American rappers have been blamed for a surge in popularity of £1 “zombie” pill Xanax among children, as one MP revealed the drug was being sold by dealers at his local McDonald’s.
The anxiety medication has seen a major boost in popularity among teenagers as a result of rap stars Future and Dr K publicising the drug on social media, MPs have heard.
The drug, which is 20 times the strength of Valium, can be bought readily online and if overused can lead to a “constantly dazed, zombie-like state”.
Labour MP Bambos Charalambous revealed in a Commons adjournment debate that the drug was being sold by people at McDonald’s restaurants in his Enfield Southgate constituency.
Mr Charalambous, who gave the example of a young constituent who had become addicted to the drug, said Xanax was being “peddled by a dealer from a booth at a McDonald’s restaurant” two minutes away from a school in his constituency.
He said: “Now, at £1 a pill, it was well within the level of affordability for some young people.”
He added: “Why has Xanax become so popular recently? Well aside from being cheap – I’ve mentioned that it’s being sold for £1 a pill in my constituency and being just a click away on the internet – it has also been glamorised in American rap music.
“The rapper Future has referred to Xanax in songs such as Xanny Family and Perkys Calling, and Lil Uzi Vert has done the same in his song Push Me To The Edge.”
Mr Charalambous told MPs the drug is “more difficult to come off than heroin” and can leave a user with prolonged psychological and physical reactions.
He urged ministers to raise awareness of the drug and set up more specialist drop-in centres to help those recovering from its use.
Health minister Steve Brine said Xanax had been identified as an issue by health care professionals.
He said: “The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) has identified an issue relating to the large-scale diversion of benzodiazepines and other hypnotics from the regulated supply chain to the criminal market.
“Around 130 million since January 2014 is my latest information.
“We remain committed to protecting and improving outcomes from these core services such as substance misuse.
“While I think we have made strong progress in tackling the misuse of drugs, we’re not complacent.”