If you have insomnia, you might think that medication is the perfect remedy for it. You just take a pill and Voila! After a few minutes, you slip into a deep and peaceful slumber.
Nevertheless, taking sleep medication is only a short-term solution. If people take sleeping aids for a long period of time, they may develop tolerance to them or even become addicted to them.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize they are addicted to sleeping pills until they stop taking their medication. They realize they can’t sleep without them anymore or might experience withdrawal symptoms.
Before this happens, it’s important to look for signs that may indicate that the situation has gotten out of control, such as:
- Failing to quit several times
- Craving sleep medications
- Visiting more than one doctor for prescription refills
- Continuing to take pills despite negative consequences
- Experiencing memory loss
Many sleeping pills work by binding to GABA receptors in the central nervous system (CNS). The binding process slows overactive brain function and causes drowsiness, relaxation, and sleep. Many sleeping pills are know as z-drugs or z drugs because their generic names contain the letter z.
Some sleeping aids are safer and more effective than others because they only target particular GABA receptors. Some common selective GABA medications are:
Since doctors prescribe Ambien to help people sleep, some people underestimate its addictive risk. If people take it for more than two or three weeks, it may become less effective. People may be unable to break the Ambien habit because they become dependent on the pill and tolerant to it.
Sonata is a sleeping pill that is a fast-acting medication. This is why Sonata is a popular recreational drug and why others accidentally abuse it. Users rely on this pill as an instant sleeping aid. Since it is a Schedule IV drug, using it without physicians’ prescriptions is considered abuse.
Lunesta is the brand name for the anti-insomnia drug eszopiclone. People who suddenly stop using Lunesta after long-term use may experience anxiety and rebound insomnia (insomnia that worsens when people stop using medication). Such discomfort can make recovery and rehab challenging. With the right treatment program, clients may overcome such side effects.
Let one of our rehab specialists explain our Sleeping Pill Rehab:
Sleeping Pill Effects and Abuse
Even if users don’t overdose, they may experience adverse effects from long-term sleeping pill use such as sleep-induced injuries. Although performing activities while asleep might sound amusing or harmless, people have caused accidents because they drove or used appliances while they were under the influence of medication. These injuries occur because individuals are unconscious of their actions.
Some physical signs of sleeping pill overdose include:
- Extreme exhaustion: If people use sleeping pills as needed and prescribed, the pills will likely just put the users to sleep. But frequent usage could lead to an inability to differentiate between natural sleepiness from other feelings of tiredness.
- Irregularities in breathing: An individual who is suffering from an overdose might experience slow, dysfunctional breathing. Medical professionals should monitor people with this condition. If they stop breathing and lose consciousness, they should receive life-saving CPR immediately.
- Pain in the abdomen: Sleeping pill overdose may produce pain in the abdomen and other associated effects, which include constipation, appetite loss, and other conditions.
- Unexpected behavior and actions: If people are very tired, they might be clumsy and make mistakes. If people use sleeping pills heavily, they might display other unexpected behaviors, such as appearing to be drunk or performing reckless actions.
Signs of Sleeping Pill Abuse
According to NPS MedicineWise, some people, especially older people, should exercise caution in using sleeping pills because of the immediate and long-term side effects. Despite the seriousness and gravity of these conditions, many people are still not aware of the risks and potential harm of these medications.
Among the long list of dangerous side effects of sleeping medications includes sleep seizures and depressed breathing. Also, some people exhibit allergic reactions to this type of medication and may experience swelling, chest pain, nausea, and breathing problems.
In some cases, people who use sleeping pills on a regular basis develop parasomnias, sleep disorders characterized by unusual behaviors that could include sleep eating, sleepwalking, sleep driving, sleep sex, and other potentially dangerous sleep-related activities. People may perform these activities while sleeping but not remember such activities when they awaken.
Immediate threats from sleeping pill abuse include lethargy, fatigue, and coma. If not supervised properly, sleeping pill use may lead to overdoses and death.
According to New York’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), common symptoms of sleeping medication abuse include:
- Depressed, slow, and dysfunctional breathing
- Itchiness and inflammation
- Memory loss
- Parched mouth
- Unusual dreams
- Struggles with movement
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Dangers of Sleeping Pills
Writing in the New York Times, Stephanie Saul reported that many types of sleeping medications create negative effects. These effects vary depending on the drug used, the dosage taken, and how long the drugs stay in one’s system.
Common side effects include extreme fatigue and drowsiness, headaches, constipation, dizziness, and trouble focusing. Other known dangers of sleeping pills include:
- Drug interactions: If sleeping medications interact with other types of medication, dangerous side effects can occur. Mixing sedatives or prescription painkillers with sleeping pills is particularly dangerous, because using sedatives with other sedatives intensifies the effects of both.
- Sleeping pill dependence: Users might become dependent on sleeping pills. Without sleeping pills, people might experience poor sleeping patterns and might not sleep at all.
- Sleeping pill tolerance: Over a period of prolonged use, people might develop tolerance to sleep aids and feel the urge to take more and more pills to obtain the desired effect. This increased usage may lead to numerous adverse effects.
- Withdrawal symptoms: Abruptly halting sleeping medications might lead to withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, sweating, and nausea.
Common Drug Combinations
Sleeping Pills and Alcohol
If you mix alcohol with a sleeping medication, you may experience the magnified effects of both elements. Since alcohol and sleeping medications have sedative effects, mixing both can be lethal. Mixing these substances is a lethal combination because both interact on similar GABA receptors and produce similar effects on the central nervous system.
Adverse effects of mixing both substances include:
- Cardiac arrest
- Diminished functioning of the motor faculties
- Memory damage
- Slowed or difficult breathing
- Sleepwalking and other actions that can harm oneself or others
Sleeping Pills and Opiates
Opiates (drugs such morphine, heroin, codeine) and sleep aids affect the central nervous system (CNS) and slow responses from the brain. People who take opiates and sleeping pills together are increasing people’s chances for overdoses or death.
A Stanford Medicine article reported that combining sleeping aids such as benzodiazepines (benzos) and opiates can lead to an increased chances of emergency room (ER) visits or hospital admittances. Combining these two substances is dangerous and can lead to long-term health conditions.
Sleeping Pill Abuse Statistics
Statistics say that 4 percent of adults in the United States over the age of twenty used sleeping medications in the past month. Data gathered between 2009 and 2011 revealed that the rate of sleeping medication-related emergency room visits more than doubled from 22,000 in 2005 to approximately 45,000 in the succeeding years.
Many people use prescription sleeping pills to have restful sleep. Some develop addictions to such medications, but by calling Mountain Springs Recovery, they may find help.
Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.
Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.
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