Millions of Americans struggle with the symptoms of insomnia and other sleep-related disorders According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 4 percent of adults in the United States use prescription sleep aids.
While benzodiazepines like Halcion, the brand name for triazolam, can be a useful temporary measure for effective insomnia treatment, it has an extremely high potential for both abuse and addiction. It is more potent and faster-acting than the majority of other, more widely known benzos such as Xanax.
What’s more, since its approval in 1982, Halcion has remained a controversial drug. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed the drug repeatedly.
According to this report from The New York Times, the FDA has mandated label warnings for Halcion, stating it produced symptoms like abnormal thinking, behavior changes, and anxiety. The British government banned the drug in the early 1990s.
Halcion is intended for short-term use only, rarely ever being prescribed for longer than seven to 10 days due to its strength. If used for longer than prescribed, even just a few days, Halcion quickly loses its effectiveness, causing users to increase their dosage.
Because Halcion is not as widely known, people are less likely to be aware of the dangers that misusing it can pose and are more likely to do so, and can end up addicted to Halcion in as little as two weeks.
Halcion works much faster than most other benzos, with a significantly shorter half-life. Because it takes effect so quickly, Halcion is most commonly used to induce sleep before minor medical procedures.
In your brain and central nervous system, there is a chemical called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) that is responsible for reducing neuron activity and blocking nerve impulses carrying signals that cause feelings like anxiety, stress, or fear.
Like other benzos, Halcion targets the brain’s GABA receptors to produce excess levels of GABA and induce sleep. Unlike most benzos, it also targets neuroreceptors key to brain function, literally slowing down the brain, which is why users feel its effects so rapidly.
The maximum adult and geriatric dose amounts for Halcion are 0.5 milligrams (mg) and 0.25 mg, respectively, according to Drugs.com.
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When it comes to prescription medications, it can sometimes be difficult to spot the signs of abuse growing into addiction, even when you are the one doing it, especially if you’ve been regularly taking Halcion. Often it is only in hindsight that someone’s abnormal behaviors can be recognized as signs of addiction.
However, there are many fairly noticeable effects associated with long-term Halcion abuse. If you are suspicious that someone may be becoming addicted to Halcion, you might notice some of the following effects:
As Halcion abuse escalates to addiction, someone will usually also begin to exhibit behaviors commonly associated with a substance use disorder as Halcion becomes the most important thing in their life.
As getting and using Halcion in spite of whatever negative consequences someone is experiencing because of it becomes the basis for the majority of their decision-making, these behaviors will start to stand out and serve as signs of a Halcion addiction that requires immediate attention.
Some telltale Halcion addiction signs include:
If you see these signs of Halcion addiction in someone you care about or have recognized them in your own behaviors and experiences, the next step needs to be seeking out professional addiction services, either for yourself or your loved one.
When someone is in the midst of withdrawal, they will exhibit disturbances or symptoms once the drug exits the system. According to RxList.com, the symptoms of withdrawal from benzodiazepines, including Halcion include:
Medical detoxification is a critical first step in addiction treatment for just about every substance, but it is especially important for Halcion since it is a benzodiazepine, and as such has some of the most dangerous, potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, including complications such as seizures and what is known as benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome can include symptoms like psychosis, hallucinations, suicidal behavior, intense panic attacks, and sleeplessness for days on end. Not only do these symptoms mean that detoxing from Halcion without medical supervision has a high risk of relapse, but it can also prove to be deadly.
Detoxing at a professional treatment center means you will be monitored by an experienced detox medical team that can provide medications to ease the worst of Halcion’s withdrawal symptoms as well as help slowly taper off your Halcion dosage until it is safe to stop without potentially triggering complications like seizures.
After detoxing from Halcion and becoming sober, the next stage of Halcion addiction treatment is continuing with ongoing addiction recovery treatment in a rehabilitation program.
If your Halcion addiction is not that severe and you are otherwise in good health, then you can choose to attend outpatient treatment. However, if you have a history of addiction or relapse, residential inpatient treatment may be the better option, as it allows you to focus fully on your recovery by removing you from possible temptations and triggers.
Whichever treatment program you choose, you will receive the skills and resources you need to help understand the issues that your addictive behaviors are rooted in, address them effectively, and be able to manage them and remain sober in the long-term.
Generally, each person’s addiction treatment plan will look a bit different, as it will have been customized to meet their individual needs, but most will include things like cognitive behavioral therapy, addiction education classes, and relapse prevention planning.
As with many medications meant to help you sleep, Halcion users will often experience bizarre, dangerous, and unnerving sleepwalking-related side effects, including:
All of these activities are performed while the user is unconscious, and the person will typically wake up with no memory of what they may have done while asleep.
As previously mentioned, Halcion is different from other benzodiazepines like Klonopin or Ativan in that it is extremely potent to induce sleep significantly faster.
This means that mixing Halcion with other depressant substance such as alcohol or opioids, which many people who abuse benzos often do, is that much more dangerous, with a high risk of rapidly overdosing.
People who are already addicted to benzodiazepines are also likely to move on to Halcion because it is more potent and they can get high much quicker, again increasing the risk of overdose.
If not treated in time, a Halcion overdose can result in coma and death due to major organ shutdown from lack of oxygen in the body. The signs usually associated with Halcion overdose include:
According to ScienceDirect, Halcion overdose may occur when users take four times the recommended dosage.
Dodds, T. J. (2017, March 02). Prescribed Benzodiazepines and Suicide Risk: A Review of the Literature. from http://www.psychiatrist.com/PCC/article/Pages/2017/v19n02/16r02037.aspx
Drugs.com. (n.d.). Triazolam Dosage Guide with Precautions. from https://www.drugs.com/dosage/triazolam.html
Eichenwald, K. (1996, June 01). A Justice Dept. Review Is Sought On a Sleeping Pill's Side Effects. from https://www.nytimes.com/1996/06/01/us/a-justice-dept-review-is-sought-on-a-sleeping-pill-s-side-effects.html?searchResultPosition=5
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 15). Benzodiazepines and Opioids. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids
RxList. (n.d.). Common Side Effects of Halcion (Triazolam) Drug Center. from https://www.rxlist.com/halcion-side-effects-drug-center.htm
ScienceDirect. (n.d.). Triazolam. from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/triazolam
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Products – Data Briefs – Number 127 – August 2013. from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db127.htm