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Insomnia is one of the more common complaints among people in the US. This disorder is characterized by a difficulty in falling and/or staying asleep. The resulting lack of sleep, over a few nights or more, is diagnosed with a concurrent daytime impairment, such as fatigue, malaise, memory impairment, loss of attention or concentration, loss of motivation, decrease in social and/or work functioning, tension headaches, stomach problems, and worries about falling asleep at night. For people who struggle with insomnia, getting a good night’s rest is step one in starting to feel better.
Over the past several decades, doctors and psychiatrists have worked hard to find insomnia remedies, and now, there are many potential prescription and over-the-counter medications that can help people get to sleep. Some of those fall into the benzodiazepine category, which includes insomnia relief medications like Halcion ( the brand name for triazolam) and ProSom(the brand name for estazolam). These potent prescription benzodiazepines modulate the release and uptake of the neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). By controlling GABA receptors, benzodiazepines like Halcion and ProSom slow neurons’ firing, which helps the individual feel relaxed or sleepy. In some individuals, this relaxation can also trigger the brain’s reward system and flood the brain with dopamine, one of the neurotransmitters associated with happiness and pleasure.
There are many benzodiazepine medications with radically different half-lives, five of which are approved in the US to treat insomnia: Halcion, ProSom, Restoril, Doral, and Dalmane. Halcion has a short half-life of 3-8 hours, while ProSom has an intermediate half-life of 11-20 hours. All benzodiazepines are listed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as Schedule IV substances, because they have an important medical use but also a potential for addiction and abuse.
For some people, the relaxation and pleasure become addictive. Benzodiazepines also easily lead to physical dependence, so the brain has difficulty functioning without the medication. Since they first began to enter the market in the 1960s to treat anxiety disorders, benzodiazepines have been documented as potential substances of abuse, and doctors now rarely prescribe these medications to treat any disorder for more than two weeks. When a person takes a sleep aid like Halcion or ProSom for longer than a month, there can be serious consequences, including dependence, tolerance, and addiction.
General side effects from abusing benzodiazepines like Halcion or ProSom include:
Addiction to or abuse of Halcion, ProSom, or other benzodiazepine insomnia treatments can lead to various short-term issues, such as:
When a person struggles with addiction to benzodiazepines, such as Halcion or ProSom, for a long period of time, they put themselves at risk of developing chronic conditions, including:
For people who struggle with addiction to, or abuse of, Halcion, ProSom, or other benzodiazepines, it is very important to get help as soon as possible. These medications can be harmful with long-term, high-dose use. A doctor will be able to help individuals taper off the drug in a safe way, which reduces withdrawal symptoms. Then, the doctor can help with finding a rehabilitation program to address the addiction or substance abuse problem. In many instances, withdrawal can take place in a comprehensive treatment program. Working with an overseeing medical professional, and therapists in both individual and group therapy, can help people overcome their addiction and sustain a long-term, robust recovery.