What You Need to Know
The effects and chemical structures of Etizolam and Xanax are very similar, but there are some differences. They are bothcentral nervous system (CNS) depressants that are used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. They also have sedative qualities and can be used as sleep aids, but they may cause daytime drowsiness. They can also cause intoxication that’s similar to alcohol, including loss of motor control, memory loss, the release of inhibitions, slurred speech, and respiratory depression.
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But with so many similarities, how do they differ? Here are some of the most significant differences between etizolam and Xanax:
The two drugs work in the brain in very similar ways, but they’re actually in different chemical classes. Xanax is abenzodiazepine, which has a chemical structure that involves a benzene ring touching a diazepine ring. Other drugs in this class are Valium and Ativan.
Etizolam also has benzene and diazepine rings, but they aren’t touching. Where the benzene ring resides in a benzodiazepine, there’s another structure called a thiophene ring. This difference puts etizolam in a category called thienotriazolodiazepine.
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In the United States, Xanax is classified as a Schedule IV substance by the federal government. In other words, it has a low potential for abuse, and it’s currently accepted as a medical use in the United States. It’s also considered to have a low risk of physical and psychological dependence if it’s abused.
However, benzodiazepines do have a significant risk of physical dependence and abuse. Still, it’s considered to be limited compared to more addictive drugs that are more strictly scheduled. It can be obtained with a prescription, but otherwise, it’s illegal to buy and sell it without authorization.
Etizolam is not approved for medical use in the U.S., though it is commonly prescribed in Japan and some European countries. From a federal standpoint, the drug isn’t scheduled, but it’s considered a Schedule I drug in some states, which means it’s illegal to buy or sell it.
However, the legal ambiguity of the drug in the U.S. allows it to be sold on the grey market, which is the name for the market in which substances are sold by circumventing existing drug laws. According to the DEA, Etizolam can be bought online or in stores if it’s labeled as a “research chemical.”
Effects and Medical Uses
Xanax and etizolam have similar effects, and both can cause anxiolysis (anxiety relief), hypnosis, sedation, and anticonvulsant effects. However, Xanax is most commonly prescribed as a remedy for anxiety and panic disorders. In some cases, it can be used to treat seizures.
Etizolam has a wide variety of uses outside of the U.S. In low and common doses, it most commonly affects anxiolysis, but sedation and hypnosis can be more common in higher doses. In Japan, it’s marketed as a treatment for anxiety, pain, depression, sleep disorders, and even headaches.
Why is Etizolam Used?
Most people have heard of Xanax, but etizolam is less common. But the two drugs are used for many of the same medical treatments. Etizolam is primarily used to treat insomnia and anxiety disorders, and it’s especially good at relieving anxiety. But it’s less likely to have hypnotic effects. In higher doses, it can cause hypnosis, sedation, loss of motor control, and other effects consistent with sleep aids. On the other hand, Xanax is primarily used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, and other medications are typically used if a sleep disorder is involved.
Xanax has a longer duration of action, which can drowsiness the next day if it’s used as a sleep aid. Etizolam has a similar half-life, and it will be reduced to half of the original concentration in your blood after six hours. However, its effects peak at three hours and start to wane after that. Still, it may cause next-day drowsiness with a high enough dose.
Whether it’s used for insomnia or anxiety, etizolam is intended for short-term use. Like Xanax, the prolonged, consistent use of the drug can cause chemical dependence and addiction. If you keep using the drug, your brain will start adapting to its presence and integrate it into your normal brain chemistry.
Furthermore, it may stop producing its own inhibitory chemicals, and it may even produce excitatory chemicals to counteract the drug and balance your brain chemistry. For that reason, both etizolam and Xanax are used as a temporary therapeutic treatment.
While etizolam is used in Japan and parts of Europe, it’s not approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S., but it is legal in a few states. It’s considered a Schedule I drug, due to its likelihood to be abused.
How Much Etizolam is Equal to Xanax?
Etizolam is active at a very low dose: about 0.2 to 0.5 milligrams. Using even half a milligram more than necessary can have considerably boosted effects. A common clinical dose is around 0.5 to 2.0 milligrams per day, depending on the individual patient, the means of administration, and the intended use.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, etizolam is aboutten times more potent than diazepam (Valium). Xanax is prescribed at similar levels, though starting doses will usually be slightly smaller for the treatment of anxiety. In medical settings, Xanax can be prescribed at much higher doses, especially for severe panic disorders and seizures.
Using a high dose of either drug is more likely to cause dangerous side effects, such as memory loss, a lack of inhibitions, or respiratory depression. Very high doses can be dangerous, as respiratory depression can slow or stop breathing to the point of oxygen deprivation, brain damage, coma, and death.
It’s worth noting that doses of similar strengths may not produce the same effects. They’re different drugs, and they may have different effects on the brain and body, even at equally strong doses.
If the two substances are combined, they can potentiate each other, which means they can work together to compound their effects.
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Is your loved one struggling with etizolam abuse or addiction? Are you? If so, it’s important for you to treat it with the seriousness it requires and get help before it’s too late.
Drug Enforcement Administration. (2018, October). Etizolam: DEA Diversion Control Division. Retrieved from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/etizolam.pdf
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 06). Prescription CNS Depressants. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-cns-depressants
O'Connell, C. W., MD. (2015, April). Overdose of Etizolam: The Abuse and Rise of a Benzodiazepine Analog. Retrieved from https://www.annemergmed.com/article/S0196-0644(14)01602-3/fulltext