In the world of pharmaceuticals, once the patent on a drug expires it becomes a generic medication. Pharmaceutical companies will take the generic drug and create their own branded drugs. Triazolam is the active generic ingredient in the branded drug Halcion. Triazolam first received US Food and Drug Administration approval in 1982.
Halcion, like its generic, belongs to the benzodiazepine class of prescription medications (often referred to as benzos). This category of drugs slows down brain activity, which, in turn, makes it suitable for people who have an anxiety disorder. While Halcion (triazolam) has a legitimate therapeutic value, it has addiction potential and is a drug of abuse.
About Halcion Abuse
Like other prescription drugs of abuse, there is potentially some confusion regarding the addictiveness of Halcion. It is critical for the public to understand that Halcion, like all benzodiazepines, has medicinal value while at the same time presenting a risk of addiction. But why is it that a drug that is supposed to help a person can cause addiction? The answer lies in how Halcion interacts with the brain.
Stated simply, Halcion, like other benzodiazepines, activates the receptor sites in the brain that stimulate the release of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). When GABA is released in the brain, it has the effect of depressing the central nervous system (CNS). Therefore, the person who takes Halcion feels calm. The GABA stimulation provides the therapeutic benefit, but only at controlled dosages. When a greater than therapeutically necessary volume of Halcion is taken, the GABA stimulation (and other events in the brain) can induce a high.
Since Halcion is a prescription medication, it is necessary to highlight the distinction between physical dependence on and addiction to Halcion. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains, a person may be physically dependent on a drug without becoming addicted to it. Halcion use illuminates this point. When a doctor prescribes Halcion to a patient, because the patient has a condition for which this medication is indicated, the doctor is aware that physical dependence may occur. However, this is a calculated risk. If the patient does not take more than the recommended dosage of Halcion, there is little chance that the person will develop an addiction to Halcion. In short, physical dependence is a reality for many Americans who take a prescription drug (e.g., opioids for pain relief, benzodiazepines for anxiety relief, and amphetamines to improve focus). Addiction is a different matter.
As NIDA explains, the two main hallmarks of physical dependence are tolerance and withdrawal. When a person regularly takes a drug with addiction potential, the body will naturally habituate to the use and require more of the drug to achieve the desired effect (e.g., to quell anxiety in a person who has a prescription for Halcion). When the person suddenly stops taking the familiar dosage, or discontinues use of the drug entirely, withdrawal symptoms will emerge.
Withdrawal is a natural side effect of stopping drug use. The body is essentially sending out messages that it wants the drugs (and cravings for the drug are common side effects during withdrawal) because it wants to re-establish the status quo. It is necessary to note that withdrawal from Halcion, and other benzodiazepines, is particularly dangerous. For this reason, there is a general advisement that a person who is planning to stop using Halcion, or other benzodiazepines, seek medical detox. The main thrust of medical detox, in the context of Halcion recovery, is that a doctor can safely taper the person off this drug. This helps to prevent severe, and possibly deadly, withdrawal symptoms from emerging.
Today, there is a general consensus that addiction is a disease that is comparable to other diseases, such as diabetes. This understanding is referred to in addiction literature as the “disease model of addiction.” Addiction is a complex disease. For purposes of this article, it is important to highlight that typically, the longer a person maintains an addiction, the more acute problems will become in the critical spheres of life, including the person’s physical health, psychological wellbeing, behavior, family relationships, interpersonal relationships, work, and school. Most often, literature that relates to addiction speaks to its behavioral component.
Note, per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (May 2013, published by the American Psychiatric Association) the terms physical dependence and addiction are not standalone categories. Rather, the manual relies on the term substance use disorder and sets forth 11 criteria to which clinicians should refer in order to make a diagnosis. These criteria include the biological hallmarks of physical dependence (i.e., tolerance and withdrawal) as well as many of the behavioral components of addiction (e.g., uncharacteristically lying, stealing, or borrowing money to fund the drug abuse).
Symptoms and Signs of Halcion Abuse
Symptoms and signs are different. When a person takes a drug and experiences side effects, these are referred to as symptoms of use. When an onlooker notices irregular behavior patterns in a person, these are referred to as signs of use. Symptoms and signs are, of course, related. For example, a person who feels dizzy (a symptom) may appear off-balance (a sign).
