Etizolam is the generic name of a medication approved to treat anxiety, panic disorders, and sleep conditions in Japan, India, and Italy. This medication has not been approved for use in the United States. It is a thienodiazepine, a benzodiazepine derivative, and it can work as an anticonvulsant and muscle relaxant like other benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Xanax, and Ativan.
Because etizolam has not been approved for medical use in the United States, the Drug Enforcement Agency notes that the only way it enters the country is through diversion for recreational use. Sometimes, this potent drug is labeled as a “research chemical,” allowing etizolam to bypass the DEA, at least temporarily, and be sold in retail stores, as well as online.
Etizolam is reported by the DEA to be up to 10 times more potent than diazepam for producing hypnotic effects or a “high,” making it a serious potential drug of abuse.
Who Might Abuse Etizolam?
Information provided by the DEA suggests that etizolam addiction spans many age ranges, from young people to elderly adults. People who struggle with anxiety disorders or panic attacks may attempt to find this potent medication, not to get high, but to reduce or eliminate their symptoms. The Daily Mail reported that a college student overdosed on etizolam to manage his anxiety leading up to his final exams. Another report, from India where etizolam is a legal prescription medication, notes that a young man became addicted to this prescription used to treat his anxiety; he started with a regular prescription dose of 0.25 mg per day, but gradually upped his use to 2.5 mg per day over the period of just one month.
Although etizolam is not a benzodiazepine, the medication is in the same family. High doses of benzodiazepines have been shown to be dangerous, especially when mixed with other intoxicating substances like alcohol or opioid drugs. People who struggle with polydrug abuse, especially abuse of benzodiazepines, alcohol, and/or opioid drugs, are at a very high risk of overdose and death. FDA-approved benzodiazepines like Valium and Ativan can lead to addiction or abuse, and can enhance the euphoric and sedative effects of both alcohol and opioid drugs. The benzodiazepines approved for prescription use in the US, which have been correlated to high rates of drug abuse, are not as potent as etizolam.
In some cases, emergency medical departments have noted that individuals have taken large amounts of benzodiazepines on purpose. Etizolam, due to its potency, could be more effective and more dangerous for people who struggle with addiction to benzodiazepines, especially those who have developed a high tolerance level for benzos. Etizolam may also be acquired illegally to enhance the effects of alcohol or opiates to dangerous levels.
Signs and Symptoms of Etizolam Addiction
If people take too much of a benzodiazepine, they could manifest side effects, some of which are manageable, and some of which are serious or dangerous. Side effects of taking benzodiazepines include:
- Drowsiness and sedation
- Loss of coordination
- Muscle weakness
- Slurred speech
- Changes in vision
- Shallow breathing or depressed breathing
There is little medical literature currently available on etizolam in the US, but if the drug is 10 times as potent as Valium, these side effects could manifest frequently in people who abuse or become addicted to the drug. This also puts them at a much higher risk of overdose. Additionally, UK researchers have noted that etizolam can cause organ failure in the event of an overdose, meaning this condition is more likely to lead to a fatal outcome compared to other benzodiazepines.
When people who struggle with benzodiazepine addiction decide to overcome this condition, they may want to simply stop taking this medication abruptly, but doing so is dangerous. This will cause them to go into benzodiazepine withdrawal, which can include symptoms like:
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Trouble sleeping or insomnia
- Muscle tension
- Blurred vision
- Muscle twitches or spasms
In some rare cases, especially with high levels of dependence on benzodiazepines, the individual withdrawing from benzodiazepines may experience seizures. Without medical oversight, seizures can be deadly; fortunately, if the person enters a medical detox and rehabilitation program, this side effect and others can be managed, and prompt medical assistance is available if needed.
Since etizolam is reported to be stronger than FDA-approved benzodiazepines, it could be very easy for a person to build up a toxic level of this medication in their systems. This could not only lead to overdose, but with time, their tolerance could build and eventually lead to more intense withdrawal symptoms. Without medical detox, they could put themselves at risk of serious physical withdrawal symptoms, as well as relapse and overdose.
Treatment Options for Overcoming Etizolam Addiction
For people who struggle with addiction to etizolam, it is very important to get help as soon as possible. Because this medication is potent, inpatient rehabilitation and medical detox are often the recommended course of action. Medical detox offers medical oversight during the withdrawal process, including medication to ease withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient rehabilitation is recommended for individuals who have been using more than 50 mg of diazepam, which is roughly the equivalent of 5 mg of etizolam.
This kind of rehabilitation program ensures that clients are in a safe, drug-free environment with access to support groups and therapists who can help them discover the underlying reasons for the addiction and learn new ways to manage these issues. Inpatient rehabilitation also removes people from existing life stresses or triggers that could lead to relapse and helps them build a supportive environment for ongoing recovery.