The drug works very quickly after taking it and does not remain in the system very long. The half-life of Halcion is around 1.5-3 hours in most individuals.
Benzodiazepines are typically prescribed to control anxiety, to control seizures, as muscle relaxants, as aides for sleep, and as preanesthetic drugs, meaning that they can be given to individuals to relax them before they receive a full anesthetic prior to surgery. Halcion has a very short duration of action, and this makes it relatively useless for the long-term treatment of anxiety or seizures. Instead, Halcion was originally marketed to be a sleep inducer and only to be used for very short periods of time.
Halcion should only be used as a temporary treatment to induce sleep because within a couple weeks, the original dosage of the drug loses its effect. Individuals will need to begin taking higher doses of Halcion to get the same sleep-inducing effects that they once got at lower doses if they take the drug for more than a few weeks.
Since benzodiazepines like Halcion have a high potential for abuse and the development of physical dependence, the use of this drug on a long-term basis is not recommended.
Halcion is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA]). Because of its classification as a controlled substance, the drug can only be legally obtained with a prescription from a physician.
Effects of Halcion
According to the book Benzodiazepines: A Handbook. Basic Data, Analytical Methods Pharmacokinetics and Comprehensive Literature, the effects of Halcion include:
- Mild euphoria
- Slowed thinking
- Muscle cramps
- Dry mouth
- Problems with motor coordination
- Difficulty with recalling new information
- Mood swings
- Effects that resemble a hangover from alcohol
- Rebound insomnia
Rebound effects are paradoxical effects that occur when a person who has used a specific type of drug for relatively a long period of time either stops using it altogether or significantly reduces the dose of the drug. In these cases, the symptoms that the drug is initially designed to control reappear and may increase in intensity. Rebound insomnia refers to the reemergence of insomnia as a result of stopping use of the drug. Elderly individuals appear to be particularly susceptible to hangover-like effects, rebound effects, issues with motor coordination, and issues with confusion and memory as a result of Halcion use. People who abuse Halcion will also have a higher potential to experience a greater number of side effects. These effects will also be more intense than those experienced by individuals who simply use the drug according to its prescribed instructions and under the supervision of a physician.
The development of physical dependence is a particularly troublesome syndrome for individuals who abuse benzodiazepines like Halcion. When a person begins taking more of the drug to achieve its psychoactive effects, the withdrawal syndrome from the drug becomes more intense and lengthier. Due to Halcion’s short half-life, withdrawal symptoms may appear rather quickly. This can result in the person taking more Halcion and engaging in a cycle of continued substance abuse to avoid these negative symptoms.Withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepine abuse, including Halcion abuse, include:
- Mild or severe anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Depressed mood
- Rebound insomnia or anxiety
- Stomach cramps
- Loss of appetite
- Increased sweating
- Muscle pains
- Irregular heartbeat
- Tremors and shakiness, especially in the arms and legs
- Cravings to use Halcion or similar drugs
The potential for a person going through the withdrawal process from Halcion to develop seizures represents a serious and potentially fatal situation. In addition, benzodiazepines like Halcion are often abused in conjunction with other drugs of abuse, most often alcohol or stimulants, and individuals may experience severe and very complicated withdrawal symptoms from multiple drugs of abuse. Because of these potentially serious situations that can occur as a result of withdrawal from Halcion, it is extremely important that any person who has abused Halcion undergo withdrawal in a supervised, professional environment.
Signs of Halcion Abuse
There are a number of signs and symptoms that may indicate Halcion abuse. The formal diagnosis of a substance use disorder can only be made by a licensed mental health clinician; however, certain behaviors can arouse suspicion that an individual needs help regarding their use of Halcion. These include:
- Empty prescription bottles in the person’s clothing, car, room, or other areas
- Seeming mildly intoxicated
- Repeatedly using Halcion
- Using Halcion regularly without a prescription for the drug
- Attempting to get numerous prescriptions from different doctors for the drug (doctor shopping)
- Issues controlling use of the drug, including taking the drug repeatedly in spite of experiencing issues at work, at school, in personal relationships, with health, with psychological functioning, or in other areas of life
- Repeatedly failing to satisfy or fulfill major role obligations
- Using Halcion in situations where it is obviously dangerous to do so
- Using Halcion to deal with everyday stressors
- Significant cravings to use Halcion
- Using increasingly higher doses of the drug
- Becoming irritable, developing flulike symptoms, or becoming extremely sleepy or anxious when without Halcion
The specific symptoms that any individual will display will be quite variable; however, any individual who displays two or more of the above symptoms should be assessed by a licensed mental health clinician for a potential substance use disorder.
Addressing a Substance Use DisorderTreating any individual with a substance use disorder is a serious and complicated undertaking. Individuals who abuse benzodiazepines like Halcion often have exceptionally complicated issues that involve potential polysubstance abuse, co-occurring psychological diagnoses, and a number of other issues that need to be addressed during the recovery process. Because individuals with substance use disorders often have very complicated histories and co-occurring conditions, it is extremely important that those attempting to recover from substance abuse seek professional help. In the case of an individual who has been abusing Halcion, the potential for serious withdrawal complications only further necessitates that professional treatment be sought.
Most individuals who abuse Halcion will need to undergo medical detox as the initial stage of treatment due to the potential for serious withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal management from Halcion will typically consist of a physician monitoring the person’s early recovery and withdrawal; administering medications, including a benzodiazepine, on a tapering schedule to reduce and control withdrawal symptoms and seizure potential; administering other medications as needed in the particular case; and following the individual closely to address any complications over the withdrawal period. Because withdrawal management programs slowly taper down the dosage of the drug to allow the individual’s system time to adjust, the program may be significantly longer than the withdrawal process would be if the individual attempted to withdraw without medical assistance; however, there is significantly less risk, and the individual is significantly less likely to relapse.
During the recovery process, the individual needs to be addressed as a whole person. Additional services should be included as needed, such as social skills training, vocational rehabilitation or specific job training, education, physical therapy, occupational therapy, case management, and other interventions.
It is important to understand that individuals with substance use disorders often have multiple issues that need to be addressed.
Even though the substance use is the primary issue, these individuals need to be treated in a comprehensive manner in order to give them an opportunity to fully move forward and recovery.