Etizolam is a prescription drug that’s very similar to benzodiazepines, but it has a slightly different chemical structure. In the world of chemistry, etizolam is in a category called thienotriazolodiazepine, which is a group of benzo analogs.
The drug causes similar effects to benzos, such as anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant, and hypnosis. It’s used for the same medical purposes, such as treating insomnia, anxiety, and panic disorders. However, in common doses, etizolam is much more likely to cause anxiety relief than sedation.
It also shares the same mechanism of action in the brain as benzodiazepines. The drug is GABAergic, which means that it interacts with a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is responsible for activating its receptor in the brain to promote relaxation and sleep.
Etizolam binds to GABA receptors and increases the efficacy of the GABA chemical, giving it a boost in its anti-anxiety and hypnotic qualities. It also inhibits the reuptake of certain feel-good chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which may contribute to its ability to relieve anxiety.
Unfortunately, etizolam also has some of the adverse effects that benzos have, including respiratory depression, dizziness, drowsiness, memory loss, and erectile dysfunction. When compared to some benzodiazepines and their analogs, etizolam is more likely to cause euphoric effects. Euphoria can lead to psychological addiction by affecting the reward center in your brain.
How Is Etizolam Abused?
Etizolam is a depressant drug that can be used recreationally or as a method of self-medication. Though the drug is illegal in a few states in the U.S., it is not “federally scheduled,” which means it’s not controlled by the federal government.
According to the U.S.Drug Enforcement Administration, the drug can be bought online or in stores, where it’s sold as a “research chemical.” It can also be sold from illicit sources, which increases the risk that the drug can be mixed with other dangerous or unknown chemicals. People who buy etizolam illegally may be doing so to use it recreationally, to satisfy an existing benzodiazepine dependence, or to self-medicate for problems like anxiety or insomnia.
The drug can cause euphoria when taken in high enough doses, and even shows a higher probability of causing euphoric effects over other benzodiazepines.
Self-medication is a form of abuse that involves taking prescription strength medication without consulting a doctor. Without medical advice, it can be hard to know the right dose for your needs. Taking the drug in high doses or for longer than recommended can lead to physical dependence or addiction.
The drug may also be mixed with alcohol, opioids, or other depressants for more intense highs, but this behavior also dramatically increases the risk of a fatal overdose. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 30 percent of fatal opioid overdose also involved benzodiazepines. Benzos and their analogs rarely cause fatal, accidental overdoses on their own, but they become much deadlier when they’re combined with other substances.
Side Effects of Etizolam Abuse
As a sedative-hypnotic drug, etizolam will cause side effects that are similar to other depressants. A large enough dose will lead to intoxication that’s similar to getting drunk. You may feel a euphoric sense of calm, relaxation, or a lack of inhibitions. But like alcohol, this intoxication will also come with a loss of motor control, slurred speech, drowsiness, excessive sedation, a struggle to maintain consciousness, a greater likelihood of taking risks, dizziness, headaches, and confusion. In less frequent cases, etizolam can also cause tremors, nausea, and incontinence.
Prolonged use of the drug can lead to chemical dependence and addiction, and the withdrawal symptoms can be serious. If you abruptly stop taking the drug, it can cause seizures and a potentially fatal condition called delirium tremens.
Why Is Etizolam Addictive?
As a psychoactive drug and a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, etizolam can have significant effects on your brain chemistry. Like most psychoactive drugs, etizolam works by changing the chemical communications in your nervous system.
Because it’s GABAergic, it specifically affects GABA receptors to influence your brain chemistry in a way that’s consistent with CNS depressants. However, as with other depressants, etizolam can cause chemical dependence, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms.
As your brain gets used to the etizolam in your system, it may start adapting around its presence and using it for normal brain functions. Your brain may start adjusting its natural chemistry around etizolam, which decreases inhibitory chemicals that would make you relax and increases excitatory chemicals to counteract the drug. Therefore, you may start feeling like you’re becoming more tolerant, so you may feel like you have to take more of the drug to achieve its normal effects.
Chemical dependence is characterized by your brain becoming reliant on the drug to maintain normal functioning. To you, it will feel like you need to use the drug to feel normal. You may no longer use it as recreation, but rather to avoid feeling uncomfortable symptoms.
If you stop using the drug in social settings and start using it alone, you may become dependent on it. One particularly telling red flag is using the drug in the morning, outside of prescribed use. If you feel compelled to use it as soon as you wake up, it could be because your last dose wore off the night before.
Since etizolam can affect the levels of those feel-good chemicals in your brain, it can cause your reward center to mistake the drug for a naturally rewarding activity such as eating a good meal. Your reward center is designed to pick up on activities that are good for you, such as eating and sleeping.
During those activities, chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine are released. Your reward center takes notice and teaches your brain to seek those activities again. Drugs like etizolam elevate the level of those feel-good chemicals in your system, so they can affect your reward center in this way. The result is powerful cravings that compel you to use the drug the way other people drink water.
Addiction is identified by compulsive drug use, despite serious consequences. Has the drug started taking over your life, and disrupting your health, relationships, jobs, and hobbies? Are you still unable to quit? If so, you may be addicted. Addiction is a disease that affects the brain, so it often gets out of control. In many cases, people with substance use disorders are in denial that their drug use has become a problem, but you may also feel powerless to do anything to stop it.