Etizolam Use Surges as Unapproved Xanax Alternative

Etizolam, also known as thienodiazepine, is related to a class of substances known as benzodiazepines. Typically sold in a powder or tablet form, etizolam has gained prominence in the illicit drug market in recent years due to its similarity to other popular benzodiazepines, or "benzos," such as Xanax and Valium. Etizolam was originally developed for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and is considered a legitimate pharmaceutical product in Japan, India, and Italy. However, this substance has not been approved for any form of medical use in the US by the FDA. As such, it poses a substantial risk to card brands and is of increasing concern to regulatory agencies.

Although it is not permitted for human consumption in the US, etizolam is frequently abused by US-based consumers, who purchase the compound for its powerful sedative effects. It can take the form of a powder, tablet, or spiked blotter paper. Many online vendors appear to sell foreign-manufactured tablets that likely either ship from outside the US or have entered the US through unofficial channels. Foreign brand names include Etilaam, Etizest, Depas, Etizola, Sedekopan, and Pasaden.

What consumers may not realize is that etizolam also carries risk of dependency, toxicity, and fatal overdose, particularly when combined with other central nervous system depressants. One young man, Adam Hunt, reportedly took etizolam he bought online and was later discovered unconscious by his mother. Hunt died after spending four days in a medically induced coma. Given the ease of purchasing it online, it is no surprise that etizolam has been increasingly prominent in online drug forums.

An etizolam vendor markets Etizest and other India-manufactured etizolam products.

One such website, shown above, offers a small catalog of etizolam tablets marketed as "research chemicals." The website states that it does not sell etizolam to anyone who is not a "research institution," yet features no safeguards or verification which prevent purchases by individuals. While marketed as "not for human consumption," the merchant has a Reddit account and frequently interacts with user inquiries about purchasing etizolam, ultimately directing traffic to their website. See the screenshot below.

A Reddit user promotes their etizolam website on a forum popular with recreational users.

The use of Reddit for advertising the sale of illicit substances is a common practice among "research chemical" websites. This pattern of deceptive marketing around "research chemicals" is familiar to LegitScript's analysts, and they use a variety of tools and resources to identify a website operator's intent.

Payment service providers should be cautious of any website marketing etizolam, even if it appears to be for research purposes. Searching the internet for an operator's online footprint outside of the website can give important clues as to the operator's true intent. Partner with the experts at LegitScript to reduce your risk of merchants who are selling unapproved drugs or who are engaging in one of dozens of other high-risk categories LegitScript monitors. Contact us to learn more.