Snorting & Smoking Etizolam: How Dangerous Is It?

Medically Reviewed

Etizolam is a drug related to benzodiazepines, but it is in a different chemical group called thienodiazepines. Both classes of drugs are central nervous system (CNS) depressants, and they have been used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, and even seizures. Famous benzodiazepines include Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin; however, thienodiazepines are rarely used in the United States.

Etizolam is not currently scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), but it is not considered appropriate medical treatment by most doctors and psychiatrists in the U.S. It is, however, prescribed in Japan, Italy, and India, but it is also illegal in the United Kingdom. The drug can be purchased online, however, and it has emerged as a substance of abuse both in the U.S. and Europe.

What is Etizolam?

Etizolam was first introduced as a prescription drug in Japan in 1983 and was used to treat sleep disorders and intense anxiety. In the three countries where it is a prescription medicine, available dose sizes are 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, and 1 mg.

Like benzodiazepines, this drug has relaxing effects that are caused by the chemical binding to gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. This causes anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant, sedative-hypnotic, and muscle relaxant effects.

Early animal studies of etizolam found the drug to be between six and 10 times more potent than diazepam (Valium). It also was demonstrated to have reinforcing effects, meaning the brain’s reward system was triggered, which led to drug cravings, comedown symptoms, and compulsive behaviors to consume more of the substance to feel good. Etizolam is such a potent CNS depressant that it was found to have effects like those of phenobarbital.

There are Major Side Effects from Taking Etizolam. They Include:

  • Sleepiness or drowsiness
  • Sedation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of coordination and balance
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Slurred speech as though drunk
  • Visual changes
  • Physical tremors

Etizolam has been found to cause short-term memory loss. Like benzodiazepines, it can be very addictive, and it can quickly lead to both tolerance to the original dose and dependence on the drug to feel normal.

Because it is so potent, it is much easier to overdose on etizolam than benzodiazepine medications. The main symptom of an etizolam overdose is slowed or depressed breathing, which can lead to fatal oxygen deprivation. Because etizolam has a short half-life but causes a very strong euphoria, compulsive behaviors may quickly escalate to taking multiple doses in a few hours, which greatly increases the risk of death from overdose.

When taken orally, as etizolam would be prescribed, effects begin within 30 minutes to two hours after it is ingested. The average half-life of the chemical is 3.4 hours, so it takes about seven hours for the drug to completely process out of the body.

Typically, etizolam is eaten; however, people who become tolerant to an oral dose may try to find other methods of getting high faster. Snorting and smoking drugs are ways to force chemicals to bind to receptors in the brain more quickly because the drugs get into the bloodstream faster. Although smoking and snorting are not common methods of abusing etizolam, the drug is sold online or in retail stores in powdered form rather than as tablets, so there is a greater risk of someone abusing the substance through other means, greatly increasing their risk of overdose.

Snorting Etizolam

One of the more common methods of abusing drugs to get high very quickly is snorting them. Many substances come in powdered form; when a drug is available in tablet form, it may be crushed or cut up so that it can be snorted more easily. Snorting drugs, especially potent chemicals like etizolam, is very dangerous—not only does it increase the risk of overdose, but snorting also damages soft tissues and increases the risk of some diseases.

Snorting a powder forces the chemical into the bloodstream through the thin membranes in the nose. By entering the bloodstream faster, the drug is taken up to the brain more quickly.

Snorting Can Damage Various Parts of the Body, Including:

  • The septum, the thin tissue between the nostrils
  • Other nasal membranes, leading to frequent nosebleeds
  • Upper respiratory tissues
  • The throat
  • The upper palate

When these tissues are damaged, they may dry out and lose blood flow, which can lead to tissue death. Septal and upper palate perforations, or holes from damage to the soft tissue and the underlying cartilage and bone, are common in people who snort cocaine; it is a risk when snorting other drugs, including etizolam.

Smoking Etizolam

Smoking drugs forces the chemical into the lungs where it is absorbed with oxygen into the bloodstream and rapidly sent to the brain. This approach to drug abuse is considered the fastest way to get high, but it is very harmful.

Anecdotal reports of smoking benzodiazepines state that this approach to drug abuse can lead to a high like that of opioids—very relaxed, sleepy, and euphoric. This experience could reinforce cravings and compulsive behaviors around drug abuse, and it could lead to smoking more of a potent drug like etizolam.

Like smoking tobacco or marijuana, smoking other drugs like etizolam increases the risk of lung disease, chronic cough, and cancer.

Dangerous Regardless of Method of Intake

Abusing oral drugs like etizolam is risky because there are no approved medical uses for this substance in the U.S.; abusing them by smoking or snorting them indicates a rapidly increasing dependence on the substance, intense cravings, and compulsive behaviors associated with addiction. Get help overcoming addiction before an etizolam overdose happens.

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