Halcion Addiction: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options
Last Updated Dec 2, 2021
Halcion, and the generic triazolam, is a benzodiazepine with legitimate medical uses that can also be abused. Persistent misuse can lead to addiction.
In some cases, abuse of Halcion can even lead to a life-threatening overdose, particularly if it is combined with other substances of abuse.
What Is Halcion?
Halcion is a brand name version of the drug triazolam. This is a benzodiazepine, a drug that helps to slow activity in the brain and can help a person sleep. Halcion is primarily used as a short-term treatment for insomnia.
Benzodiazepines are generally considered to have at least moderate abuse and addiction potential, which is one reason prescriptions for drugs like Halcion are usually only for a few days if possible. Short prescriptions reduce the risk of abuse and the chances that a person will become physically dependent on their medication.
Quick Facts About Halcion & Similar Medications
Here are some quick facts about Halcion and benzodiazepines in general:
- Benzodiazepine use is fairly high among Americans, with 12.5 percent of adults, or approximately 30.5 million people, reporting use of benzodiazepines in the 2015–2016 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health.
- Benzodiazepine addiction seems to be comparatively rare, with fewer than 2% of people in that survey qualifying as having a benzodiazepine use disorder.
- Over 17 percent of people in that survey reported at least one instance of misusing their benzodiazepines, although this doesn’t necessarily indicate heavy or long-term abuse.
- About half of visits in which benzodiazepines are prescribed tend to be with a primary care provider, with the other half being from a different provider.
Side Effects of Halcion
There are few side effects commonly associated with Halcion, including these:
- Tingling of the skin
- Problems with coordination
If taken for several days or especially several weeks, Halcion has the potential to cause physical dependence, which means a person will experience unpleasant physical symptoms (withdrawal) if they stop taking the medication or take it in smaller doses than they previously were. If you believe you have become dependent on Halcion or any other medication, talk to your doctor. Do not stop taking the drug suddenly on your own.
Halcion Abuse vs. Addiction
Drug abuse and drug addiction are two related but separate terms. Drug abuse is intentionally misusing a drug for a non-medicinal purpose. In the case of Halcion and other benzodiazepines, abuse is typically done to achieve a euphoric, sedating high.
Addiction occurs when a person develops a compulsion to regularly abuse drugs, often accompanied by the development of physical dependence, meaning that they will experience unpleasant symptoms if they try to reduce or stop their continued drug abuse. Unlike drug abuse, which is an unhealthy behavior, drug addiction is a disease of the brain. Continued drug abuse often fundamentally changes the way the brain works in such a way that resisting cravings to abuse drugs becomes more difficult.
Addiction isn’t a matter of willpower. Generally, when a person has an addiction to benzodiazepines or any drug, they need professional assistance to stop abusing drugs.
How Does Addiction to Halcion Happen?
There are still several unknowns regarding benzodiazepine addiction, but it’s known that the drug works by promoting the binding of an acid called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, to a neurotransmitter in the brain, which slows activity in the brain. It’s also known that the drug can have a calming, sedating effect that can become fairly strong, leading to a sedative high, if the drug is abused.
The drug can cause dependence, even if used only as prescribed, “rewiring” the brain. This can cause sometimes quite significant withdrawal symptoms that make stopping use of it much more difficult than quitting would have been before developing dependence.
Addiction is the result of repeated and/or heavy drug abuse, especially combined with outside factors, like life circumstances that make it harder for a person to feel joy (such as when grieving) or keep them tense and stressed (such as difficulties in work or school). The brain can slowly grow to rely on that drug abuse, which can unfortunately make it even harder for a person when they are sober. This often causes a cycle of abusing drugs to escape problems, but those problems then worsen due to the continued drug abuse, thus encouraging even more drug abuse.
