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Triazolam (Halcion) – Hypnotic Sleep Med With A Past


Halcion® is also known by its generic name, triazolam. It is a powerful, CNS depressant belonging to a class of sedative, anxiolytics called benzodiazepines. Considered a hypnotic drug, triazolam is most often prescribed for the short-term treatment of insomnia.


It can also be prescribed to calm patients before dental surgery. Most physicians do not typically prescribe it as an anticonvulsant or muscle relaxer.

  • Pills contain triazolam, a triazolobenzodiazepine, which is a hypnotic agent.
  • Patented nearly 50 years ago, triazolam went on the U.S. drug market in 1982.
  • Currently, it is a controlled substance.
  • It has been found safe for use by the FDA.
  • The minimum effective dosage (.125-.25mg) must be prescribed and the duration of use limited.
  • At this time England prohibits its use both under its brand name and generic forms.

Prescriptions should only be written for short-term use, 7 to 10 days. It should not be prescribed in quantities exceeding a 1-month supply. Use for more than 2 to 3 weeks requires complete reevaluation of the patient.

Triazolam works by binding with the receptors in your brain blocking them from joining with chemicals that cause excitability. It therefore can prevent you from being able to relax and sleep.


Triazolam is metabolized very quickly. One of the biggest advantages Triazolam has to offer over other sleep aids in its class is its very short half-life. The half-life ranges from 1.5-5.5 hours, depending on the dosage and patient characteristics. This compared to prazepam or chlordiazepoxide that can take over 200 hours for blood concentrations to drop to half strength.  This minimizes the burned out feeling that many sleep aids can leave behind.


Adults take .25 mg (tablet form only) before going to bed for insomnia. It is meant for short-term use, no more than 10 days. For people who do not respond to .25 mg tablets, doctors may prescribe 0.5 mg tablets. This dosage amount should not be exceeded since the risk of adverse reactions increases in higher than normal dosages.

Older Adults
The NIH went on to state “In geriatric or debilitated patients the recommended dosage range is 0.125 mg to 0.25 mg.”

Side Effects

According to the FDA, a variety of abnormal thinking and behavior changes have been reported to occur in association with the use of benzodiazepine hypnotics. Side effects of taking .25 or .05 mg tablets can include:

  • Headache
  • Memory problems
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Depression
  • Foggy thinking/confusion
  • Lightheadedness
  • Moodiness
  • Muscle cramps/slight tremors
  • Hallucinations, bizarre behavior and suicidal thoughts have been reported by some users.

Drinking alcohol, taking other benzodiazepines and combining Triazolam with antihistamines containing diphenhydramine will increase the sedative effects of Triazolam. In addition, certain medications inhibit metabolism of Halcion, which tends to raise levels of Halcion in the body and cause excessive sedation.


According to the Washington Post report about a study done comparing Triazolam to another related sleep aid product; “The only specific symptom for which Halcion continued to do worse than flurazepam (sleep aid) after the dose adjustment was anxiety, which still showed up three times as often among Halcion patients.”

Troubled Past

Over the years, multiple European countries have suspended sales due to side effect concerns.

“This is a very dangerous drug,” says Dr. Anthony Kales, head of psychiatry at the Penn State University medical school. “No other benzodiazepine has such a narrow margin of safety. The only justification for keeping it on the market is to ensure the company’s profitability. From a public-health standpoint, there is no reason at all.”

In perhaps the most extreme case of triazolam-induced behavior, a Utah woman accidentally killed her mother while under the influence of triazolam.

Combining Halcion & Opioids

According to the same FDA article “Risks from Concomitant Use with Opioids Concomitant use of benzodiazepines, including Halcion, and opioids may result in profound sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and death. Because of these risks, reserve concomitant prescribing of these drugs for use in patients for whom alternative treatment options are inadequate.”

