Buyer Beware: Deadly Fake Xanax Pills Flooding the Market

Kerry Nenn
Calendar icon Last Updated: 09/13/2023
Fake Xanax pills dominate the market.
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Who Answers?

None of the Xanax that we are seeing on the street is actually Xanax.

– Commander Art Nakamura, Drugs and Vice Unit, Portland, OR

Tim stared at the pill in his hand. It looked legit. It had the right shape. It was the right size.

But what was inside that little yellow rectangle? Tim bought the pill online from a dealer who was offering them at a great price.

It could be an actual Xanax, which is normally prescribed for anxiety. Or it could be one of the millions of fake Xanax pills containing fentanyl, which is deadly in even the smallest amounts.

Should he take it? Is it worth the risk?

One Fake Xanax Could Be Your Last

Fake Xanax pills can be deadly.If you buy a designer purse, and it turns out to be fake, at least you still end up with a handbag. If you buy Xanax, and you end up with even one of the fake Xanax pills on the market, you could end up overdosing.

Many websites that claim to sell Xanax ship out counterfeit drugs that could contain harmful ingredients. And buying them on the street is just as dangerous.

Even a few milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal. And since fake Xanax pills are often laced with this extremely potent opioid or other unknown substances, taking even one fake pill can be a life-threatening risk.

Art Nakamura, Drugs and Vice Unit Commander in Portland, Oregon reports that:

None of the Xanax that we are seeing on the street is actually Xanax. We’ve got pills that contain fentanyl, other synthetics…[People] don’t know what they’re buying. There is an incident in the news where there were multiple kids who purchased Xanax from another student, and they all overdosed. That’s a classic example of teenagers purchasing what they thought were Xanax pills but turned out to be something completely else.

How to Avoid Fake Xanax Pills

Here’s the good news: it’s easy to avoid fake Xanax pills. All you need to do is follow these three guidelines:

  • Only take Xanax as prescribed for you by your doctor.
  • Always fill your prescription at a reputable pharmacy.
  • Don’t buy Xanax online, particularly from sketchy pharmacies or pharmacies overseas. Xanax sales outside of the U.S. don’t comply with FDA regulations for safe use. If you do buy Xanax online, make sure the pharmacy requires a valid prescription and they have a U.S. address and phone number. For example, if you have a long-term prescription, your insurance may offer mail delivery of the prescription – this is very different than purchasing Xanax from a questionable online pharmacy.

How to Spot Fake Xanax Pills

Avoid fake Xanax pills by only taking Xanax as prescribed.Alprazolam, the generic name for Xanax, is dispensed in several doses. The appearance of the pill tells you the dosage:

  • 25mg pills are oval white pills
  • 5mg pills are oval orange pills
  • 1mg pills are oval blue pills
  • 2mg pills are rectangular (or “bar”) white or yellow pills

The dosage that is frequently counterfeited is the yellow pill. It’s sometimes referred to as “school bus Xanax” or “yellow Xanax bar.” To spot these fake Xanax pills, watch for the following signs.


  • The real 2mg Xanax dose is a bar-like pill with three lines that divide it into four sections. The sections are imprinted with R-0-3-9.
  • All of the pills in your prescription should be the same color. If some are lighter or darker yellow, this is a sign that they are fake.
  • Another red flag is imperfections in the pills from counterfeit manufacturing productions. Look for faded imprints, extra markings, rough edges, or a lopsided appearance. If the pills are legit, all lines are straight and the pills are evenly shaped and smooth.


  • An authentic Xanax pill doesn’t dissolve in water. It cannot be easily crushed or crumbled with your fingers.
  • All pills in your prescription should have the same weight. Real Xanax weighs about half a gram per pill.


  • Remember that fake purse? If you paid five dollars for it, it’s probably not the real deal. The saying, “you get what you pay for” applies to pharmaceuticals, too.
  • If you buy Xanax at a price that is much lower than usual, the pills are probably fake. And they could contain more than you bargained for. Fake Xanax pills sold for $5 on the street have been found to contain a deadly combination of fentanyl and Xanax.

The Bottom Line

The best way to avoid counterfeit Xanax is not to misuse the drug. Only use Xanax as prescribed, and have your prescription filled by a legitimate pharmacy.

Xanax has a high risk of physical dependence. If you chronically take Xanax in higher amounts than prescribed, you may develop a tolerance. That means you have to take more and more Xanax to experience the same effects.

People who are physically dependent and have a Xanax tolerance are more likely to purchase the pills without a prescription. That’s because their prescription no longer includes enough pills to produce the desired effects. And any pills purchased on the black market are more likely to be fake Xanax than the real thing.

If you or someone you know is struggling with Xanax misuse or addiction, help is available. Call 800-681-1058 (Info iconWho Answers?) to learn more about treatment options.

Kerry Nenn
Kerry Nenn, BSW
Expert Author, Editor
Kerry is a full-time freelance writer and author whose work has received awards both locally and nationally. Based in the Chicago area, she holds a bachelor’s degree in social work and psychology (BSW) from Evangel University. Kerry is a regular contributor to international newsletter publications, industry-leading consumer blogs, and Christian ministries.