Spotting Fake Xanax: Risks and identifiers of counterfeit alprazolam

Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam, a prescription drug used to treat anxiety disorders and some sleep disorders. As it is only available legally under prescription, some illicit drug dealers cut their own versions to sell on the street, which can have dangerous consequences.

What is fake Xanax?

Fake Xanax is produced illegally by drug dealers and is intended to represent the same high felt when alprazolam is abused. Illicit drug manufacturers will often order bulk quantities of alprazolam powder (usually via the black market or from other countries) and use a pill press to make the fake version of Xanax. This means that people who wish to abuse Xanax have a regular supply of the drug without a prescription. Black market Xanax will also often be mixed with other dangerous substances in order to increase effects or quantities.

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What does fake Xanax look like?

Xanax pills come in many forms with varying shapes and colors, making spotting a fake one quite difficult.

Xanax bars, one of the more recognizable forms of the drug, are rectangular pills that are separated into four segments. These come in four colors blue, white, green, or yellow, meaning any rectangle Xanax pill in another color will likely be a fake.

An authentic pill will also often have an imprint on them consisting of numbers and letters. For example, blue Xanax bars will often have ‘B707’ printed on them and yellow ones will have ‘R039’ on them.[1][2]

Related: Types of Xanax pills and bars

Xanax also comes in the form of round or oval pills that have a wider variety of colors, again making spotting a fake quite difficult. Regardless of color, each pill has an identifying number that can help to spot a fake. Other telltale signs of fake Xanax include:

  • Faded or missing logo/identifier

  • Strange/mixed coloring

  • Irregular size/shape

  • Rough edges

  • Bumpy texture

Fake B707 blue Xanax bars

Fake blue Xanax are some of the most prolific on the black market. It can be difficult to spot the difference between real and fake blue Xanax as the imprints on the tablets are easy to reproduce with a pill press. However, fake blue Xanax will often have a rougher surface and edges and will be more speckled in color.

Red Xanax: Devil Xanax

Red Xanax are the only form of the drug that is only produced illegally and is not sold or prescribed. They resemble Xanax bars that can be broken into four pieces and have '666' printed on the back. 

Fake yellow Xanax

Yellow Xanax is another form of the drug that is often replicated on the black market. As with fake blue Xanax pills, they will often have a rougher texture than real Xanax and may have misprinted numbers. Real yellow Xanax bars will have 'R309' printed on the back.

Is the counterfeit version of Xanax dangerous?

Abusing any substance, even prescription-grade medications, can be dangerous. Substance abuse can lead to dependence and addiction as well as increasing the likelihood of overdose. In addition to the risk of developing a substance use disorder, abusing fake pills holds additional risks. These can include:

Hazardous ingredients - Elicit drug manufacturers will often use other substances when making counterfeit pills in order to boost their effects. These substances often create harmful drug combinations, such as when combined with the synthetic opioid fentanyl. These dangerous combinations greatly increase the risk of fatal drug overdoses as well as drug dependence and addiction. 

Contamination - Most street dealers and illegal drug labs do not abide by the same strict hygiene protocols that legal ones do. This means there is a much higher risk of bacteria and other harmful substances making their way into fake Xanax. 

High doses of alprazolam - A typical Xanax bar will contain 2 milligrams of alprazolam. Illegal drug manufacturers will often use more alprazolam in order to boost effects and to keep addicts coming back for their product. This greatly increases the risk of overdose and addiction.

Xanax and addiction

If you are obtaining Xanax from anywhere other than a licensed pharmacy or medical institute, it is fair to assume it will be a fake. Taking Xanax without prescription or in higher than recommended doses is considered abuse and can lead to dependence and addiction.[3] If you or someone you know is suffering from a benzodiazepine use disorder, seek treatment today.