Halcion (Triazolam) Withdrawal: Timeline, Symptoms, Treatment

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Benzodiazepine medications were created as an alternative to barbiturate drugs, which were synthesized to battle common ailments like insomnia, anxiety, and seizure disorders. With such a substantial portion of the population dealing with these issues, sometimes chemical relief is the only option. Benzodiazepines are supposed to be less dangerous and less addictive than barbiturates, but unfortunately, they can be just as deadly, especially during withdrawal.

Halcion, also known as triazolam, is primarily used for its short-acting effects to treat insomnia. According to the Sleep Association, an estimated 50 to 70 million people in the United States struggle with a sleep disorder, while another 37.9 percent reported unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once the month before. Another 47 percent admitted to nodding off or falling asleep while driving at least once the previous month. 

Insomnia is recognized as the most common sleep disorder. Nearly 30 percent of adults in the country experience the issue, and another ten percent deal with chronic insomnia. With such substantial numbers affecting the population, doctors might offer Halcion as a means to cope. Due to its ability to cause feelings of euphoria, it can lead to abuse, which causes chemical dependency, followed by withdrawal if someone stops abruptly or decreases their dose. 

Halcion isn’t the only benzodiazepine used to treat insomnia. Other drugs include ProSom (estazolam), Doral (quazepam, Ativan (lorazepam), and Dalmane (flurazepam). 

Doctors don’t typically prescribe the drug to be used for more than two or three weeks at a time because of how quickly a tolerance can develop. Those who become addicted to benzodiazepines like Halcion will become psychologically attached to the drug. It will cause them to act in ways that don’t reflect their personality, including buying pills from illicit sources or doctor shopping. 

Doctors focus on giving a patient a treatment plan for insomnia that doesn’t promote physical dependence on Halcion. There are general medical precautions against using these drugs for sleep issues on a long-term basis because of the problems they create.

A doctor from VeryWell, Dr. Brandon Peters, explains how benzodiazepines like Halcion induce sleep, which allows us to understand why they can cause withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepines work by binding with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in our brain, leading to a slowdown of brain activity, which results in sleep. With regular or prolonged use, the brain will adapt to the presence of Halcion. The natural response is called physical dependence. 

Tolerance is an indicator of physical dependence, and over time, our bodies require more of the drug to feel the effects. It’s important to clarify that a person who becomes physically dependent on Halcion or other benzodiazepines isn’t necessarily addicted.

The Signs and Symptoms of Halcion Withdrawal

Tolerance is a hallmark of physical dependence or addiction like withdrawal. Withdrawal is a biological process that happens when a person stops using Halcion or cuts back on their typical dose. The more abruptly a person stops using Halcion will be a factor in the severity of their symptoms, which certainly applies to benzodiazepines. Doctors advise against the abrupt cessation of the drug and that a person who wishes to stop should go to medical detox – this is for their safety. 

There are several reasons why a person withdrawing from Halcion should seek medical detox. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders uses the term sedative use disorder, which describes addiction to this class of medications. Addictive behaviors show that the relationship between the individual and the drug is no longer focused on its therapeutic properties. The individual is likely addicted to the side effects resulting from Halcion abuse, leading to a feeling of being free from their inhibitions, extreme sedation, and euphoria. 

Halcion may lead to adverse and even dangerous side effects, including blackouts or memory loss. Although blackouts seldom occur, those who manufacture Halcion include a general warning about the potential of this occurring. Those who used Halcion for sleep disorders reported engaging in activities like eating, driving a car, bathing, going out, or having conversations they don’t remember. At this point, addicted or not, many will stop using the medication because these risks outweigh the benefits. 

The most commonly reported Halcion withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Dysphoria
  • Changes in perception
  • Seizures (especially in those with a history of seizures)
  • Convulsions
  • More frequent and intense anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Delusions
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Muscle cramps

The severity of these symptoms and associated risks are dependent on how long someone used Halcion, the volume of use, whether a person has a support system in place, and other personal physiological factors. There is no way to definitively gauge how severe withdrawal symptoms could turn out. For this reason, medical detox is designed to monitor and control the withdrawal process safely. 

How Long Do Symptoms Last?

Compared to other benzos, Halcion has a much shorter half-life, which is why it’s used to treat insomnia. Those with significant Halcion dependence can develop withdrawal symptoms shortly after their last dose, typically within six to eight hours after the effects fade. Acute withdrawal can last anywhere from three to five days, with the most severe symptoms occurring on the second day. 

Unfortunately, symptoms may persist well beyond this timeline, which is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). In some cases, the symptoms will last for months after your last use, leading to relapse in many cases. Symptoms attributed to post-acute withdrawals include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive actions and thoughts
  • Panic and anxiety
  • Depression with agitation
withdrawal-from-halcion

What Is The Safest Way To Detox?

As was mentioned above, because of the severity of Halcion withdrawals, going through professional medical detox is the best option. In this environment, there will be a team of medical professionals that ensure your comfort and safety during this challenging time. The client will be administered medications that ease some of the symptoms and make it a more comfortable process. Detox can occur in various inpatient and outpatient settings based on the individual’s risks, needs, and goals. 

  • Inpatient: Inpatient will be most beneficial for those with severe Halcion abuse patterns, especially those who have been using significant amounts of the drug more often than prescribed. If the person has developed a severe physical dependence, being on-site with a team of professionals can help hold them accountable for their sobriety and give them a chance to get sober without relapse. It’s also the best option for someone who’s had previous challenges during withdrawal that led to relapse.
  • Outpatient: This level of detox will be more appropriate for someone who has fewer risk factors that involve severe withdrawal symptoms. Outpatient is for those who used the medication as prescribed but developed a dependence but did not become addicted. This option must be carefully considered after a thorough evaluation from a doctor or addiction treatment professional. 

No matter the setting, detoxing from Halcion must take place under the supervision of a medical professional. Safe options for Halcion detox include:

  • Stopping all use of Halcion while using other medications that reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. This option is typically reserved for situations where the current dose is low or treatment time is limited.
  • Staying on the medication and tapering the Halcion dose slowly over some time. The amount will be gradually lowered during a taper to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms until no more Halcion is provided.
  • Switching over to another medication and tapering the dose. The substituted medicine could be another CNS depressant of benzodiazepine that produces similar effects but contains a longer half-life, which could be chlordiazepoxide or diazepam. The doctor will conduct a controlled taper of the substituted medication until no medication is provided at all.

Are There Any At-Home Remedies to Safely Detox From Halcion?

Due to the inherent dangers associated with Halcion withdrawal, seeking a natural or home remedy is not recommended. It’s a matter of life or death, and if you’ve made the decision to stop using this drug, you must go about it the right way. Although many people detox at home, seeking professional assistance will give you the best chances of long-term success.

Unsupervised withdrawal for chronic users can be unpredictable, and placing yourself around a team of professionals will negate anything that could go wrong. Seek help from a professional.

Sources

VeryWellMind (April 2020) How Long Does Withdrawal From Benzodiazepine Last? from https://www.verywellmind.com/benzodiazepine-withdrawal-4588452

SleepAssociation (N.D.) Sleep and Sleep Disorder Statistics. from https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-statistics/

FDA (March 2021) Halcion (Triazolam). from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/017892s049lbl.pdf

VeryWellHealth (March 2020) Benzodiazepines For Treating Insomnia. from https://www.verywellhealth.com/using-benzodiazepine-to-treat-insomnia-3015197

InternetMentalHealth (N.D.) Sedative, Hypnotic, or Anxiolytic Use Disorders. from http://mentalhealth.com/home/dx/sedativedependence.html

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