The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of News784. Send all articles to newsroom@ news784.com.
Let’s talk about Xanax!
Now I am aware that a rising trend does not an epidemic make, but I decided to use a foreshadowing title. Doubt me? Keep reading.
There is a Xanax culture emerging from within the underbelly of Barbados of which many are blissfully unaware.
For those who are not familiar with this powerful drug, Xanax (Alprazolam) is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines (Benzos) which act on the brain and nerves (central nervous system) to produce a calming effect.
Like most drugs that increase the level of Serotonin in the brain, ‘Xans’ are used (abused) as a recreational drug.
Pop Culture of Drugs
The social effects of drug use were catapulted through pop culture, mainly the Rock ‘n Roll genre.
Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Ozzy Osbourne and David Bowie, among others, were entertainers who released music glorifying drug use. But these entertainers were not simply users of these drugs, they were using their drug addiction as a marketing ploy.
It should be of no surprise that in 2018 the use of drugs, mainly Opioids which last year caused around 72,000 deaths among white people (Opioid epidemic), would find its way into the black community.
There were very few black entertainers at the time who promoted the use of drugs (pills); they, however, glorified the use of Marijuana and the selling of Cocaine. Rappers such as Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Nas and the Notorious B.I.G were some of the black entertainers of the early 90’s who released music glamourising the use of “Reefer” and the ‘pushing’ of “White gurl“.
The Evolution of Rap Music
Over the years the rap genre has undergone many changes as it relates to the content artistes and their record label promote. Today, with the emergence of who are referred to as Suncloud rappers, rap music has become the ultimate marketing tool for pharmacies the world over, including Barbados.
Much like the Opioid epidemic whose victims are white, the ‘Xans culture’ in Barbados originated within that same ethnic group. I am not pulling this information out of thin air but relying on anecdotal evidence.
This culture eventually trickled down into the young black affluent social group A.K.A the high society/bourgeoisie, as these are usually the acquaintances of the white youth in our country. The culture then made its way into the poorer communities and is now prevalent among the lower socio-economic group A.K.A the ghetto. Yes, every class in Barbados is doing Xanax.
While the police have only been focusing on Marijuana and Cocaine, there is a thriving black market for Xanax, and Percocet (Perk) which I will discuss later in this article. And similar to the local gun trade of which poor, ‘ghetto’ youths are customers, these prescription drugs are being facilitated by the rich young people.
Influence of North America
I was completely taken aback some time ago when I was having a conversation with someone who is from one of the most notorious blocks in Barbados, and he confessed to being a regular user of Xans. He also divulged that he’s “on everything. . . Bars [Xanax], Perks and Lean. That’s the speed right now, everybody ’bout here [his block] doing it.”
For those who are unaware of this recreational ‘beverage’, Lean, also referred to as Purple Drank/Sizzurp/Drank, is a concoction of Sprite, Codeine (Opioid), and purple Jolly Rancher sweets which are added for flavour and colour. One of the first entertainers to introduce and promote Lean to the masses was rap group Three 6 Mafia with their hit song ‘Sipping on Some Syrup’.
In Barbados, we continue to fall victim to the importation of North American values and practices. From fashion, to music, lifestyle, food, colloquialisms, ideologies– everything. We have become Americanised, intentionally or not. But do we have a choice?
When we turn to our broadcast media for entertainment, we are met by American channels owned by American production companies disseminating American content (culture). Everything we consume is American.
Our identity, with the exception of eating Pudding and Souse and the colloquial Rashole, is American. The popular radio stations whose target audience is the same group which the abuse of Xanax is most prevalent among, play 70% of American music daily. We are on an American diet.
There’s a saying that “music is good for the soul.” But which genre of music? When our young Bajan men, and women, are daily consuming music by the likes of Rappers Lil Thug, Lil Durk, Lil Pump, Lil Xan (short for Xanax), Tekashi 69, Trippie Redd, Xxxtentacion, Lil Peep, Juice Wrld, and Future who was one of the first mature rappers to glamourise Percocet, what do you think will eventually happen?
The Abuse of Xans and Perk
Future’s ‘Mask Off‘ was one of the biggest hits of 2017, and created one of the biggest social media challenges which participants were asked to show their talent on the violin by playing the melody of the song. The lyrics to the refrain which accompanied those musical strings were:
“Percocets, Molly, Percocets
Percocets, Molly, Percocets
Rep the set, gotta rep the set”
Molly is Ecstasy*. Percocet is the combination oxycodone/paracetamol which is a combined opioid/non-opioid pain reliever used to treat moderate to severe acute pain.
In an interview which proceeded the song’s release, Future revealed that he was not a user of the drug the way he had expressed in his song, but “that’s what sells.
“If you sing about drugs people will buy your music,” the ‘Mask Off’ singer noted.
But Xanax is no joke. Remember the “anecdotal evidence” I mentioned earlier? Some time ago I was going through some personal issues, and the constant worrying caused me migraines. Initially, I bought some Panadol and Advil but I wanted something that would quiet my mind and decrease the level of anxiety the worrying caused me.
Xanax and Inevitable Addiction
Upon request, one of my girlfriends who has a prescription for Xanax gave me two .5mg. In less than an hour the calming effect ensued and soon I was out cold. The next day I was still experiencing the effects; I was calm, smiling, happy. But my issues did not disappear, and to avoid having to deal with them I asked for two more.
She was hesitant and warned against the possibility of addiction, but with persuasion and the knowledge of the distress I was under, she went from friend to dealer.
The two .5mg (generic) became four, then six per day, to three 2mg (original) per day; I had become addicted. Have you ever slept for two days straight? I was receiving boxes of Xanax without a prescription weekly. Majority of the people in Barbados who use Xanax and Percocet are doing so without a prescription.
I recall about three weeks ago I was at a spa on the south coast, and while there one of the nail technicians blurted out to one of my other friends, in the presence of other clients (who I believed had no idea about Xanax), “Girl, I don’t feel like working for the rest of the day. I would pop a Xans now.” I looked at my friend in bewilderment because I did not realise that the consumption of such drugs had become shop talk.
From the upscale nightclubs on the west coast to the urban cruises on the high seas– almost everyone is popping Xans. The more reckless among us doing so while ingesting alcohol.
But who regulates the local pharmacies? While the experience on Xanax is a wonderful feeling, it can interfere with your life. You cannot do anything on Xanax! It puts you in ‘zombie mode‘ and keeps you disoriented, which means you are not being productive. That’s not good for you or society. It also impairs your memory; you do not remember anything that occurred while you were on Xans.
One should also be careful when quitting Xanax and avoid making the grave error of doing so cold turkey; the repercussions are dangerous. The withdrawal stage was anything but nice, but I eventually worked through it.
There will be times when I will want to take a Xanax but I am confident that I won’t. I have life to live, and I do not want to be in a 24-hr-sleep lest it leaves me behind.
About the author
Makiziwe Steele is a former reporter at The Nation, Starcom Network and LoopNews Barbados, and is currently the Communications Assistant at the Barbados Tourism Product Authority. She is also a popular blogger in Barbados.