HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – The United Kingdom is on the cusp of declaring a public health emergency over a drug that has now made its way to the United States, although it is not legally sold in this country.
"It's called Etizolam and it's similar in nature to benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanex, which are approved in the U.S.," said Albert Augsten, Pharmacy Clinical Coordinator at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood.
Like other benzo-type drugs, Etizolam is prescribed for a variety of concerns -- anxiety, insomnia and depression -- but teens and young adults are buying it off the internet without a prescription and abusing it.
"The overdoses are by accident but the abuse is not," said Dr. Mike Leath, an addiction specialist. "More time than not, these drugs are taken with alcohol and other sedatives, and that makes them exponentially more dangerous."
The danger is death.
"It slowly shuts down the respiratory system to the point where you just stop breathing," Augsten said.
Etizolam can be bought on the internet and shipped to someone in a matter of days, and for just a few dollars.
While it's not legal in the U.S., it's not federally regulated either, which is why Florida and several other states have stepped in and listed Etizolam as a controlled substance.
"That allows law enforcement to say now you're carrying something that's illegal," Augsten said. "There are different charges that could be applied to the individual and that could lead to something federally in the next year or so related to Etizolam."