Triazolam is a benzodiazepine drug that is primarily prescribed to treat insomnia. However, the medication can be habit-forming and cause life-threatening breathing problems, profound sedation, or coma when taken with other medications, so it’s important to tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about other prescriptions you’re using before you begin taking triazolam [1].

Triazolam brand names

Triazolam is most commonly sold under the brand name Halcion [1]. Other triazolam brand names include: 

  • Apo-Triazo
  • Hypam
  • Trilam

What is triazolam prescribed for?

Triazolam is prescribed primarily for the short-term treatment of insomnia [2]. While this is the primary use for this medication, some doctors may utilize it for treating dental anxiety. It can be useful for reducing the feelings of anxiety associated with dental office visits or dental procedures [3]. In some cases, a physician may use triazolam to treat anxiety before surgery.

How does triazolam work?

Triazolam belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. These drugs work by acting on a brain chemical called GABA, which slows activity in the nervous system. When a person takes triazolam, the drug increases the activity of GABA, reducing brain activity [4]. This ultimately helps a person to relax and fall asleep.

How is triazolam usually taken?

Triazolam is available as a tablet taken orally. The medication is intended to be taken shortly before bed and should not be taken with food, as eating right before taking the medication can reduce its effectiveness [1]. A typical tablet contains 0.25 mg of triazolam [4].

How long does triazolam stay in your system?

Triazolam is a short-acting benzodiazepine that works quickly and stays in the system for a relatively short period [4]. It has a short half-life of about 1.5 to 5.5 hours [2]. The half-life is the amount of time it takes half of the concentration of a drug to be removed from the system. Because of the short half-life of triazolam, the drug is cleared from the system in as little as 6 hours.

Triazolam side effects

As is the case with any prescription medication, triazolam can come with side effects. Some of the most common side effects of this medication include [1]:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Tingling feeling in the skin
  • Headache
  • Impaired coordination
  • Feeling nervous
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

The adverse reactions above are often mild and will improve with time. However, talk with your doctor or a healthcare professional if the side effects are severe or do not go away. 

Sometimes, side effects may be more severe. If you experience severe side effects, you may be especially sensitive to the effects of triazolam. Rare but serious adverse effects and allergic reactions associated with triazolam include [1]:

  • Hives and/or itching
  • Rash
  • Swelling in the eyes, lips, face, throat, or tongue
  • Blurred vision
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Being unable to swallow
  • Feeling as if the throat is closing up
  • Hoarseness in voice
  • Muscle twitches 

If you experience serious side effects with triazolam, it’s important to seek emergency medical attention and/or notify your doctor as soon as possible [1].

Triazolam precautions

Triazolam is effective for treating insomnia, but that does not mean there are no risks associated with this medication. For example, triazolam can be habit-forming and long-term use can create physical dependence, meaning you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the medication [1]. You should never suddenly stop taking triazolam without medical advice or supervision. 

Given the risk of dependence, triazolam is only intended to treat insomnia over short-term periods of 7 to 10 days. Using the drug for longer than this amount of time is not recommended [2].

Triazolam should not be taken during pregnancy, as it can cause damage to the fetus. Caution should also be used among older adults taking triazolam, as the sedative effects tend to be stronger for elderly patients[2].

Additionally, taking sedative drugs like triazolam can increase the risk of dangerous behaviors, including sleep-driving, especially when taken alongside alcohol or other medications that depress the central nervous system. Some people may engage in activities such as having sex or preparing food while asleep if they take triazolam [2]

Some people experience psychiatric problems, such as daytime anxiety, aggression, hallucinations, and bizarre behavior when taking triazolam. Talk with your doctor if you experience these symptoms or other abnormal behaviors like sleep-driving [2]

Finally, it’s important to tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking before you begin using triazolam. Some medications can cause dangerous interaction effects when taken alongside triazolam. These potential drug interactions are described in more detail below.

Triazolam interactions

The following medications are known to cause interaction effects with triazolam [2]:

  • Opioid drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone
  • Antihistamines
  • Anticonvulsant medications
  • Ketoconazole
  • Itraconazole
  • Nefazodone
  • HIV protease inhibitors like atazanavir
  • Isoniazid
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Fluvoxamine
  • Diltiazem
  • Verapamil
  • Sertraline
  • Paroxetine
  • Ergotamine
  • Cyclosporine
  • Amiodarone
  • Nicardipine
  • Nifedipine
  • Ranitidine 

The list above is not exhaustive, so it is critical to tell your doctor about any and all medications you’re taking, including any dietary or herbal supplements. Beyond the medications above, it is important to avoid alcohol while on triazolam. It is also recommended to avoid consuming grapefruit while taking the medication [2].

Triazolam storage

Triazolam should be kept in a tightly sealed prescription container with the original label visible. It should be kept out of reach of children and away from people who may accidentally confuse the medication as their own [1].

Triazolam should be stored at room temperature, away from excessive heat or moisture. A bathroom is not ideal for triazolam storage, given the heat and moisture in this location [1].

What to do if you overdose on triazolam

Triazolam can lead to overdose symptoms and life-threatening breathing problems, especially when taken alongside opioid drugs like codeine, morphine, tramadol, fentanyl, and hydrocodone [1].

The following symptoms are indicative of a potential triazolam overdose [1]

  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Shallowbreathing
  • Seizures
  • Coma

If you or someone you know has taken triazolam and is experiencing antidepressant overdose symptoms, it is important to call emergency medical services immediately at 911. In some cases, triazolam overdose can be fatal [1].

FAQs

How long does triazolam take to kick in?

Triazolam is a short-acting benzodiazepine [4] with a quick onset of action. Therefore, its effects kick in shortly after the medication is taken. For this reason, you should take triazolam right before you go to bed. You should also ensure that you can remain asleep for 7 to 8 hours [1].

What is the difference between triazolam and alprazolam?

Triazolam and alprazolam are both benzodiazepine drugs, but there are some differences between the two. For instance, triazolam is generally used to treat insomnia, whereas alprazolam is most often used to treat anxiety and panic attacks. Alprazolam also has a longer onset of action when compared to triazolam. The mean half-life of alprazolam is around 11 hours, which is longer than triazolam. This means that the effects of triazolam kick in sooner and wear off faster when compared to alprazolam [5].

Resources:

  1. Triazolam: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (2021, May 15). MedlinePlus. Retrieved November 8, 2022, from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a684004.html
  2. Halcion(Triazolam) Label. (2016, September).S. Food & Drug Administration. Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/017892s049lbl.pdf
  3. Berthold, C.W., Schneider, A., & Dionne, R.A. (1993). Using Triazolam to Reduce Dental A The Journal of the American Dental Association, 124(11), 58-64. https://doi.org/10.14219/jada.archive.1993.0233
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2022). PubChem Compound Summary for CID 5556, Triazolam. Retrieved November 9, 2022 from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Triazolam
  5. George, T.T., & Tripp, J. Alprazolam. [Updated 2022, May 1]. In: StatPearls[Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538165/