It is important to understand that much of the information available on Halcion side effects stems from clinical trials and not necessarily research that specifically studies the symptoms of abuse of a particular prescription drug. For this reason, an understanding of the common and rare side effects of Halcion can be relied on to provide insight into the symptoms of abuse. One way to think of it is as follows: If a prescribed user is vulnerable to certain side effects at a doctor-controlled dosage level, abuse of Halcion is likely to increase the severity of such side effects or even lead to the manifestation of more severe ones. The following is a partial list of the possible side effects associated with Halcion:
- Drowsiness (including daytime drowsiness)
- Poor coordination
- Memory problems
- Tingling feeling
- For females, changes to menstruation cycle
- Blurred vision
- An increase or decrease in sexual interest
Clinical trials for Halcion have observed severe side effects. A person who abuses Halcion may take such a high volume of this drug that serious side effects emerge. The following is a list of some of the known serious side effects associated with Halcion:
- Sensation of feeling like one is going to pass out
- Inability to balance and/or coordinate limbs
- Staggered walk
- Rigid muscles
- Slurred speech
- Extreme happiness
- Extreme sadness
- Problems passing urine
- Chest pain
- Pounding or fast heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Burning in the eyes
- Visions problems
- Itching (appears in list of common side effects as well)
- Dark urine
- Jaundice (i.e., yellowing of eyes and/or skin)
- Upper stomach pain
- Stool that is a clay-like color
- Loss of appetite
When individuals abuse Halcion, they enter unchartered territory. Depending on a host of factors, including the person’s physiology and the volume of Halcion used, an overdose can occur. The following are some of the symptoms and signs of a Halcion overdose:
- Impaired coordination
- Slurred speech
- Respiratory depression
There have been reports of death as a result of overdosing on triazolam. Typically, a person only has a limited risk of overdosing on a benzodiazepine alone, though a fatality is always possible. The risk of a fatal overdose is greatly increased when a person takes Halcion, or another benzodiazepine, in combination with alcohol or other drugs.
Finding Treatment for Halcion Abuse
There are numerous ways to get drug treatment Halcion abuse and addiction. In some instances, the need for treatment becomes urgent and the best practice is to reach out to a professional who can provide help immediately. Television shows that are dedicated to addiction topics, such as the show Intervention on cable channel A&E, have drawn national and international attention to working with an intervention specialist. As the Association of Intervention Specialists explains, a fully trained and qualified interventionist has the skills and experience to help people navigate the rehab process. In addition to organizing, staging, and moderating an intervention, an interventionist can help people to find a suitable rehab center for Halcion addiction treatment.
Short of working with an interventionist, there are additional professionals who may be of assistance in finding or learning more about rehab:
- A family doctor may be able to make a referral to a rehab center.
- If the person who needs treatment has health insurance coverage, their insurance carrier will be able to provide information on in-network rehab centers.
- If the person who is experiencing Halcion abuse is employed or in school, the employer or school may be able to offers resources (e.g., an onsite counselor who can make a referral to a treatment program).
- Professionals who work at local rehabs, mental health offices, hospitals, or community health center can provide advice and information.
In some instances, a person will want to conduct research on drug recovery treatment options. It’s a basic point but bears mentioning that a person should check that the rehab center has met the necessary state licensing requirements. Beyond that initial inquiry, and speaking broadly here, it is useful to know that most drug rehab programs start with medical detox, in order to safely manage the withdrawal process.
Halcion, like all benzodiazepines, can present significant health risks during the withdrawal process. For this reason, there is a general advisement that anyone who is seeking to withdraw from benzodiazepines do so under the care of a doctor within a structured medical detox program. A main reason is that it is typically necessary to taper a person off benzodiazepines because suddenly stopping use of benzodiazepines can precipitate severe withdrawal symptoms. Medical detox can occur at a rehab center that offers this service, a standalone detox center, or a hospital (as well as other qualified clinical settings).
After medical detox is complete, a recovering person will receive primary care for the addiction. Therapy is the main staple of this phase. A therapist can lead and guide sessions in an individual and group setting. Note that group therapy is different from group recovery meetings, such as Narcotics Anonymous. The latter are member-led and rely on mutual aid and fellowship as integral parts of the drug recovery process.
It is also helpful to understand that a well-established rehab that offers a full continuum of services may not advertise a specialization in the treatment of any one drug or drug class. More specifically, a person who is seeking to recover from Halcion abuse will be able to access suitable and effective treatment from a rehab that is dedicated to treating addiction in general and not addiction to a specific drug in particular. The reason is simple. It is well known in the addiction treatment community that addiction is a complex disease that involves physiological, genetic, psychological, environmental, and behavioral factors. An effective drug treatment plan must address the host of contributing factors and not focus on the drug type alone.
Further, it is well observed that individuals who has a substance use disorder may have a preference for certain drugs, but if need be, they will swap out one drug type for another. In short, drug abuse involves the drug of abuse, such as Halcion, but the specific drug of abuse is only a factor in treatment (e.g., such as the rendering of the appropriate benzodiazepine withdrawal process for a person in recovery from Halcion addiction).
Currently, the strongest recommendation for individuals who are experiencing Halcion or other drug abuse is that they seek help from a qualified drug recovery program. Doing so can have a three-pronged effect:
- Treatment helps to heal the addiction.
- Treatment can prevent the further deterioration of the person’s body, mind, and spirit, as well as the person’s social, family, and work life.
- Treatment can provide a recovering person with the tools and skills necessary to build a drug-free blueprint for living.
Recovery is possible and it starts with the one step: seeking help.