They could be given to people on prescription, but ITV News has heard claims that children, as young as 15, are buying benzodiazepines through Instagram.
The psychoactive, depressant drugs include valium and are generally prescribed for anxiety or occasionally, sleeping problems.
We’ve learnt of a growing number of young people taking them as part of a night out, as well as mixing them with a cocktail of other illegal substances.
Several Instagram accounts found through simple searches enabled those seeking the drugs to privately message and arrange for the substances to be delivered.
“I’ve never seen drugs ruin people lives like the way I’ve seen ‘benzos’ ruin people’s lives”, one 23-year-old told ITV News.
‘Danny’ (not his real name), agreed to share his experience of taking ‘benzos’ in the hope that it would help others get the help and support they need.
“I think I was like 17, maybe 18 when I first started,” he said.
“I think it’s a really big problem. I know a lot of students who do it.
“It’s really easy to get.”
‘Danny’ explained the price of the drugs can be as little as just a few pounds.
“I just think it is a bigger problem than most people realise.”
Recent ONS figures found a 13% increase in use of Benzodiazepines.
A former dealer of Benzodiazepines during university also came forward, again anonymously to share his story about the drugs.
We’ve changed his name to ‘Rick’.
“I’d say that they’re very, very prevalent, especially among young people and people at uni.
“I’m worried because there doesn’t seem to be much support out there for these kind of things.
“It’s just very easy, very easy to get a hold of them. They’re very cheap.
“You could maybe get, say, five diazepam for a fiver and that might be the cost of a pint.”
Campaigners including the Benzo Research Project have called on the government to provide additional information surrounding the use of Benzos amongst young people, questioning the amount of support available.
The team of students have been carrying out anecdotal research about the some of the reasons behind Benzos’ use in young people.
“Some of the things that stood out the most are the fact that many young people across the UK use ‘benzos’ as a form of self-medication”, said Project Lead Monica Richards.
“So for anxiety, depression, ADHD, emotionally unstable personality disorder, PTSD, this is often due to fear of reaching out for support.”
“[Benzos] are often used in conjunction with other drugs, which is referred to as poly drug use.
“The top ones that were mentioned in the testimonies that we received were antidepressants, psychedelics and stimulants like cocaine.”
In a statement issued to ITV News, the Department of Health and Social Care said:
“Any death from drug addiction is a tragedy and we are taking action to get people the help they need.
“Our landmark drug strategy – backed by almost £900 million over the next three years – will rebuild treatment and recovery services saving almost 1,000 lives, deliver 54,000 new treatment places and support 24,000 more people into recovery.”
We contacted Meta, who owns Instagram and put our findings to them.
They said they’d taken down the accounts we found and explained the support made available on the platform.
“The buying and selling of drugs is not allowed on our platform and we’ve removed the accounts brought to our attention”, a Meta spokesperson said.
“We work closely with the police to keep drug sales off our platform and partnered with FRANK to support adults and young people struggling with substance abuse.
“Now, when anyone searches for drug-related terms on Instagram, we show a message offering option to get help.”
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