POCKET money pills bought on the dark web and sold on Swindon’s streets have the potential to cause serious harm to children in the town, it has been said.

The council’s youth drugs service, U-Turn, said it was seeing more young people in Swindon experimenting with anti-anxiety drug Xanax. The pills, used to control anxiety disorders, can be bought for as little as £5 and have grown in popularity after being frequently mentioned in pop music.

The drugs service’s warning came as a Swindon court was told of two teenagers who ran wild around Park South causing mayhem after bingeing on the drug. Their friend, 17, found himself before the magistrates on an assault charge after he pushed a PCSO in an effort to attack the Xanax-addled pals who had just insulted his dead mother.

Xanax, the brand name for Alprazolam, has soared in popularity among teenagers raised on a diet of American pop music in recent years.

Public Health England has said the number of children being treated for Xanax addiction jumped from eight in 2016/17 to 53 in 2017/18.

The pills, also prescribed short term to manage panic disorders, are frequently referenced by hip hop musicians. US rapper Lil Peep died last year aged just 21 after what is believed to be an overdose on the drug.

Michael Handgraft, a substance misuse adviser with Swindon youth drugs service U-Turn, said the oblong pills could be bought for as little as £5 in the town and were easily available on the dark web.

Substances like cannabis remained most popular among Swindon teenagers. He said: “It’s not something we’re seeing massively take over from other substances, but we are seeing more young people experimenting with it.”

Parents needed to be alive to the risks of the tranquiliser pills: “For me, it’s being confident knowing what a Xanax pill looks like. It could have been put together with anything.”

The signs a young person had taken Xanax were similar to the drunkenness, such as slurred speech. “No doctor would prescribe that beyond four or five days because of the addiction and dependency issues around Xanax,” My Handgraft said.

This week, Swindon Youth Court heard how an orphaned teen tried to stop his drug-addled mates from causing trouble - but ended up getting nicked himself after seeing red when his friends insulted his mother.

The 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was trying to calm his two friends, who were doped up on Xanax.

Magistrates were told that the drug caused the teenage pair to run wild around Cranmore Avenue.

Emma Thacker, defending, said: “They were running around the street causing mayhem. My client was trying to stop them. He was trying to calm them down.”

But the defendant flipped when his friends began making unpleasant comments about his dead mother.

PCSO Dean Tilling was trying to separate the lads when he was pushed in the chest. The teen had warned the officer: “If you don’t get out of the way I’ll bang you out too.”

The boy, who admitted assaulting an emergency worker, said he had not meant to hurt the officer.

Magistrates adjourned sentencing for two months for a full set of reports looking at the boy’s mental health.

His bail conditions were changed, meaning he can again see the two pals he was previously banned from meeting. Chairman of the bench Simon Wolfensohn said: “You can resume your friendship with them. Just make sure they don’t lead you into trouble.”