Key takeaways:

  • The drug’s short half-life combined with its high potency means that it has a high potential for abuse and addiction
  • Many people who abuse benzodiazepines will crush and snort them to amplify their potency and the speed to take effect. As Halcion is a highly potent short-acting drug, this method of taking the drug greatly increases the likelihood of overdose
  • it is recommended that someone suffering from benzodiazepine addictions like Halcion should always attend a medical detox, especially if they are chronic, long-term, or heavy users

Triazolam is a benzodiazepine medication most often prescribed to people who struggle with insomnia. Because it is a controlled medication, it carries a high risk for abuse and addiction and is not supposed to be used long-term. Misusing this medication by taking more than prescribed, more often than prescribed, mixing with other drugs, or using off-label increases the likelihood of developing an addiction to Triazolam. 

Understanding Halcion (Triazolam)

Triazolam is a potent benzodiazepine commonly sold under the brand name Halcion. It is used to treat a variety of conditions and disorders including heightened aggression, anxiety, panic attacks, schizophrenia, psychosis, suicidal ideation, and Tourettes, but is most often prescribed to people for short-term insomnia and other sleep disorders.[1, 2, 3]

Halcion is a short-acting benzodiazepine, a type of central nervous system depressant, with a half-life between two and four hours. The drug’s short half-life combined with its high potency means that it has a high potential for abuse and addiction. [1, 3] Triazolam is rarely prescribed for periods longer than ten days owing to its high potency.[1, 3] The drug’s sedative effects will also often stop having an effect on patients at this time, meaning people can start taking higher doses to get the same effect. This can lead to tolerance and physical dependence.[2, 3, 4]

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Effects of Halcion abuse

Benzodiazepines like Halcion interact with the brain by binding with neurons called GABA receptors. This process slows overactive brain functions, relieves mental stress, and helps induce sleep.[1] Those who abuse Halcion often experience similar effects of other central nervous system (CNS) depressants, namely a euphoric high or buzz, which can vary depending on the type being abused. Following the initial high, there is a period of prolonged sedation. [2] 

There are also a range of negative physical and psychological symptoms that come with Halcion abuse including:[1, 2, 3, 4]

  • Slurred speech
  • Rebound anxiety when stopping
  • Intoxication
  • Loss of coordination and motor function
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Memory Problems/amnesia
  • Stomach cramps or vomiting
  • Hallucinations or psychosis
  • Seizures (especially when stopping abruptly)
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Slowed breathing
  • Trouble thinking or making decisions

Many people who abuse benzodiazepines will crush and snort them to amplify their potency and the speed to take effect. As Halcion is a highly potent short-acting drug, this method of taking the drug greatly increases the likelihood of overdose, which can lead to respiratory depression and death.[1, 3] When Triazolam is abused alongside opioid painkillers such as Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Tramodal, or Fentanyl, the chances of fatal overdose increase greatly. [1]

Halcion addiction

Like other benzodiazepines, Halcion has a high potency and prolonged abuse can change the brain’s neurochemistry. Abusing the drug can lead to a tolerance forming in the user's body, which eventually causes a psychological or physical dependence on the drug to create the same high. 

As benzodiazepines are often obtained on prescription as anti-anxiety medication, the ability to abuse them is heightened for those who fall under certain diagnoses. Some users may not realize they have formed a dependence as it is possible to do so even on a prescribed amount. Addiction occurs when the negative effects of drug abuse become moderate to severe. 

The mental health community uses the term hypnotic, sedative, or anxiolytic use disorder to describe benzodiazepine abuse or addiction. [4] This term comes from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) which is also used to measure the criteria for addiction. 

These criteria include experiencing two or more of the following: [4]

  • Hazardous or risky use (i.e. while driving, mixing with other drugs)
  • Social or interpersonal problems related to substance use
  • Neglected major responsibilities to abuse substances
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping use
  • Developing a tolerance (needing more to get the same effect)
  • Using larger amounts than planned or intended
  • Repeated unsuccessful attempts to quit or control use 
  • Excessive time spent using the medication, thinking about using, obtaining, or trying to recover from effects of using
  • Physical or psychological problems related to abuse (but continuing to use)
  • Neglecting other activities you like and enjoy to use the medication more
  • Cravings or strong urges for the medication

These criteria are measured by the negative impact a substance use disorder has on a person's life; including physical, psychological, and behavioral measures, and are classified as mild, moderate, and severe. The criteria are measured against the previous 12 months of substance use and a score of 2-3 is considered mild, 3-5 moderate, and 6 or more severe. [2, 4] Even severe benzodiazepine addictions can be treated and overcome.

Halcion (Triazolam) withdrawal

Halcion binds with GABA neurotransmitters in the brain and when abused in large doses or over long periods causes the brain to be incapable of producing GABA.[1] If someone stops taking Halcion cold turkey then they will likely experience intensely uncomfortable, and occasionally life-threatening, withdrawal symptoms. This is due to the brain being unable to regulate mood and other systems controlled by GABA receptors.  

The intensity and severity of Halcion withdrawal can depend on several factors such as the length of time the drug was abused, in what frequency, the amount taken each time, whether the drug was used alongside other substances, and whether there are any co-occurring mental disorders. For this reason, it is recommended that someone suffering from benzodiazepine addictions like Halcion should always attend a medical detox, especially if they are chronic, long-term, or heavy users.

Physical Halcion withdrawal symptoms

  • Sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fever
  • Muscle cramps
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Increased risk of seizures

Psychological Halcion withdrawal symptoms

  • Insomnia
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety

Halcion addiction treatment

Halcion addiction, like other forms of benzodiazepine addiction, can be extremely difficult to get over. The severe withdrawal symptoms that arise from stopping Halcion abuse causes many to relapse or feel incapable of stopping. Attending a medically supervised detox can ensure that those suffering from Halcion abuse can get the drug out of their system in a comfortable and safe setting and ensure that the brain has time to readjust GBA levels. 

Detox can be performed as part of an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. Inpatient rehab centers offer a comfortable space free from temptation where patients are given access to behavioral therapies that can help identify the impulses that lead to substance abuse and develop tools to manage cravings. These therapies can also help identify and treat any co-occurring disorders that may be linked to substance abuse. Some inpatient facilities also offer recreational activities and holistic therapies such as music therapy, equine therapy, and art therapy.  

An outpatient treatment center allows attendees to still have a normal daily routine alongside a range of treatment options. If you or someone you know is suffering from Halcion addiction then contact a treatment provider today to see what help is available.