Not being able to go to sleep or stay asleep is a problem that plagues many people. It can become such an issue, causing anxiety, depression, irritability, poor decision-making, accidents and injuries, that people become desperate to be able to sleep soundly and without interruption. As a result, many people with insomnia or other sleep problems turn to sleep medications for help.
While some people are able to treat short-term sleeping issues with medication, many become dependent on sleeping pills. And the prevalence of use is ever increasing. In the five years from 2006 until 2011, over 38 million prescriptions for sleep medication were written. With such accessibility, it is no wonder that so many users become addicted to the medications.
Because sleep medication is prescribed by doctors, many people assume that it is safe and not addictive. Unfortunately, that just isn’t true. Consequently, many people find that after starting sleep medications they cannot sleep without their help or they need to increase the dosage to be able to sleep.
Many people don’t even realize that they have become dependent on sleeping pills until they cease taking them. Suddenly, not only can they not sleep, but they begin to suffer from withdrawal symptoms – a sure sign of addiction.
Other signs and symptoms of addiction to sleeping pills include:
- Failing to be able to quit taking the medication, even after many attempts
- Craving sleeping pills
- Continuing the medication even though they have suffered negative consequences
- Experiencing memory loss from the medication
- Doctor shopping or seeing more than one doctor for prescriptions for the medication
For many people who take sleep medication, dependency or addiction begins when they start increasing their doses to be able to sleep. Many people do this without consulting their doctor, even though they have been warned that it isn’t safe to do so.
Understanding Sleep Medication
Sleep medications are categorized as sedative-hypnotics. This category also includes barbiturates and benzodiazepines. However, sleeping pills are non-benzodiazepine hypnotics. They are also called “z-drugs” as they prompt sleep.
Although sleep medications have a different molecular makeup than benzodiazepines, they have a similar effect on the brain. They bind to the same brain receptors as benzodiazepines but are considered safer as they have fewer side effects.
Effects of Sleep Medication Abuse
Typically, doctors only prescribe sleep medication for short-term use, and only for severe cases of insomnia. The medications are fast-acting, and they are often used on an as-needed basis. Unfortunately, many people begin using the drugs anytime they have trouble falling asleep, or even when they are just worried that they aren’t going to be able to sleep. It’s also common for people with sleep medication prescriptions to take the medication when life situations cause them anxiety or stress.
When medication is used in ways other than how the doctor prescribed it, it is considered abuse. When used in higher doses, sleep medication produces the same drowsy, feel-good effects as the highly addictive benzodiazepines. They can also produce hallucinations when someone takes them and then fights the urge to fall asleep.
Other sleep medication effects include:
- Decreased anxiety
- Lack of coordination
- Dreamless sleep
Unfortunately, sleep medication abuse has escalated as people have begun to use them recreationally. They can intensify the effects of alcohol or cause similar feelings as an alcohol buzz when taken alone. They are becoming increasingly popular among young adults still living with parents whose pills can easily be stolen.
Sleep medication can affect brain function as early as taking the first dose. Over time, the brain becomes used to the effects of the medication and recovery becomes harder. It is common for people recovering from sleeping pill addiction to have “rebound insomnia,” which is a compounded insomnia that is worse than what they had before taking the medication to start. This side effect is very common and shouldn’t be used as an excuse to continue taking sleep medication. Medically supervised detox is recommended for sleep medication addiction and can help minimize insomnia and other withdrawal symptoms.
Combination of Sleep Medication with Other Drugs
Many people who take sleep medication prescriptions don’t pay attention to the warning labels that advise not to mix the medication with alcohol. Doing so can be a fatal combination. The sedative effect of sleeping pills is intensified when taken with alcohol, which increases the risk of a fatal overdose. But those with a severe addiction often use alcohol to increase the potency of sleep medication.
Other drugs commonly combined with sleep medication include:
- Opioid pain medication
Treatment for Sleep Medication Addiction
Breaking addictions from sleep medication is often difficult without professional treatment and support. Fortunately, there is help available for sleep medication addiction. Detoxing in a medical facility makes withdrawal more comfortable and safer, and inpatient or outpatient drug rehabilitation is helpful in getting people that are addicted to sleep medication on the road to recovery.
If you or a loved one is struggling with sleeping pill use or abuse, you can get help at Life of Purpose Treatment and find the way out of your addiction.
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