“Sleep Driving” Concerns

In the same research by the government, this warning to driving an automobile while taking Triazolam;

“There have been reports of people getting out of bed after taking a sedative-hypnotic and driving their cars while not fully awake, often with no memory of the event. If a patient experiences such an episode, it should be reported to his or her doctor immediately, since “sleep-driving” can be dangerous.

This behavior is more  likely to occur when sedative-hypnotics are taken with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants.

Other complex behaviors (e.g., preparing and eating food, making phone calls, or having sex) have been reported in patients who are not fully awake after taking a sedative hypnotic. As with sleep driving, patients usually do not remember these events.”.


According to Wikipedia “Triazolam is frequently prescribed as a sleep aid for passengers traveling on short to medium duration flights. If this use is contemplated, it is especially important the user avoids the consumption of alcoholic beverages, and tries a ground-based “rehearsal”.

Testing this medication will help ensure the side effects and potency of this medication are understood by the user prior to using it in a relatively more public environment.

The CDC also reported “Cases of “traveler’s amnesia” have been reported by individuals who have taken HALCION to induce sleep while traveling, such as during an airplane flight. In some of these cases, insufficient time was allowed for the sleep period prior to awakening and before beginning activity. Also, the concomitant use of alcohol may have been a factor in some cases. ”

Legal Classification

The U.S. DEA has assigned Triazolam as a Schedule IV drug and is considered to have a “low potential and risk for abuse and dependence”. Other Schedule IV drugs include Xanax, Ambien, Soma and Darvocet.

How Long Does Triazolam Last

People choosing to abuse Triazolam crave its drowsy, mind-altering, slightly euphoric effects. The U.S DEA lists Halcion as a Schedule IV drug with a low risk for abuse. It is possible to get addicted to any benzodiazepine type medication. Abusers are even more likely to show signs of addiction if they take more than prescribed.

Some Triazolam abusers may suffer withdrawal signs like vomiting, abdominal cramps, tremors, excessive sweating, chills and severe depression. These signs indicate a possible dependency on Triazolam, especially if it is abruptly discontinued. To avoid experiencing withdrawal, users should gradually reduce how much they take according to their physician’s instructions.\

Compared to Xanax

This drug can be prescribed to treat insomnia by interacting with several chemicals in the brain associated with sleep. Xanax, also a benzodiazepine, is primarily prescribed to relieve anxiety and panic attacks by increasing the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. It does not cause the short-term amnesia or odd behaviors associated with Triazolam but do have a slightly higher risk of addiction due to how it stimulates certain brain receptors.

Compared to Ambien

Ambien can be prescribed for insomnia as well. Belonging to a group of medications described as sedative-hypnotics, Ambien also increases GABA in the brain to induce sleepiness. Ambien may cause gastrointestinal disturbances in people sensitive to the drug as well as extremely dry mouth and lack of appetite. Recently, Ambien has become available in spray form for those who have difficulty swallowing tablets.

Drug Interactions

Triazolam is highly reactive and can adversely interact with a wide variety of other drugs including painkillers, muscle relaxers, some antibiotics and HIV inhibitors. Both the prescribing physician and pharmacist should be made aware of any medications being taken before dispensing this drug.

Drugs like Tagamet, Nizoral, erythromycin, fluvoxamine and other drugs should not be taken with this drug.

This drug should also be noted that grapefruit and grapefruit juice should be avoided when taking any of the benzodiazepine type drugs. It decreases the stomach’s ability to process these compounds and can lead to high levels of Triazolam in your bloodstream and heighten the risk of side effects.

Getting High

Unfortunately, this same short half-life also contributes to it being highly addictive. Like all members of the benzodiazepine family, this drug can be both mentally and physically addictive. Patients who have been taking the drug for as little as two weeks have reported having withdrawal symptoms when they discontinue use.

Some of the more commonly experienced sign of withdrawal are:

  • Flushing
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness
  • Shakiness
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Vomiting

For this reason, the majority of doctors prefer to gradually reduce the dosage for patients who have been taking the drug for extended periods and may recommend professional drug counseling to these patients.

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