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Guidelines for Halcion Tapering

There are no standard or published guidelines for Halcion tapering. The Ashton guidelines indicate that single, occasional, or intermittent use of benzodiazepines can be effective for transient insomnia due to their fast onset, but cautions that triazolam carries a higher risk than other benzos for adverse effects. Dr. Ashton reports that long-term use, tolerance, dependence, and withdrawals can become problematic for any benzodiazepine and therefore tapering must be slow and gradual.1 The problems with coming off a sleeping pill or hypnotic drug such as Halcion are likely the exacerbation of the symptoms one had before starting to take the medication.

halcion tapering guidelinesHowever, there may be instances of inappropriate prescribing practices, where a person may have been prescribed Halcion for long-term use, with addictive impacts as a result. Halcion has also developed something of a street presence, and as a fast-acting benzodiazepine, has the potential to become addictive over a relatively short time.

Both of these situations would require slow and gradual tapering such as is described in the Ashton materials. However, tapering from fast-acting benzodiazepines with a relatively short half-life, such as triazolam, especially when the daily dosage is a quarter of 1mg, (.25mg) may be better managed with a Valium crossover as an example, which has a longer half-life. This may make it easier to manage a gradual taper over an adequate period of time to let the body adjust to the change. Inpatient care is highly recommended for tapering from long-term benzodiazepines for health and safety reasons. If inpatient care is not possible for you, seek a physician who is familiar with crossover tapering and who feels confident they can guide you through.

A person may have continued to take Halcion intermittently, or introduced other medications, in a desperate attempt to regulate sleep. Applying all possible interventions that will help a person return to healthy sleep without medication would be the focus of a Halcion recovery treatment plan at Alternative to Meds. For example, ensuring the sleep environment is free of electromagnetic interference should be part of any holistic approach to improve the quality of sleep.20 Elimination of caffeine has been proven helpful in regards to supporting better sleep and relieving agitation and anxiety.21 Learning relaxation exercises such as autogenic training, imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation can also be helpful in promoting rest and sleep.25 There are many such interventions that can help, without the liabilities of relying on medications. More information is given below on holistic treatments for insomnia.

Halcion tapering can be very confusing to map out, with few professionals having expertise in providing real solutions or support to guide this process. Sometimes, you might ask if the drug itself might be the problem.

In 75% of the cases we find that a benzodiazepine can be safely eliminated … and that in many of the others, the medications can be reduced to increase the quality of life. But can the underlying symptoms that return be handled in other, safer ways?

Do Your Symptoms Require Halcion?

halcion tapering and weaning
Alternative to Meds has been the expert on medication tapering and withdrawal for the better part of 20 years. Please take time to review our published evidence regarding our clients’ success. We have seen that sometimes the difficulty is not so much in tapering Halcion, but that the difficulties lie in preventing the return of symptoms after the drug is stopped. For example, neurotoxicity commonly shows up in testing and is a problem we have frequently observed linking with the return of initial symptoms. We have found that a person needs to clear that toxic burden before it is possible for their neurology to regulate. It goes without saying that each person’s program is an individual and unique one.
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Halcion tapering services are available at Alternative to Meds Center, designed with care to make the process safe and gentle. Halcion tapering may be complicated by the likelihood of rebound insomnia and other challenges. It doesn’t have to be that way. There is a way back to health and we can help make the process of getting off Halcion and recovering from sleep-related issues attainable, with additional overall health benefits, described in more detail below. If you have fallen into the trap of recurrent sleep issues and not knowing how to get your life back on track after depending on a sleeping pill like Halcion, our facility can make this possible for you or a loved one.

Alternative to Meds Center has helped thousands of clients through the process of medication cessation and recovery of natural mental health. Alternative to Meds Center offers inpatient programs to get off Halcion using exact protocols and 24/7 medical support and oversight. Insomnia is the major linchpin for most individuals struggling with Halcion tapering, as the negative health impacts of sleep deprivation are severe enough all on their own. Therefore resolving the root causes of insomnia is likely a major focus of a successful Halcion tapering experience. Where addiction has developed, this can also be treated successfully through holistic programming supporting a slow gradual taper, and aimed at root cause resolution.

