Halcion (Triazolam) Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options
Medically reviewed byJennifer Cousineau, MSCP, LPCI, NCC
April 18, 2019
Halcion is commonly prescribed to treat short term insomnia. This potent benzodiazepine hypnotic should not be used for more than seven to ten days and has a high risk for addiction.
What is Halcion (Triazolam)?
Halcion is the trade name for the benzodiazepine, triazolam. Halcion is a fast-acting benzodiazepine, and wears off quickly, limiting its medical usefulness. Halcion typically takes effect within 15 minutes and lasts less than three hours in most people.
The fast-acting qualities of triazolam make it less useful for the treatment of anxiety, like other benzodiazepines, like alprazolam (Xanax). However, this medication is quite useful in individuals who have trouble falling asleep, and to relax people prior to surgery.
Halcion acts as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. Slowing down brain activity helps to relax a person enough so they can fall asleep. Triazolam should only be taken for brief periods of time, less than ten days.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies Halcion as a Schedule IV substance, which indicates a risk factor for dependence and addiction similar to other drugs such as dextropropoxyphene (Darvocet), diazepam (Valium), tramadol (Ultram), lorazepam (Ativan), and zolpidem (Ambien).
The effects of Halcion can be felt almost immediately after taking the medication. A therapeutic dose of triazolam can result in a calming or relaxing state. Other common side effects of triazolam include:
- memory problems
- tingling or numbness
- daytime sleepiness
- sexual dysfunction
- blurred vision
Some people have reported incidents of strange behaviors while sleeping after taking Halcion. These behaviors include sleepwalking, sleep talking, sleep driving, preparing/eating food while sleeping, and even having sex while sleeping. These behaviors can be dangerous to the person engaging in them, but also to the people around them.
Halcion has also been known to interact with several prescription medications, food products, and many over the counter medications. It is important to communicate with the prescribing doctor to make sure to avoid drug and food interactions while taking triazolam.
Taking Halcion in any other than prescribed is considered abuse. Many individuals who abuse Halcion have been prescribed the medication and start taking higher doses or continue to take triazolam after the time frame for which it was prescribed.
Higher doses of Halcion can produce a euphoric effect that is sought after by those who abuse it. Individuals may also take Halcion with opioids, alcohol, stimulants, or even other benzodiazepines in an attempt to increase the high associated with these drugs.
Signs Of Halcion Abuse
The following are some indicators that a person is abusing Halcion:
- taking higher doses of Halcion
- appearing intoxicated often (similar to alcohol intoxication)
- staying awake after taking triazolam
- nodding off in inappropriate situations
- trouble concentrating
- taking Halcion without a prescription
- slurring words
- respiratory depression
Is Halcion Addictive?
Halcion works by changing some of the chemistry in the brain. These changes can become permanent if a person continually takes high doses of triazolam, or continues to take Halcion for longer than prescribed.
When pathways in the brain are modified, addiction develops. The person may begin exhibiting symptoms of Halcion addiction and find it extremely difficult to stop taking Halcion. Withdrawal symptoms will likely emerge if the person has become dependent on Halcion and tries to stop.
Symptoms Of Halcion Addiction
If a person you know is addicted to triazolam, they will likely display many of the following symptoms:
- spending excessive amounts of time and money on Halcion or finding Halcion
- unable to stop or decrease the dose of Halcion
- avoiding people and places that do not permit Halcion abuse
- doctor shopping or having multiple prescriptions for Halcion
- dependence on Halcion
- failure to maintain responsibilities (family, friends, career, social)
- withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop taking Halcion
Dangers Of Halcion Abuse And Addiction
Benzodiazepine abuse and addiction is dangerous, especially because it most often occurs with other substance abuse and addiction. Typically, a person addicted to benzos is also addicted to alcohol or opioids. Taking two CNS depressants increases risk factors for respiratory failure, seizures, coma, and even death.
Long term benzodiazepine abuse can result in concentration problems, sexual dysfunction, mood swings, memory issues, depression, and declines in physical health as well. Halcion is an extremely potent benzodiazepine, so abusing this drug can intensify these effects.
Research studies have shown that long-term benzodiazepine use can increase risk factors for developing dementia and other cognitive issues.
The potential for overdose is high when a person is abusing or addicted to Halcion. It is important to seek emergency medical services if a person taking Halcion has the following symptoms:
- muscle weakness
- bluish tinted fingertips or lips
- trouble breathing
- incoherent mumbling
If a person is experiencing any combination of these symptoms, seek emergency medical attention. This is especially true if the person has taken other drugs, because most fatalities that involve benzodiazepine overdose usually involve another substance of abuse, like alcohol or heroin. About 30 percent of opioid overdoses also involve benzodiazepines.
It is not uncommon for a person who struggles with Halcion addiction to experience withdrawal symptoms if they attempt to quit taking Halcion. It is never recommended that a person who is dependent on benzos stop taking them ‘cold-turkey’. This can result in severe withdrawal symptoms, and in some cases, can be fatal.
Other symptoms of Halcion withdrawal may be a respiratory failure, seizures, irregular heart rate, and coma. It is important to seek assistance from a detoxification program when stopping Halcion.
Medically-supervised detoxification programs are available for individuals who are addicted to Halcion. The staff at these locations can taper down Halcion, or provide an alternative benzodiazepine to ease the symptoms of withdrawal.
A detox program can also help address the other symptoms that led to Halcion being prescribed in the first place. The treatment offered in a medically supervised detox program can help prepare the individual for substance abuse treatment in the near future.
Halcion Treatment Options
Once detox is complete, it is strongly encouraged that the person continues on to substance abuse treatment, where they can explore the nature of their addiction. This allows the person to develop an understanding of what brought them to addiction, to begin with.
Additionally, substance abuse treatment can help build appropriate coping skills, goal setting, anger management, and aftercare services. Programs like these provide well-rounded intervention methods to help maintain sobriety and treat other co-occurring diagnoses.
Contact our treatment specialists today and we will help find the best substance abuse treatment options for you or your loved one.Article Sources
Food and Drug Administration - Halcion (triazolam) Label
Drug Enforcement Administration - Drug Scheduling
National Library of Medicine - Analysis of changes in trends in the consumption rate of benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine-related drugs
Journal of Psychopharmacology - Benzodiazepines: Risks and benefits. A reconsideration