Etizolam and Addiction Explained
Following the passing of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 and a May 2017 amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, etizolam – a thienodiazepine derivative and a benzodiazepine analogue with the chemical formula C17H15ClN4S, with hypnotic, sedative, muscle relaxant, anxiolytic, amnesic and anticonvulsants properties – was made an illegal substance in the UK, along with many other former so-called “legal highs”. Nevertheless, etizolam continues to be abused across the country, and its habit-forming qualities mean that etizolam addiction remains a problem affecting many Britons.
Etizolam Addiction Explained
Addiction is fundamentally a disorder of the brain’s reward system, comprising the repeated engagement in rewarding behaviour despite an awareness of the negative consequences of doing so; in the case of etizolam addiction, the behaviour in question is the consumption of etizolam and experiencing its effects.
Like the benzodiazepines to which it is closely related, etizolam can also cause physical dependence: the condition whereby the system of someone taking a substance over time becomes used to a certain level of that substance, and adjusts accordingly, becoming reliant on it for normal functioning (and functioning abnormally – typically causing a range of unpleasant and potentially dangerous symptoms collectively known as withdrawal syndrome – in the absence of that substance).
Dependence and addiction are distinct – though related – phenomena, and while dependence typically co-occurs with addiction, each can develop independently of the other.
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The History of Etizolam Use
Etizolam was patented in 1972 and has been used medically since 1983. Because of the pleasurable qualities of its euphoric and hypnotic “high”, etizolam has been used recreationally and abused for as long as it has been available on the market; although not available legitimately in the UK, its widespread availability elsewhere in the world has meant that obtaining etizolam (and even bringing it into the country) illicitly (for example, via the dark web) has become comparatively easy; indeed, a letter sent to the Home Office from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs described etizolam as “the predominant benzodiazepine abused within the illicit drug market across Scotland… implicated in several deaths across the UK”.
Although the aforementioned May 2017 amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act firmly established etizolam’s illicit status in the UK – it is now a class-C controlled drug – it continues to be comparatively easy to obtain, and it remains a relatively popular recreational drug of choice.
Routes of Etizolam Administration/Different Forms of Etizolam
Etizolam is most commonly available in tablet form for oral consumption; it is also occasionally provided medicinally in forms suitable for sublingual (under the tongue) or rectal administration. Illicit forms of etizolam are increasingly common on the black market, typically as a white powder or opaque crystals; these are usually ingested, though reports have emerged of individuals smoking, snorting or injecting etizolam. Etizolam has also been found absorbed onto blotter paper.
Medical Uses of Etizolam
In countries where etizolam is legal for medical use, it has been prescribed in the treatment of insomnia, anxiety disorders and panic attacks. Less commonly, it is also used to treat muscle spasms and cramps, and seizures.
Mechanism of Etizolam Addiction
As with any addiction, etizolam addiction is a disorder of the brain’s reward centres in which repeated consumption of etizolam creates positive sensations in the user and the compulsion to further repeat etizolam consumption, driven by the desire to repeat the experience of those positive sensations and, on the other hand, the desire to avoid experiencing negative sensations (typically emotional) if etizolam is not consumed. The frequent consumption of etizolam conditions the brain’s reward centres to release chemicals (such as dopamine) associated with feelings of well-being and reward, when etizolam is consumed, and to restrict the release of such chemicals when it is not.
As with benzodiazepines proper, a major component of etizolam addiction is physical dependence, which develops when someone taking etizolam over time becomes reliant on certain levels in their system to function normally. Benzodiazepines enhance the effects of a neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) on the brain and central nervous system; an imbalance in levels of GABA caused by the sudden absence of etizolam in a dependent person can give rise to the manifestation of withdrawal symptoms, which in the case of etizolam dependence can be dangerous and even fatal.
Etizolam Abuse and Addiction Causes and Individual Risk Factors
The precise causes of addiction – in terms of what may make one individual development addiction while another person in very similar circumstances does not – are not yet fully understood by medical science, though it is known that genetics and the environment both play a role.
However, various risk factors have been identified as greatly increasing the likelihood that a given individual will both abuse etizolam and go on to develop an addiction.
- Personality disorders: a person suffering from a pre-existing personality disorder is much more likely than the average to engage in substance abuse.
- Suicidal tendencies: someone experiencing frequent suicidal ideation has a significant risk of substance abuse, and etizolam in particular is commonly used in instances of intentional overdose.
- Genetics: a family history of substance abuse and addiction is one of the leading indicators that an individual will be more susceptible than the average to etizolam addiction.
- Environment: associating with a peer group in which substance abuse is commonplace; having easy access to etizolam; coming from a low socio-economic background; and experiencing significant stress and/or life challenges, are all known risk factors for etizolam addiction.
- Other addictions: a history of the abuse of, and addiction to, other substances of abuse is a prominent risk factor for etizolam addiction.
Physical, Emotional and Social Effects of Etizolam Abuse
The consequences of substance abuse of any type can be profound and potentially catastrophic, with risks to physical and mental health, damage to important relationships, negative ramifications for professional and academic prospects, financial ruin, and engagement in criminal activity frequently resulting from substance abuse and addiction.