Primary Uses for Halcion

Halcion is approved to be taken only for very short courses of treatment for insomnia. The FDA label for Halcion (triazolam) cautions it should only be taken for 7-10 days at most, and only with a complete patient re-evaluation before prescribing for longer periods of time.2

Halcion was compared with two other sleeping pills in a laboratory sleep study authored by Kales & Kales and published in the 1983 Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. The trial showed that triazolam (Halcion) was highly effective at inducing sleep with nearly immediate effect. However, much of this efficacy quickly diminished within a two-week period. The quality of sleep in the final hours of the night worsened (referred to as early morning insomnia) with Halcion. Halcion withdrawal after the 2-week long study caused immediate and severe rebound insomnia. Halcion side effects were reported as morning sleepiness, significant memory impairment, and amnesia. The authors of the lab study also concluded that triazolam had a narrow margin of safety, as serious behavioral symptoms occurred at a low dose.7 The maximum daily dose ranges from .25mg to .5mg daily for adults over 18, or .125mg maximum for elderly persons.2

Halcion (triazolam) was banned in some European countries in the early 90s due to concerns about amnesia, depression, and other harmful and even fatal side effects.3 Halcion is still available in the US today, although it has been banned in other places in the world.8 It is most often prescribed to treat or manage insomnia, jet lag, and preoperative sedation. Like Kale’s study, the FDA also found when used for insomnia, Halcion does shorten the time to fall asleep, and that these effects diminish over 2 weeks. As previously stated, Halcion is recommended for 7-10 days only. The use of benzodiazepines generally has begun to decline in pre-surgical use for healthy adults due to risks such as fatal respiratory collapse, and motor control impairment after surgery.2

Alternative to Meds:  Compassionate, Caring, and Safe Setting

There are special concerns for the elderly as benzodiazepines can affect this age group with more significant sedation and cognitive impairment than other age groups.2 Our beautiful facility is staffed with an impressive array of medical and clinical staff and provides a welcoming, comfortable and caring atmosphere for all of our clients.

compassionate careAll hypnotics have been given a special FDA warning about what is called, “sleep-related complex behaviors”2,22 which means the person taking Halcion is subject to behaviors like sleepwalking, sleep-driving, sleep texting, sleep shopping, and many other examples, placing the person at great risk of injury or accident. Triazolam is listed as a “date-rape” drug, sometimes called a “knock-out drug” used by criminals to take advantage of the unsuspecting victim.23 The amnesia effects of the drug leave the person with no recollection of these activities whether they took place in the middle of the night or in the middle of the day. Knock-out drugs carry inherent risks for the consumer whether knowingly taking the drug or unknowingly being slipped the drug in a drink. Inpatient, closely monitored care is therefore highly recommended to avoid the risks of these bizarre Halcion side effects.

Another particularly grave concern is the mixing of opioids or other CNS depressants while taking Halcion. The results can be fatal. Due to cognitive impairment and memory lapse, accidental overdose/oversedation/death can occur all too easily when mixing alcohol, opioids, or other CNS dampening agents along with sleeping pills. Preventing accidental poisoning or death is another reason to consider stopping Halcion inpatient, and consider holistic methods instead of drugs, to improve sleep or other troubling symptoms.2 Competent help is essential for anyone trying to quit Halcion and safely recover their health.

Halcion Side Effects

Halcion is a sedative/hypnotic drug that produces profound sedation, hence its most common use as a sleeping pill.

Halcion traveled a turbulent path to gain approval in 1977 in the Netherlands, followed 2 years later by the drugmakers themselves withdrawing the drug because of addiction potential and severe side effects.

A brief summary of Halcion side effects given below is followed by a more detailed description of these, and notes on safe prescribing protocols.

Halcion side effects may include:

halcion side effects

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Memory loss
  • Profound sedation and next-day drowsiness
  • Depression
  • Unusual changes in temperament or mood
  • Confusion, cognitive impairment
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Incoordination, motor impairment
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea
  • Rebound anxiety, restlessness
  • Paradoxical insomnia, often extreme
  • Vvivid or disturbing dreams
  • Developed tolerance, addiction

A clinical trial of the drug was carried out in Jackson State Prison in the 1970s, called Protocol 321.10 In this drug trial, a cohort of prisoners was given 1mg of Halcion nightly for 6 weeks. It was the failure of the drugmaker to report all the adverse effects that occurred during this trial that caused a scandal that led to Britain revoking the license for Halcion in 1991. Up until this suppressed information was revealed, Halcion had reportedly become the world’s most prescribed sleeping pill. In the US, however, the FDA only required reducing the recommended maximum dose to 0.25mg and limiting the number of days it should be taken, despite the above information being revealed, as well as consumer petitions to the FDA requesting the drug be banned due to adverse side effects.3 Clearly, Halcion is a drug not without risks.

