make up between 9%–41% of medicines available in low- to middle-income countries but just less than 1% in more advanced economies such as the United States.

The numbers are skewed, however. Pressed pill identification is very unreliable short of using a chemistry lab. Police departments and medical labs can generally analyze pills with a high degree of accuracy, but visual inspection usually can’t be trusted. Some counterfeits look obviously fake — such as having blatant discoloration or inaccurate identification codes — while others are totally convincing at a glance. Because of this, authorities may never know exactly how prevalent fake pills are in the market.

What Do Pressed Xans and Other Pressed Pills Do?

Xanax is frequently prescribed for people who suffer from anxiety disorders. If someone experiences panic attacks, for example, they may take Xanax to reduce the frequency or severity of these events. The medication works on the brain and nervous system to produce a sense of calm. Because Xanax is an opioid medication, however, doctors need to monitor these prescriptions to ensure patients don’t become dependent.

If someone becomes physically or psychologically dependent on Xanax, they may need a higher dosage or more frequent doses to get the same effect. As the dependence grows, withdrawal symptoms feed the need to take more of the medication. The problem with pressed xans is that they don’t just contain Xanax.

Fentanyl is the most common substance mixed into counterfeit pills. It’s a pain medication seldom prescribed due to an extreme risk of dependency. When people press pills with fentanyl, it’s meant to create an addiction so the individuals who purchase them return for more.

Xanax Side Effects

Drowsiness is the most common side effect of Xanax, and part of why many people take it: to induce relaxation and euphoric calm. Other side effects include dizziness, sexual dysfunction, hallucinations, depression, suicidal thoughts, memory loss and slurred speech. Xanax can remain in your system for up to 4 days, so continued use will result in a buildup of medication in your bloodstream that peaks after this amount of time.

Fentanyl Side Effects

Fentanyl can cause numerous side effects, which is another reason doctors only prescribe it in extreme situations. It’s up to 100 times as strong as morphine and remains in your system for up to 3 days. In that time, the possible side effects include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Seizures
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Hives
  • Breathing problems
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Confusion
  • Fainting

Some of these side effects can be fatal. Fentanyl is also addictive and may cause dependency after only a couple of doses.

Addiction to Pressed Xanax

Both Xanax and fentanyl can be addictive. It doesn’t take much fentanyl to cause an overdose, so even if someone’s been using pressed bars for a short period of time, they can still display symptoms of addiction or overdose. If an individual is having difficulty breathing, is dizzy or has heart palpitations or their skin begins to turn blue or purple, they might be experiencing an overdose. At this point, it’s critical to call 911 and seek immediate medical treatment.

Aside from symptoms of an overdose, you can usually tell someone is addicted to Xanax pressed pills by changes in their behavior. They may become more withdrawn, stop participating in activities they once enjoyed, feel anxious or begin to seek more of the drug in dangerous ways. These may include criminal acts such as theft to obtain the money needed to purchase more of the drug.

Treatment for Pressed Bars and Pills

A medication called Naloxone can be used to treat someone having a narcotic overdose. Many public places have responded to fake pill risks by adding emergency Naloxone to their first aid kits. It can be administered via nasal spray or injection and, in case of emergency, may save a life. Naloxone has no adverse effects when given to someone who’s not experiencing a drug overdose, so it’s a worthwhile addition to your personal kit.

Once someone is under the care of a hospital or doctor, they’ll be given medications to help them manage their withdrawal symptoms as they come down from the drug. This is only the beginning of their recovery, however, as they may need the assistance of a therapist and health care professional to help them address the root causes of their addiction.

Recovery Is Possible

Pressed Xanax pills are extremely addictive. If you or someone you care about is fighting an addiction, it’s easy to feel you’re a long way off from a normal life. The good news is that many people have faced their addictions and still put themselves on the path to a better life. The first step is working with a mental health professional who understands addiction.

At Sunlight Recovery, we provide support for addiction, detox and recovery in all stages of your journey. Call us today or fill out our contact form to learn more about our treatment programs.