Signs & Symptoms of Halcion Addiction
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of problematic benzodiazepine use, which may signal an addiction, include the following:
- Taking any benzodiazepine in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than was intended
- Trying or wanting to reduce or control drug use but failing
- Spending significant amounts of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of benzodiazepines
- Drug use resulting in failure to meet important responsibilities, such as at work or school
- Giving up or reducing participation in important or enjoyable activities to engage in drug abuse
- Getting into potentially dangerous or hazardous situations as a result of drug abuse, including driving under the influence of drugs or having risky sex
- Continued abuse of benzodiazepines despite understanding the negative impact that drug use is having
- Developing a tolerance to benzodiazepines, meaning one needs to take more of the same drug to achieve the same effect as less drugs previously had
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if trying to stop or reduce drug use
Very broadly, a person likely has an addiction to drugs if they continue to use drugs despite knowing it is hurting their health and quality of life, especially if they find they cannot stop their drug use on their own. Whether you have an addiction or not, it is worth talking to an addiction treatment professional if you want to stop abusing drugs but have any amount of difficulty stopping. A professional can give you advice and prescribe treatments that are relevant to your specific situation.
Can You Overdose on Halcion?
It’s possible to experience a life-threatening overdose on Halcion, especially if used with other drugs that have a sedating effect, including other benzodiazepines, opioids, and/or alcohol.
This is usually the result of respiratory depression, which is the weakening of muscles relevant to breathing. This effect isn’t typically dangerous if the drug is used only as intended and if you pay attention to relevant drug interactions, but it can easily become dangerous if the drug is misused, especially if heavily abused.
Dangers of Overdose & Withdrawal
A Halcion (as well as any other benzodiazepine-related) overdose is typically associated with excessive sedation, impaired mental status, and diminished posture and reflexes. In severe cases, respiration can become so weakened that a person cannot draw in enough oxygen to fully support their brain, which can result in coma, brain damage, and even death, although death is uncommon from benzodiazepine abuse alone.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal can also cause problematic symptoms, including these:
- Sleep disturbances
- Tension and anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Hand tremors
- Difficulty concentrating
- Nausea and dry retching
- Weight loss
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle pain and stiffness
- Perceptual changes
In some cases, severe benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms have been reported, including seizures and potentially dangerous breaks from reality, where one may start to believe things that aren’t true and become extremely paranoid. A severe break from reality could potentially cause a person to engage in behavior that is dangerous to themselves or others, and this warrants immediate medical attention.
As a result, it’s recommended that you never stop taking benzodiazepines suddenly if you have been taking them for an extended period. Talk to a doctor about the best way to taper your use.
Treatment Options for Halcion Addiction
The appropriate treatment plan for an addiction to Halcion or any other benzodiazepine should be customized to a person’s individual needs, but it usually involves either gradual benzodiazepine withdrawal or maintenance treatment.
Gradual withdrawal is when the dose of benzodiazepines a person is taking is reduced slowly over time. This helps to avoid severe, long-lasting withdrawal symptoms, and it can make quitting use much easier and safer. This is usually the ideal goal of addiction treatment, but isn’t always the best approach in the case of high-risk patients who may have a harder time stopping their drug use.
If a person has been abusing short-acting benzodiazepines, they may be switched to a long-acting benzo first. Then, the dose of that long-acting drug may be gradually tapered. This process should always be supervised by a doctor. Don’t attempt to taper on your own without medical supervision.
Any addiction treatment plan will also involve some form of talk therapy and counseling. Most programs will at least involve cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a type of therapy where one works with a mental health professional to better understand what draws them to think about drugs and drug abuse. Then, they work to restructure how they think to better control their drug use, avoiding thinking about drugs when possible and avoiding abusing drugs even if triggering thoughts do occur.
Many addiction treatment programs incorporate the use of various other therapies into their care plans. You’ll have a care manager or supervising doctor who can manage your overall treatment plan, regularly assessing its efficacy and your progress. If a particular treatment isn’t working for you, they can pivot to another choice.
Benzodiazepine Overdose. (August 2019). BMJ Best Practice.
Benzodiazepine Use, Misuse, and Abuse: A Review. (June 2016). The Mental Health Clinician.
Management of Benzodiazepine Misuse and Dependence. (October 2015). Australian Prescriber.
National Health Statistics Reports. (January 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Research Suggests Benzodiazepine Use Is High While Use Disorder Rates Are Low. (October 2018). National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome. (1994). Addiction.
Triazolam. (May 2021). National Library of Medicine.
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