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The Dangers of Mixing Halcion and Alcohol

The primary danger of mixing Halcion and alcohol lies in the way each drug enhances the effects of the other, leading to the potential for overdose, damage to numerous organs, and physical dependence. 

Halcion

Halcion (triazolam) is a member of the benzodiazepines, a large group of medications designed to replace barbiturates as treatments for clinically significant anxiety and seizure disorders. Benzodiazepines are designed to be used as sedatives. 

Benzodiazepines have a similar mechanism of action, affecting the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This neurotransmitter is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. 

When activated, GABA reduces the firing rates of neurons in the brain and spinal cord. This slows down the activity of the central nervous system entirely. As a result, these types of medications are often referred to as central nervous system depressants.

What Is Halcion Intended For?

Halcion is primarily used as a sleep aid, particularly one that induces sleep. 

It is designed for individuals who have trouble falling asleep or for those can stay asleep once the drug helps them fall asleep. The drug has a quick onset of action and a very short half-life

The onset of action refers to how fast the effects of the drug occur, and the half-life of the drug refers to how long the drug remains in a person’s system. Halcion works very quickly and is eliminated from the body very quickly, with the half-life for Halcion ranging between one and a half to three hours. 

It is not designed for long-term control of anxiety, sedation, or to control potential seizures. Instead, it is designed to induce relaxation quickly and effectively.

Halcion’s Effectiveness

Prescription sleep aids like Halcion should be used for a couple of weeks maximum and on a temporary basis only. This is because taking this drug on a regular basis will cause someone to develop significant tolerance to the drug, requiring higher and higher doses to experience the same effects. 

Other interventions, such as organizing your sleep schedule or therapy to assist with relaxation and sleep, should be used in conjunction with Halcion. 

All benzodiazepines, including Halcion, are controlled substances. 

Because Halcion has the significant potential to reduce tolerance and, with extended use, lead to physical dependence with withdrawal symptoms, it is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the Schedule IV category of controlled substances.

Mixing Halcion and Alcohol

Though benzodiazepines are potential drugs of abuse, they are often not the primary drug of abuse. Instead, benzodiazepines are more commonly mixed with other drugs. 

The most common drugs abused with benzodiazepine include prescription painkillers, alcohol, and other benzodiazepines. In some cases, individuals will mix stimulants with this classification of drugs or even illicit drugs, like heroin. 

Those who abuse all different types of substances will commonly use them in conjunction with alcohol. 

Alcohol is also a  central nervous system (CNS) depressant drug. When an individual mixes a benzodiazepine like Halcion and alcohol, the effects of both substances are significantly increased. 

This means that taking a smaller amount of either drug can produce significant effects when these drugs are taken together. 

Mixing alcohol and Halcion can lead to serious consequences.

Consequences of Mixing Halcion and Alcohol

The dangers of mixing benzodiazepines and alcohol have long been recognized. 

Mixing alcohol and Halcion is dangerous due to the effects of both drugs being enhanced when combined. This can lead to:

  • Decreased breathing rate or heart rate. Both drugs slow down these essential functions. When these vital functions are slowed down, brain and other organ damage can occur due to oxygen deprivation.

  • Potential overdose. It is more likely that an individual would overdose on Halcion than alcohol, but the potential to overdose on either substance increases when they are combined.

  • Reduced motor function. Problems with motor coordination and sensory problems, such as issues with vision, hearing, or others, can occur. This can lead to a higher risk for the individual and those around them.

  • Decreased cognitive capacities. When taken in combination, the cognitive effects of the drugs can be significant, leading to major problems with emotional regulation, judgment, reasoning, attention, and memory.

  • Liver damage. Metabolizing combinations of drugs can overtax the liver. Though liver damage would most likely be a long-term result of chronic use of drug combinations, it can occur rapidly in individuals who take high amounts of these drugs.

Parasomnias and Blackouts

Parasomnias are very rare behaviors that can occur in individuals who use sleep aids like benzodiazepines. 

Parasomnias are behaviors that typically occur when a person is awake but instead occur when the person is sleeping. The person often has no memory of what was performed when they were asleep. 

In some cases, these behaviors are harmless, such as talking while asleep. In other cases, the behaviors can be dangerous, such as driving or cooking while asleep. 

Blackouts occur when an individual is awake and under the influence of some drug or medication, such as alcohol. In this case, the individual might engage in various behaviors but have no memory of performing the behaviors later on. 

Combining benzodiazepines like Halcion and alcohol raises the risk for parasomnias and/or blackouts.

Physical Dependence on Benzodiazepines and Alcohol

Chronic use of alcohol or benzodiazepines can lead to significant physical dependence. 

The withdrawal symptoms associated with physical dependence on alcohol or benzodiazepines include life-threatening seizures. 

Seizures occur when there is unrestrained activity in a particular portion of the brain, leading to convulsions or other detrimental behaviors that an individual cannot control. 

Seizures can lead to significant brain damage and even fatalities if left untreated.

Chronically combining benzodiazepines and alcohol can lead to a more rapid development of tolerance, which can lead to more rapid development of physical dependence on one or both drugs. 

The potential seriousness of the withdrawal syndrome from either drug is great for individuals who have developed a physical dependence on either drug. They need to be placed in a supervised medical detox program. They should not attempt to get through the withdrawal process without medical supervision.

Signs of Abuse

Any person who regularly combines Halcion and alcohol is abusing both drugs. The instructions on the medication clearly state that Halcion should not be used in conjunction with alcohol. 

Any person who uses Halcion without a prescription is considered to be abusing the drug. Other signs of abuse include:

  • Frequently using Halcion and/or alcohol to deal with everyday stressors.
  • Using Halcion and/or alcohol when operating machinery, caring for children, or driving an automobile.
  • Having issues controlling the use of either substance, including continuing to use the substances in dangerous situations or when it is affecting work or relationships
  • Frequently purchasing Halcion illegally
  • Significant tolerance to either drug
  • Consequential irritability or anxiety when not using either drug

Professional Help Is Needed

Individuals who combine Halcion and alcohol regularly are abusing these substances. 

For someone who has combined these two on just a few occasions, the opportunity to discontinue use on their own is possible. 

For anyone who has combined drugs and misused them for more than a few months, there may be a need for professional intervention. 

Anyone who has abused Halcion and alcohol should discuss their situation with a licensed mental health care professional to identify the best course of action to reduce the misuse of these drugs. 

Sources

(September 2016). Halcion (triazolam). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Pfizer. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/017892s049lbl.pdf

(2012). The Benzodiazepines: Use, Overuse, Misuse, Abuse. Springer Science & Business Media. from

(N.D.) Drug Scheduling. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling

(January 2002). Toxicological Interactions Between Alcohol and Benzodiazepines. Journal of Toxicology: Clinical Toxicology. Retrieved February 2019 from https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/11990206

(September 2012). Parasomnias: An Updated Review. Neurotherapeutics. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3480572

(September 2015). Prescription Sedative Misuse and Abuse. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553644/

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