SIX teenagers have been hospitalised in a week after taking an extremely addictive tranquilizer which doctors are warning could be a killer new party drug.

The Brighton teenagers received treatment after taking alprazolam - usually known by brand name Xanax - an anti-anxiety medication around 20 times stronger than Valium.

It is not illegal but not available on NHS prescription. Public Health England warned that by sourcing the drug online and taking it recreationally users were “dicing with death.”

The Argus can reveal more than 100 people have been treated in connection with abuse of Benzodiazepines - the group of depressants to which Xanax belongs - at the Royal Sussex County Hospital since July of last year.

Dr Peter Wilkinson, consultant in public health at Brighton and Hove City Council said: “We’re asking parents to talk to their children, to make sure they understand the risks. It can have a wide range of harmful effects and overdoses can be fatal particularly when taken with alcohol and other drugs. As Xanax isn’t available on prescription from the NHS people are getting it online, probably through the dark web, which means no one actually knows what it is they’re buying.”

Public Health England has warned the misuse of Xanax may be increasing. PHE’s head of alcohol, drugs and tobacco, Rosanna O’Connor, warned: “People buy things from the internet and they have no guarantee of what they are getting, so whatever is in the drugs they buy could change from one drug to another. They are dicing with death really because these things are dangerous.”

A city GP who works with drug abuse, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect his patients’ confidentiality, told The Argus even the pure version of the drug could be extremely addictive and highly dangerous. He said: “It’s incredibly addictive, and can make you fall into a very deep sleep which has risks. It can depress your respiration and you can stop breathing, especially if you take too much of it.”

He said recently patients had spoken to him about their use of the drug for the first time in months, which prompted him to wonder whether a new shipment had recently become available online.

The council said substance misuse workers and public health professionals believed the drug was being bought over the internet and from local dealers. The drug is not illegal and Sussex Police did not comment. In January the force linked a case of criminal damage, and one a self-harm by a teenage girl, to Xanax misuse.

For help or support parents can contact Ruok on 01273 296169 or Worried parents are advised to discuss with their child’s doctor and further information can be found at or