Taken longer than 7-10 days the drug becomes less and less effective and can produce what are called paradoxical side effects. These can include memory impairment, increased (rebound) anxiety and restlessness as well as increased difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep.3,5 Other concerns about Halcion include increased cognitive and motor impairment the next day, hence the caution for driving or operating heavy machinery the day after taking Halcion. This is vital to know for pilots or drivers, who should be cautioned well on this point before being prescribed a drug like Halcion. A report made publicly available through the US Federal Aviation Administration and its Forensic Toxicology Research Laboratory states that 96 fatal aviation crashes occurred where pilot autopsies tested positive for benzodiazepines.6

Alternative to Meds Center Addresses The Root Cause

weaning off halcionA person who wishes to accomplish their benzo tapering at our beautiful inpatient facility will benefit from discovering the contributing factors and root causes for insomnia and other initial symptoms. For example, a person who began taking Halcion for insomnia would receive lab testing as part of their assessment prior to treatment to determine what factors need resolving. These could include vitamin and mineral deficiencies and imbalances, the presence of neurotoxins such as heavy metals, pesticides16 or other chemical exposure, food additives, artificial sweeteners,17 food allergies,18 other allergies, and hormonal factors that may need to be addressed. A correctly modified diet along with a supplement regimen might be recommended, as well as other lifestyle choices that can be explored in counseling or Life Coaching private sessions. Deep cleansing techniques may be recommended to purge the body of its toxic load, to allow neurochemistry (and sleep patterns) to regulate naturally. If you or a loved one is considering holistic treatment for insomnia, Alternative to Meds Center is the perfect choice for recovery.

Toxins and Initial Symptoms

It has been found through well over a decade of testing that a vast majority of our clients show toxic accumulations. Toxins act upon human neurochemistry the same way that pesticides act on the humble grasshopper.16 The toxic effect upon the grasshopper is an over-excitation of the nervous system until at last the grasshopper goes into a state of what could be called toxic shock and paralysis and dies.

halcion tapering and titrationThe human body is equipped with certain protective and filtration systems but was likely never designed for the onslaught that we are subjected to on an almost daily basis. Toxic materials such as industrial or household chemicals, poisons, food additives, and dental amalgams that leach out, are all common in modern life. These toxic substances tend to stabilize in fatty tissues. They are fat-soluble. The toxicity signals the body to begin protective mechanisms, and so these molecules are stored away in fat tissues, and not dangerously floating around in the bloodstream or entering vital organs. But their presence can still wreak havoc on the CNS, and so many intricate connections within the very complex and beautifully designed body.

Mercury in dental fillings is particularly common and was the subject of research by Seblirud et al published in the Sages Journal. The study compared anxiety, insomnia, anger, dissatisfaction in life, and other markers and found those in the study who had mercury amalgams had significantly higher scores on all of these issues than the subjects who did not have mercury amalgams.15 Much research has been done linking the effects of a burden of toxicity including exposure to mycotoxins (molds and fungus)19 directly on human health, and resulting symptoms such as insomnia or anxiety.4

Strategies to Quit Halcion and Regulate Sleep

Laboratory testing for toxic exposures and accumulations commonly shows these are areas that need addressing. Alternative to Meds provides the administration of nutrients that will convert these fat-soluble molecules to water-soluble so these can be flushed or sweated out. As these toxins are eliminated, sleep often tends to return to normal, as does appetite, mood, energy levels, and many more benefits. Clients typically begin sleeping and eating better and enjoy a brighter and more calm state. Getting off Halcion does not have to require sleep deprivation or long-suffering. Using these and other therapies can transform the process of Halcion cessation into a surprisingly mild experience.

halcion titration and weaningOther protocols are also available to help with recovering good quality sleep, which is, after all, one of the most important and rudimentary requirements for healthy living. Typically after neurotoxin removal, sleep will improve and other supplements and treatments can also be utilized toward this goal as needed.

