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Halcion Addiction & Abuse

Halcion (generic name triazolam) is a benzodiazepine medication used as a short-term insomnia treatment. When used at high doses for long periods, Halcion can cause significant damage, including addiction.

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What Is Halcion?

Quick Answer

Halcion (triazolam) is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for insomnia treatment that lasts no longer than 10 days.[1]

Halcion is the brand-name version of the drug triazolam. This benzodiazepine drug slows brain activity and helps 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. That’s one reason Halcion is only prescribed for short periods. This method can reduce the risk of abuse and the chances that a person will become physically dependent on their medication.

Key Facts About Halcion Addiction

Key Facts

  • Halcion is prescribed for the short-term treatment of insomnia and other sleep issues. It is not designed for long-term use.
  • The recommended dose of Halcion is 0.25 mg before bedtime. A doctor should determine specific dosing for each patient.[1]
  • Over 7 million prescriptions for Halcion are written each year in the U.S.[2]
  • Quitting Halcion abruptly can lead to serious side effects, including muscle cramps, vomiting, tremor, and seizures.[1]

Why Is Halcion Prescribed?

Halcion is FDA-approved as a short-term insomnia treatment.[1] No other use for the medication is listed within FDA paperwork. 

Several benzodiazepine medications exist. Other versions, like Valium, can be used for anxiety and restless muscles. Halcion is different. Its only use is short-term insomnia. 

In 2017, benzodiazepines like Halcion were the third most commonly misused illicit or prescription drug in the United States. About 2.2% of the population abuses these drugs.[3]

Halcion’s Addiction Potential

Like all benzodiazepines, Halcion is addictive. Take too much, or use the drug for too long, and an addiction can develop. 

Benzodiazepines work by promoting the binding of an acid called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, to a neurotransmitter in the brain. Activity slows, and neurotransmitters (like dopamine) are released. The calming, sedating effect can be strong, leading to a sedative high if the drug is abused.

Halcion is so addictive that researchers are looking for similar medications that could ease insomnia without triggering abuse. In a study from 1999, Halcion had the highest abuse potential of the three drugs studied.[4] Research like this suggests Halcion is very dangerous. 

Side Effects: Halcion’s Effects on the Body 

Doctors prescribe Halcion for short-term purposes since the drug causes unpleasant side effects. Halcion’s side effects can be split into short-term and long-term versions. 

Short-Term Effects

Halcion can stay in your system for only a short time. The side effects you can experience during this period include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Tingling of the skin
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Problems with coordination
  • Vomiting

Long-Term Effects

If taken for long periods, Halcion can cause physical dependence. The person will experience unpleasant physical symptoms (withdrawal) if they stop or reduce their dose. 

Talk to your doctor if you believe you have become dependent on Halcion or any other medication. Do not stop taking the drug suddenly on your own.

People who take the drug for long periods can also develop rebound insomnia. They can’t fall or stay asleep, even while taking Halcion. 

Short-Term EffectsLong-Term Effects
DizzinessTolerance 
Lack of coordinationDependence 
Sedation Substance use disorder
Confusion Higher overdose risk 
AnxietyRebound insomnia 

Signs of Halcion Addiction: What to Watch For 

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of problematic benzodiazepine use, which may signal an addiction, include the following:

  • Drowsiness, confusion, and concentration problems
  • Unsteady walking
  • Slurred speech
  • Dizziness
  • Memory problems
  • Slow breathing
  • Taking higher doses than instructed by a doctor
  • Taking Halcion more often than prescribed
  • Using Halcion for an extended period 
  • Using it without a prescription
  • Combining Halcion with other substances, such as alcohol
  • Continuing to take Halcion, even when bad things happen
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Feeling out of control of drug use
  • Obsessively focusing on Halcion and how to obtain and take more
  • Ignoring responsibilities at school or work
  • Doctor shopping or trying to get multiple prescriptions
  • Stealing Halcion
  • Trying to stop using Halcion unsuccessfully
  • Physical dependence

Symptoms of Halcion Withdrawal 

With extended use, brain cells become accustomed to Halcion. Quit or reduce your dose, and you can experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal is one of the most dangerous consequences of Halcion addiction. 

Withdrawal symptoms of Halcion are most severe in people who take large doses for long periods. But people who take the drug for only a week or two can experience them when they quit.[1] 

Common signs include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Unpleasant feelings 
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Convulsions

A severe withdrawal episode can be life-threatening. No one should quit taking Halcion without talking to a doctor first. 

Treatment Options for Halcion Addiction

The appropriate treatment plan for addiction to Halcion or any other benzodiazepine should be customized to a person’s individual needs, but it usually involves the following components: 

Supervised Taper

During a supervised taper, the Ativan dose is slowly reduced. This method can prevent severe symptoms and make quitting easier. 

A doctor should always manage this process. Don’t attempt to taper on your own without medical supervision.

Medical Detox 

While some people can work with their doctors on a supervised taper, others cannot. You may be tempted to abuse your Halcion or take very large doses on a bad day. A medical detox program may be a better option. 

In medical detox, your team can help you move through a supervised taper. And they can offer other medications and therapies to help you with symptoms. Their care and supervision can ensure you don’t relapse before the detox process is complete. 

Remember that benzodiazepine withdrawal can be fatal. A medical detox program is the safest way to get sober. 

Rehabilitation 

After detox, you’ll be sober. A rehabilitation program can help you maintain it. Choose from either inpatient programs (where you live in the facility) or outpatient versions (where you live at home). 

Many addiction treatment programs incorporate 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.

Behavioral Therapy

Any addiction treatment plan will also involve counseling. Most programs will at least involve cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), 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. 

The goal is to avoid thinking about drugs when possible and avoid abusing drugs even if triggering thoughts occur.

Frequently Asked Questions About Halcion Addiction & Abuse

We’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about Halcion abuse.

What is Halcion prescribed to treat?

Halcion is prescribed as a short-term treatment for insomnia.

How long does Halcion stay in your system?

Halcion stays in your system for about 24 hours. You may only feel its effects for about eight hours.

Is Halcion safe for pregnant women?

Halcion isn’t considered safe during pregnancy. If you’re using this drug while pregnant, talk to your doctor about what to do next.

What is the difference between Halcion and Xanax?

Halcion and Xanax are both benzodiazepine medications. Halcion is generally more potent and used for insomnia. Xanax is weaker and is used to treat anxiety disorders.

Is Halcion a benzodiazepine?

Yes. Halcion is a prescription medication in the benzodiazepine class.

Profile image for Dr. Alison Tarlow
Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated December 6, 2023
Resources
  1. Halcion. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published September 2016. Accessed June 29, 2023.
  2. The advantages of oral triazolam sedation. University of Washington. Accessed June 29, 2023.
  3. Votaw V, Geyer R, Rieselbach M, McHugh R. The epidemiology of benzodiazepine misuse: A systematic review. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2019.02.033
  4. Rush, C., Baker, R. & Wright, K. Acute behavioral effects and abuse potential of trazodone, zolpidem and triazolam in humans. https://doi.org/10.1007/s002130050997
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