Etizolam (sometimes known as street valium) is a thienodiazepine, which is a class of drugs closely related to benzodiazepines. The drug is ten times as potent as diazepam, commonly known by its trade name Valium. Regularly prescribed in several countries, including Japan, etizolam can be found at doses ranging from 0.25mg to 1mg in tablet form for anxiety and sleep disorders. On the black market side, it’s sold as a tablet, in blotter paper, dissolved in propylene glycol, or as a powder and is usually billed in the US as a “research chemical”; it’s primarily used in tablet form.
It’s an anxiolytic to some degree, much more so than benzodiazepines; etizolam is primarily a kind of CNS depressant, like alcohol is. It acts as a full agonist at the benzodiazepine/GABAa receptor to produce its range of therapeutic and adverse effects. Etizolam has the ability to turn the user into a disoriented amnesiac at a high enough dose.
Like naloxone does for opioid overdoses, flumazenil, a GABA antagonist, can stop effects of etizolam and reverse benzodiazepine overdoses. On the opposite end of the spectrum, GABA agonists can fatally interact with etizolam. Withdrawal to etizolam can take the form of benzodiazepine withdrawal effects due to the similarity of the drugs. Tapering is necessary due to the risk of fatal effects that a cold turkey stoppage could cause.
First appearing recreationally in the US around 2011, etizolam has steadily gained popularity as a recreational drug of choice. There has been rising concern since around 2014 in regional US pockets, but due to the uptick in national cases of etizolam use, it has since become an issue of national concern.
Etizolam appeals to “research chemical” users because of its federally unscheduled status; it’s legal for research purposes in all states. The drug is scheduled on the state level in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina, and Virginia.
“Major adverse effects include drowsiness, sedation, muscle weakness and incoordination, fainting, headache, confusion, depression, slurred speech, visual disturbances, and changes in libido and tremor.” – DEA Diversion Fact Sheet
It’s very likely that etizolam will attain scheduled status in the US in the near future. As a dangerous drug that’s relatively little used for legitimate medical prescriptions in the West, etizolam is one to watch out for.
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