Almost everyone has struggled with sleeplessness, anxiety, or panic at some point. For some, the conditions may be quite severe. Sleep is not just elusive; it is non-existent. The anxiety is paralyzing, the panic is shattering, and daily life could very well be ruined. If you’re in this situation, you might look for the right kind of medication that can treat these problems and find something called etizolam. Etizolam isn’t a clear-cut choice, however. Why is etizolam not for legal sale in the United States? Why are there stories of etizolam abuse and addiction? Is the drug dangerous?
What Is Etizolam?
You’ve probably heard of drugs like Valium and Xanax used in the treatment of anxiety or insomnia. What Valium and Xanax have in common is that, chemically speaking, they are benzodiazepines – psychoactive drugs (drugs that work on the central nervous system) that sedate users, relaxing their muscles and inducing sleep. Etizolam is known as a “benzodiazepine analog” – that is, it is related to the benzodiazepine family, but it has a different chemical structure. Nonetheless, etizolam has similar effects to standard benzodiazepines, including comparable side effects and withdrawal symptoms. When used excessively, etizolam can cause many of the same problems of increased tolerance (requiring larger amounts of the drug to be consumed before the desired effect can be felt) and addiction.
Another similarity between etizolam and other benzodiazepine drugs is that, in the same way that both are intended for medicinal purposes, they also enjoy popularity among recreational drug users. In 2011, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that the number of admissions for the treatment of benzodiazepine abuse “almost tripled” from 1998 to 2008. Benzodiazepines, and related drugs like etizolam, are popular among casual drug users for many of the same reasons that they are legitimately prescribed, but with different intentions:
- Users want to relieve stress and anxiety, or induce sleep, without a prescription.
- Users want to counteract the effects of stimulatory drugs, such as crack cocaine or Ecstasy.
- Users want to intensify the effects of other depressant drugs, such as heroin or alcohol.
Furthermore, excessive amounts of benzodiazepines can lower inhibitions, leading to its use as a date rape drug. Increased doses of the drug can cause blurred vision, lethargy, disorientation, and breathing difficulties, among other symptoms. Long-term abuse of etizolam or other benzodiazepine-related drugs can cause the very same effects that it was intended to treat, such as anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, and convulsions. A unique, and rare, effect of etizolam abuse is a medical condition known as blepharospasms, when your eyelid unnaturally contracts. You may lose the control to keep your eyes open or shut, and this condition could persist for years. The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry included a study entitled “Etizolam and Benzodiazepine Induced Blepharospasms” by Japanese researchers (unlike in the United States, Etizolam is legal for use in Japan, where it is used as an antipsychotic agent under the names Capsafe, Eticalm, and Sedekopan) who hypothesized that benzodiazepine usage can induce blepharospasms. Three of the patients in their study noticed increased difficulty keeping their eyes open within six months of taking etizolam. When they stopped taking etizolam, two of those patients reported an improvement. The researchers concluded that “prolonged administration of etizolam” (and benzodiazepines) were risk factors for the development of blepharospasms, especially in women. A study by the same researchers in the Drug, Healthcare and Patient Safety journal reported that 12 cases of drug-induced blepharospasms improved within two months of the drug being discontinued. Etizolam was “the most commonly prescribed psychotropic” of the drugs.
The Legality of Etizolam
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported 32 cases of attempted suicides as a result of etizolam abuse, and there is scientific data that suggests an association. In 2008, the Forensic Science International journal published a study that reported etizolam had been intentionally used in two cases of suicide. Perhaps for that reason, and also because of the very expensive process involved, the manufacturers of etizolam have not submitted the drug for approval by the FDA. Etizolam is not legal for production or sale in the United States, but it can nonetheless be purchased online from countries where it is legally sold – like Japan (as mentioned above) and Italy, where the drug is known as Depas. A 2005 study in the European Journal of Pharmacology (for the University of Cagliari in Italy) found that etizolam has lower rates of tolerance and dependence than “classical benzodiazepines” (the kind that are sold in the United States). BBC News reported that in 2011, etizolam was sold as a “legal high” in the United Kingdom.
Combining Etizolam With Other Drugs
Because etizolam, like other benzodiazepine drugs, lowers inhibitions, recreational users often combine it with other controlled substances. As stated above, one of the common reasons for this is to mitigate the effects of drugs that cause excitation and stimulation. Such drugs have debilitating comedown effects, which is when they wear off and the user is left fatigued, dehydrated, paranoid, depressed, and unable to sleep. Since etizolam is prescribed to alleviate these symptoms, it is a popular choice among drug users to combat comedown effects. The combination of etizolam and stimulants is incredibly dangerous. The effects go far beyond the simple side effects of their respective individual uses and can culminate in respiratory failure, loss of consciousness, and even death.
Notwithstanding the legitimate applications for treating anxiety and insomnia, etizolam and benzodiazepines have a high potential for addiction, which is one reason they are particularly attractive to recreational drug users and abusers. The National Institute on Drug Abuse compares the benzodiazepine family to opioids (like methadone) and cannabinoids (like cannabis) in terms of how they can foster an addiction in the user’s body. Benzodiazepines dull the brain’s neurons that are responsible for inhibitions and strengthen the neurological structures that favor addictions.A doctor in the NIDA’s Functional Neuroscience Research Branch said that the study quoted is the first proof that “acute benzodiazepine use” increases the production of dopamine in brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that the brain releases to associate good experiences with pleasurable sensations, thereby enticing you to seek out those good experiences again.However, harmful drugs, or the overuse of certain prescribed medications, like certain benzodiazepines, can force the brain to produce excessive amounts of dopamine, forcing your brain to make a lasting association with the consumption of those drugs and the relaxing (or euphoric) sensations they provide. With prolonged use, you will be unable to derive those feelings from other sources, causing you to seek out more and more of the drugs, even as your health and well-being begin to crumble. The study funded by the NIDA shows that benzodiazepines – and etizolam by extension – pose similar addictive dangers to those of drugs that have no purpose but to produce artificial highs or relaxant effects.
The withdrawal effects of etizolam are similar to those of benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines work by binding to neuroreceptors in the brain that cause sedation in the central nervous system. If benzodiazepines – or etizolam – are consumed too frequently and/or for too long, they eventually replace those neuroreceptors, becoming artificially responsible for relaxing your muscles and inducing sleep. When you suddenly stop taking etizolam, the relevant neuroreceptors in your central nervous system cannot resume their intended function, putting you at risk for convulsions and seizures.This is why benzodiazepines, and related drugs like etizolam, are feared for the severe withdrawal effects they can cause. An assistant clinical professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia called benzodiazepines “notorious” for how much they change a user’s brain, and for how critical their withdrawal effects are.
Getting Help for Etizolam Abuse
Even though etizolam is not approved for production or sale in the United States, it can still be purchased from countries that have legalized its use. Notwithstanding its legitimate medical uses, you should be very aware of the dangers that unregulated and non-prescribed etizolam use presents. It can put you at risk for developing an addiction, and when you attempt to walk away from the drug after prolonged use, you may experience crippling withdrawal symptoms. Combined with the lowered inhibitions caused benzodiazepine-related drugs, the relative scarcity of etizolam does not detract from the problems it can cause.
If you are worried that your use of etizolam has gotten out of control – or if you know someone who may be abusing etizolam – it is never too late to ask for help.
All you have to do is start the conversation, and someone at Futures at Palm Beach will respond. Our expert staff members can answer your questions. No matter what your problem is, how you got it, how long you’ve had it, or what it’s done to you, there is a way out. Etizolam abuse is no exception. Here at Futures, we are standing by to take your call.