With prescription drug use, there are some different terms used to classify certain situations. Substance misuse refers to a situation when a prescription drug is used in a way other than what’s intended or prescribed. One example is continuing to use the drug after a doctor advises to discontinue its use. Addiction is a brain disease, triggered by repeated exposure to a substance impacting the brain’s pathways and chemicals. There is also drug dependence. Drug dependence is a primarily physical scenario. Psychological symptoms are also possible with dependence. Someone can be addicted to the drug dependence experience, but they don’t have to be. Drug dependence can perpetuate the cycle of prescription drug misuse because people want to avoid uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that can cause dependence, and Halcion falls within that drug class. Benzodiazepines alter the functionality of GABA in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that has a naturally calming effect. When someone has a deficiency of GABA, they may have neural overactivity. This can lead to anxiety, insomnia and similar conditions. The use of a benzodiazepine like Halcion can increase the effects of GABA and reduce the symptoms of overactivity. When the brain is constantly exposed to an artificial drug, it may start to work differently. For example, the brain can become so used to Halcion that it doesn’t make enough of its own GABA.
When someone has a drug dependence and they try to stop using suddenly, they will go through withdrawal. With Halcion and other benzos, the risk of dependence and addiction are lower if you following a prescription, but it’s still possible. Often when people are prescribed drugs that can cause a physical tolerance, their doctor will put them on a tapering down schedule when they stop using it. That slow taper down can reduce the discomfort of withdrawal.
For people who misuse a prescription drug, especially for extended periods of time, withdrawal symptoms can be more severe and can last longer. Withdrawal symptoms reflect the body and brain trying to stabilize following the use of the drug and get back to a sense of homeostasis. Benzodiazepine withdrawal from drugs like Halcion can be severe, even more so than something like opioid withdrawal. Halcion withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Hypersensitivity to stimuli
- Sleep disturbances
- Muscle aches and pains
- In severe cases psychosis and seizures are possible
When elderly patients are dependent on Halcion or benzodiazepines, the symptoms can be particularly concerning. Benzodiazepine dependence in patients can cause cognitive impairment and protracted withdrawal. There is even a condition called pseudo-dementia, which is a drug-induced condition stemming from benzodiazepines.
The primary risk factor for benzodiazepine dependence is use exceeding four weeks. With Halcion, it’s recommended that patients only take the medicine for a maximum of ten days. Other dependence risk factors include using high doses and using powerful, short-acting benzos, which Halcion is. Halcion dependence and withdrawal is similar in many ways to alcohol, including the risk of seizures.
Because of the potential severity of Halcion withdrawal, it’s often recommended dependent patients participate in a supervised detox. This is especially important for those who have been using Halcion for a long time. A medical detox for a benzodiazepine like Halcion can include a variety of medical interventions and alternative therapies. The goal is to increase the comfort level of the patient while keeping them safe. A medical Halcion detox increases the chances of successfully ridding the body of drugs so that a person can go on to addiction treatment.
If you’re struggling with prescription drug dependence or misuse, we’re here to help. The Recovery Village team is available, regardless of where you’re at personally. Maybe you just want more information but you’re not ready for treatment, or you’d like to help a loved one. Whatever your situation, please contact us; we can help.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.