Some of the most frequently observed physical effects of etizolam abuse include:
- muscle weakness
- slurred speech
- change in libido
- uncontrolled shaking of arms or legs
- visual disturbances
- urinary retention/incontinence
- stomach discomfort and pain
- excessive salivation
- memory problems
Etizolam Substance Abuse Treatment & Rehab
As a result of the proliferation of etizolam on the UK’s black market in recent years, etizolam addiction has become an increasingly serious problem; however, one silver lining is that a growing number of high-quality treatment facilities now operate across the country with expertise in treating etizolam addiction specifically.
Detoxing from etizolam
Detoxification is an indispensable first stage in the treatment of etizolam addiction; however, detoxing from etizolam typically causes withdrawal, which in the case of etizolam specifically can be fatal. It is imperative that if you are suffering from an addiction to etizolam you do not attempt to undergo detoxification independently: medical supervision and assistance should always be administered in any case of etizolam detoxification. Speak with your GP and/or an addiction specialist if you are looking to overcome etizolam dependence.
Detoxification and withdrawal may be assisted by certain medications; although there is no pharmaceutical “cure” for etizolam withdrawal, withdrawal symptoms may be significantly alleviated by some medicines.
Treatment and therapy options for etizolam abuse and addiction
Both NHS and private options exist for the treatment of etizolam addiction. Treatment may be provided in residential rehabilitation (rehab), in which a holistic treatment programme will be provided including both detoxification (potentially assisted by the prescription of relevant medication) and therapy (along with other elements including bespoke dietary and fitness plans).
Therapy lies at the heart of all addiction treatment, as only therapy can both uncover and address the psychological root causes of substance abuse and addiction. Therapy (both within and outside rehab) is provided in a great variety of models and methodologies, and in both group and one-to-one settings; not only can therapy help address problematic behaviours which have resulted in etizolam addiction, but it can provide an addict with psychological defence mechanisms against relapse as they head into recovery.
Rehab can be attended either as an inpatient or in an outpatient setting. Inpatient stays typically last for
between one and three months; outpatient treatment may be more suitable for individuals who do not feel they can afford the time out from their family and/or professional obligations, but can be more problematic in that it does not take an addict outside their daily environment of substance abuse.
Etizolam Withdrawal Process
The longer someone takes etizolam, and the higher the doses that they consume, the greater the chance they will develop dependence, and that withdrawal syndrome will result when they stop taking etizolam.
Withdrawal typically begins one or two days after the last dose of etizolam, and usually lasts for between two and four weeks – though longer periods of withdrawal are not uncommon, and some individuals go on to develop postacute, or protracted, withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) which can last months or even years.
Effects of etizolam withdrawal
It is important to remember that each case of etizolam withdrawal can differ from one individual to the next; nevertheless, some typical etizolam withdrawal symptoms include:
- impaired memory
- impaired concentration
- loss of appetite
- dilated pupils
- muscle spasms
- muscle cramps
- mood swings
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- dilated pupils
- dry mouth
- delirium tremens
- suicidal ideation
Getting through etizolam withdrawal
Etizolam withdrawal can be extremely distressing and uncomfortable, as well as being dangerous: it is vital you do not attempt to go through withdrawal from etizolam dependence without medical assistance.
Some medications can be used to alleviate the worst symptoms of etizolam withdrawal; speak with a doctor and/or an addiction specialist about relevant medicine if you are suffering from etizolam dependence. Do not attempt to self-medicate: etizolam can interact dangerously with numerous other substances, including some potentially used to treat withdrawal syndrome.
If you are struggling with etizolam withdrawal, and the feeling the urge to relapse as a means of staving off distressing withdrawal symptoms, be aware that relapsing during withdrawal poses a higher risk of overdose as you are likely to consume a dose to which you were previously accustomed, but which may now be too much for your system to handle. If you are struggling against the temptation to relapse, contact your doctor immediately.
Facts and Figures about Etizolam Abuse
- Etizolam is marketed under various brand names around the world, including Depas, Etilaam, Etizest, Etizola, Etizolan, Pasaden and Sedekopan2.
- The recommended medical dose of etizolam, in countries where it is legal, ranges from 1 to 4 mg per day. Some people abusing etizolam take dozens or even hundreds of times more than this recommended dose.
- Prior to the criminalisation of etizolam, Home Office advisers predicted that it could become responsible for up to 50 deaths per month in Scotland alone.
- Some 46 people died in Scotland and Northern Ireland in the first six months of 2016 as a result of etizolam abuse.
- Etizolam is commonly found on the street by names including Etiz, Etizzy and Easy.
Ready to Start your Journey to Recovery?
If you are struggling with etizolam addiction, help is out there: there are facilities and organisations at work around the country treating etizolam addicts. Speak with your GP and/or an addiction specialist about your condition and what treatment options might be available to you.
Beat addiction; get help now!
It is easy to despair if you are suffering from any form of addiction; you may see no way out from your situation, and may even have resigned yourself to bearing the burden for the rest of your life. However, do not give up hope: there is help available. Speak with your GP and/or an addiction specialist about treatment options for etizolam addiction, and take the first steps on the path back to a sober, happy and healthy life.
Getting help for a loved one
If someone close to you has an etizolam addiction, it is understandable that you may wish to tackle the issue head on and confront them – but doing so can cause more harm than good. Get in touch with an addiction specialist to discuss how best to approach the situation; always remember to prioritise your safety and that of anyone around you.
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