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We're facing zombie drug nightmare; DOCTOR'S WARNING ON PILLS OVERDOSE; Expert fears abuse of tranquilliser will see rising number of fatalities.

Byline: Craig McDonald

A GP who has spent his career on the frontline of Scotland's heroin problem says he expects more deaths to be linked to a sedative branded a "zombie drug".

Addiction expert Dr Roy Robertson believes there will be a rising number of fatal overdoses associated with the misuse of Xanax - a brand name for a powerful tranquilliser called alprazolam.

It is feared the drug is responsible for four deaths in the Lothian area since the start of the year.

Now Dr Robertson - whose research led to Edinburgh being dubbed Europe's Aids capital after he linked the illness to dirty needles - said drug workers are seeing more evidence of Xanax being abused.

He said: "We're experiencing quite a lot of reports of Xanax in south and east Scotland. Colleagues in the west say the same.

"The source is always obscure and police reports are often as good as the information gets. Alprazolam, or Xanax, has a sedative and calming action and, taken in prescribed level, does exactly this.

"Mixed with other drugs, it is clearly dangerous and I expect we will see mentions of Xanax on death certificates as the year goes on.

"Taken in larger doses, it sedates to the level of unconsciousness.

Houston and, top, Ledger "People become disorientated and often have quite profound amnesia for the time of intoxication, while others have, paradoxically, an agitated state with confusion."

Dr Robertson's work in Edinburgh's Muirhouse estate inspired the film Trainspotting.

He is also a professor of addiction medicine at Edinburgh University and still runs the Muirhouse Medical Group in one of the capital's most-deprived schemes.

We told earlier this month how Scott McDermott, 35, died when he took Xanax. His mum Anne McDermott believes misuse of the drug - linked to the deaths of singer Whitney Houston and actor Heath Ledger - has caused more deaths in the area.

Dr Robertson was Scott's GP.

Anne, 60, said: "I'm pleased Dr Robertson is speaking on this issue as I'm aware of the work he has done at the sharp end of drug abuse.

"Scott had been a drug addict since he was 17 and was addicted to heroin. But I'm in no doubt it was Xanax that caused his death.

"Scott had never overdosed, then this drug comes along and he dies. We have to try to get a message out that people shouldn't abuse Xanax."

Xanax is a class C controlled drug but can be purchased in vast quantities online.

It is used to treat severe anxiety or stress and can be lethal when mixed with other drugs or alcohol. Xanax belongs to the benzodiazepines group, the same family that includes diazepam and Valium. It has been branded a "zombie drug" because high quantities leave users dazed.

It's understood police are linking at least one other death in the capital this year to abuse of the drug.

Numerous websites offer Xanax for sale at little more than a pound a pill. One US-based site advertises Xanax at about PS180 for 90 pills.

A Police Scotland drug trend bulletin in December revealed detectives are "focusing on illicit production, internet transactions and distribution via the post".

Police Scotland's Kenny Simpson said: "We have identified an increase in the use of Xanax, which appears to be mainly sourced from the internet or other illegal supply.

"Ordering a controlled drug from abroad involves illegal importation. Xanax contains alprazolam, a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Anyone unlawfully in possession of it without prescription commits an offence."

CAPTION(S):

DRUGS LINK Houston and, top, Ledger

MISSED Scott died after taking the drug

FEARS Dr Robertson. Right, our story on Xanax 8 of which in in part giants was panic one

DANGER. Xanax
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 18, 2018
Words:621
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