Many protocols geared toward healing and relaxation are also available such as acupuncture, acupressure, soothing mineral baths, Reiki, yoga classes, trainer-led exercise, bentonite clay packs, therapeutic massage, cranial-sacral massage, counseling, Life Coaching, sauna, nebulized glutathione treatments, nutritional correction, clean diet, IV treatments, learned relaxation techniques, and many more fundamentals designed to improve mental health naturally. You can view a more complete listing of protocols used in treatments at Alternative to Meds Center on our services overview page.

Sleep and a Healthy Microbiome

sleep and microbiomeAccording to the research of Clapp, Wakefield et al, published in the Journal of Clinics and Practice, the microbiome and brain are direct partners in regulating virtually all aspects of biological and mental health including endocrine, neural, and immune pathways.10 Sleep hormones are produced in the gut. In fact, gut microbes are responsible for the architecture of sleep, according to research by Galland, published in the Journal of Medicinal Food.24 A healthy gut populated with healthy bacteria makes adequate hormones that keep the body functioning well. The opposite is also true. For instance, in studies on mice, it was found that germ-free mice had significantly impaired stress response. Also, that inflammation of the gut was linked directly to anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric symptoms. But probiotics from supplements or an improved diet can restore a healthy microbiota count, and reverse these symptoms.11-13

Clinical research by Yuanyuan et al, published in the esteemed journal Frontiers in Psychiatry has found a direct link between the role of the state of the microbiome and insomnia and sleep regulation. And conversely, a fascinating reverse role that emotional stress plays in dysregulating the microbiome itself. These are highly useful data that can be applied by anyone attempting to improve their sleep or other symptoms without resorting to psychiatric medications. Research informs us at Alternative to Meds Center and is why we use a multi-faceted, highly effective, and evidence-based approach for the purpose of reversing psychiatric symptoms without medications.14

Education is a Golden Key to Recovery

All of our clients are invited to participate in an amazing comprehensive educational component while in the program. This program has been developed to help our clients better understand human neurochemistry and how to support excellent neurotransmitter efficiency holistically. We like to term this “creating natural mental health.” Clients learn more in-depth information about the important roles of nutrition, supporting a healthy microbiome, the benefits of learning relaxation techniques, and other lifestyle choices to support healthy brain (and gut) chemistry for the rest of your life. These are valuable tools that can empower a person to remain informed and able to improve health while in recovery and ever after.

Please feel free to contact us at Alternative to Meds Center to discuss your health goals and learn much more about the many protocols we use to ensure our clients’ needs are met for safe and gentle Halcion tapering and recovery.

1. Ashton H. Guidelines for the rational use of benzodiazepines. When and what to use. Drugs. 1994 Jul;48(1):25-40. doi: 10.2165/00003495-199448010-00004. PMID: 7525193. [cited 2022 July 25]

2. FDA label information for Halcion published 2016 Sept [cited 2022 July 25]

3. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Halcion: An Assessment of Data Adequacy and Confidence. Halcion: An Independent Assessment of Safety and Efficacy Data. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1997. 1, Introduction. [cited 2022 July 25]

4. Kawada T, Katsumata M, Suzuki H, Li Q, Inagaki H, Nakadai A, Shimizu T, Hirata K, Hirata Y. Insomnia as a sequela of sarin toxicity several years after exposure in Tokyo subway trains. Percept Mot Skills. 2005 Jun;100(3 Pt 2):1121-6. doi: 10.2466/pms.100.3c.1121-1126. PMID: 16158698. [cited 2022 July 25]

5. Chouinard G. Issues in the clinical use of benzodiazepines: potency, withdrawal, and rebound. J Clin Psychiatry. 2004;65 Suppl 5:7-12. PMID: 15078112.[cited 2022 July 25]

6. Federal Aviation Administration of the DOT, “Benzodiazepine Use in Pilots of Civil Aviation Accidets 1998-2008 Toxicology and Autopsy Findings” [cited 2022 July 25]

7. Kales A, Kales JD. Sleep laboratory studies of hypnotic drugs: efficacy and withdrawal effects. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1983 Apr;3(2):140-50. doi: 10.1097/00004714-198304000-00038. PMID: 6132933. [cited 2022 July 25]

