New sleeping medicine, Etizolam, found in southern border provinces

The Medical Science Department has found for the first time Etizolam, an effective anti-anxiety medicine that is similar to benzodiazepine class of medicines, in three southern border provinces during September and October.

Medical Science Department chief Dr Sukhum Kanchanapimai said Monday that ten samples of the new sleeping medicine which were seized by police in Narathiwat and Yala provinces were sent to the lab of the Medical Science Centre for tests.

Etizolam which is known by its street name as Erimin 5 or Happy 5 was manufactured by Sumitomo in Japan. An intermediate-acting hypnotic drug, it was first synthesized in 1962 by a team of Hoffman La Roche. But since early November 2015, it has ceased to be manufactured in Japan.

Erimin 5 was prescribed for the short-term treatment of patients with severe insomnia, but in recent times, patients have been prescribed with other hypnotics like Etizolam.

Erimin 5 is most popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. It is known on the street as Happy 5.

The medicine is not available for sale in Thailand because it is not registered, said Dr Sukhum, adding that it is used in Japan, Italy and India for the treatment of anxiety, depression or insomnia.

Because of its serious side effects, restrictions were imposed for the use of the medicine in Denmark, Germany and the US.