8. Nazareth I, Ashworth M, Hammond J, King M. Withdrawal of triazolam’s product licence: effect on patients 18 months later. Addiction. 1995 Jul;90(7):927-34. doi: 10.1046/j.1360-0443.1995.9079275.x. PMID: 7663314. [cited 2022 July 25]

9. The National Academies of Sciences Engineering & Medicine authors, “Halcion: An Independent Assessment of Safety and Efficacy Data.” [online} Book published by The National Academies Press [cited 2022 July 25]

10. Clapp M, Aurora N, Herrera L, Bhatia M, Wilen E, Wakefield E, “Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis.” Clinics and Practice, An International Journal of Medical Case Reports 2017 Sep 15 [cited 2022 July 25]

11. Carabotti M, Scirocco A, Maselli MA, Severi C, “The gut-brain axis, interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems.” Clinics and Practice, An International Journal of Medical Case Reports [INTERNET] 2015 Apr-Jun [cited 2022 July 25]

12. Borre YE, Moloney RD, Clarke G, Dinan TG, Cryan JF, “The Impact of Microbiota on Brain and Behavior: Mechanisms and Therapeutic Potential.” Expanses in Experimental Medicine and Biology [[INTERNET] 2014 [cited 2022 July 25]

13. Microbes and brain share neurochemistry Lundbek Institute Campus Published 03.06.2019. [cited 2022 July 25]

14. Li Y, Hao Y, Fan F, Zhang B. The Role of Microbiome in Insomnia, Circadian Disturbance and Depression. Front Psychiatry. 2018 Dec 5;9:669. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00669. PMID: 30568608; PMCID: PMC6290721. [cited 2022 July 25]

15. Siblerud RL, Motl J, Kienholz E. Psychometric evidence that mercury from silver dental fillings may be an etiological factor in depression, excessive anger, and anxiety. Psychol Rep. 1994 Feb;74(1):67-80. doi: 10.2466/pr0.1994.74.1.67. PMID: 8153237. [cited 2022 July 25]

16. Levin HS, Rodnitzky RL, Mick DL. Anxiety associated with exposure to organophosphate compounds. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1976 Feb;33(2):225-8. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.1976.01770020061010. PMID: 1252099. [cited 2022 July 25]

17. Choudhary AK, Lee YY. Neurophysiological symptoms and aspartame: What is the connection? Nutr Neurosci. 2018 Jun;21(5):306-316. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2017.1288340. Epub 2017 Feb 15. PMID: 28198207. [cited 2022 July 25]

18. Teufel M, Biedermann T, Rapps N, et al. Psychological burden of food allergy. World J Gastroenterol. 2007;13(25):3456-3465. doi:10.3748/wjg.v13.i25.3456. [cited 2022 July 25]

19. Lauren Tessier, ND Mycotoxins & the Brain July 6, 2020. [cited 2022 July 25]

20. Bagheri Hosseinabadi M, Khanjani N, Ebrahimi MH, Haji B, Abdolahfard M. The effect of chronic exposure to extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields on sleep quality, stress, depression and anxiety. Electromagn Biol Med. 2019;38(1):96-101. doi: 10.1080/15368378.2018.1545665. Epub 2018 Dec 14. PMID: 30547710. [cited 2022 July 25]

21. Boulenger J, Uhde TW, Wolff EA, Post RM. Increased Sensitivity to Caffeine in Patients With Panic Disorders: Preliminary Evidence.Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1984;41(11):1067–1071. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1983.01790220057009. [cited 2022 July 25]

22. Asnis GM, Thomas M, Henderson MA. Pharmacotherapy Treatment Options for Insomnia: A Primer for Clinicians. Int J Mol Sci. 2015;17(1):50. Published 2015 Dec 30. doi:10.3390/ijms17010050 [cited 2022 July 25]

23. Madea B, Musshoff F. Knock-out drugs: their prevalence, modes of action, and means of detection. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2009;106(20):341-347. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2009.0341 [cited 2022 July 25]

24. Galland L. The gut microbiome and the brain. J Med Food. 2014;17(12):1261-1272. doi:10.1089/jmf.2014.7000 [cited 2022 July 25]

25. [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Insomnia: Relaxation techniques and sleeping habits. 2008 Aug 18 [Updated 2017 Mar 9]. Available from: [cited 2022 July 25]

Originally Published Nov 4, 2019 by Lyle Murphy

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Medical Disclaimer:
Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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