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Sleeping Pill Abuse & Addiction | Side Effects, Withdrawal, & Treatment Options

bottle of sleeping pills

Sleeping pills are commonly used to help people with sleep issues, such as trouble falling asleep or difficulty sleeping through the night. 

However, though less addictive than benzodiazepines, these pills can lead to addiction or abuse if they’re taken too often or taken on a prolonged basis. If sleeping pill addiction occurs, it’s important to get help from a professional rehab program.

What Are Sleeping Pills?

Sleeping pills are medications that can help you if you have insomnia or other sleep issues. Some of these pills help you get to sleep, while others help you stay asleep. Prescription sleeping pills, as well as over-the-counter options, are available.

Sleeping pills are known as sedative-hypnotics because they promote sleep and produce effects of drowsiness. These sleep aid medications can easily become addictive, especially if you take them on a long-term basis.

Other things you should know about sleeping pills include:

  • Several types of sleeping pills are prescribed for sleep problems, including Ambien (zolpidem), Lunesta (eszopiclone), and Sonata (zaleplon).
  • Sleeping pills can cause several side effects, such as oversleeping, feeling too drowsy to drive safely in the morning, sleepwalking, or being too sleepy to do normal work tasks. 
  • Some sleep medications cause people to engage in hazardous activities that they have no memory of when they wake up the next day.
  • Although some sleep aids are benzodiazepines, the common brand names listed on this page are a class of drugs called nonbenzodiazepines.

Ambien (Zolpidem)

You could receive a prescription for Ambien if you need short-term treatment for trouble sleeping. Because of potential side effects, including memory problems and substance abuse, Ambien is only recommended if behavioral changes aren’t sufficient for improving sleep.

Learn more about Ambien Abuse & Addiction

Lunesta (Eszopiclone)

Lunesta use comes with side effects like dizziness, nausea, and dry mouth. Physical dependence can be an issue, which means withdrawal symptoms may occur if your dose is decreased or abruptly stopped.

Learn more about Lunesta Abuse & Addiction

Sonata (Zaleplon)

Sonata or zaleplon is one the more commonly prescribed “z-drugs” for dealing with sleeping problems. This medication can produce sedative effects that last into the next day, which gives clinicians pause for recommending this prescription sleep aid.

Learn more about Sonata Abuse & Addiction

Sleeping Pill Use Statistics

A survey found that between 2005 and 2010, roughly four percent of adults in the United States aged 20 and up used prescription sleeping pills.

Some other facts include: 

  • In general, women tended to use sleeping pills more often than men. 
  • Roughly five percent of women used sleeping pills compared to three percent of men.
  • Around one out of six adults with a formal sleep disorder diagnosis used sleeping pills, while one out of eight adults with trouble sleeping engaged in sleep aid use.

Side Effects Of Sleeping Pill Addiction

Since sleeping pills can become addictive, you should make sure that you can identify possible signs of addiction. This can help you know when to access treatment for yourself or a loved one. 

Consider signs of sleeping pill addiction:

  • requiring bigger doses in order to be able to fall asleep
  • becoming isolated from your loved ones while continuing to use sleeping pills
  • craving sleeping pills if you try to go without them
  • attempting to stop using sleeping pills unsuccessfully
  • behaving in unsafe ways while you’re under the influence of sleeping pills
  • running out of your sleeping pill prescription early due to taking larger dosages
  • taking sleeping pills without any intention of going to sleep, such as taking them during the day

Additional side effects of sleeping pill abuse may include:

  • mood swings
  • confusion
  • feeling drowsy during the day
  • memory loss
  • trouble with coordination
  • lightheadedness

Sleeping Pill Overdose

Sleeping pill overdoses can occur when you take high doses or mix the medication with other central nervous system depressants like Xanax, barbiturates, opioids, or alcohol. 

Overdoses can quickly become fatal. If you or a loved one experience signs of a sleeping pill overdose, seek medical care immediately.

 Symptoms of a sleeping pill overdose may include:

  • excessive sleepiness or lethargy
  • pain in the abdominal area
  • breathing problems, such as slowed breathing
  • unusual behaviors, such as extreme clumsiness

Sleeping Pill Withdrawal Symptoms & Detox

If you try to deal with a sleeping pill addiction by suddenly stopping the use of these medications, you can expect to go through withdrawal. Your body isn’t used to being without sleeping pills and will need time to adjust to this abrupt change. 

Sleeping pill withdrawal symptoms can be severe or mild depending on different factors, and may include:

  • panic attacks
  • tense muscles
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sweating excessively
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • seizures
  • depression

With some symptoms being severe, you should look for a medical detox program for sleeping pill addiction. Being in one of these programs means you’ll have medical care available if you experience serious symptoms. 

You’ll also get emotional care and support as you get through the withdrawal phase. After you go through detox, you can enter an addiction treatment program.

Sleeping Pill Addiction Treatment Options

Sleeping pill addiction can be hard to recover from without help. A professional rehab program that targets this kind of addiction can help you overcome it and form healthier day-to-day habits. 

Some of the rehab options that are offered for sleeping pill addiction may include:

Behavioral Therapy

Going through behavioral therapy helps you better understand the thought patterns and behaviors that occur when substance use becomes a problem. You’ll also learn how you can change these behaviors and thoughts, so you can improve your overall mental health. 

Residential/Inpatient Treatment

If you have a severe sleeping pill addiction, residential or inpatient treatment can give you a safe and effective way to overcome it. These programs have people stay in secure rehab centers and follow a daily schedule that includes therapy and other treatment approaches.

Outpatient Treatment

If you have a mild sleeping pill addiction, you might find effective help with outpatient treatment. These programs include individual therapy or group therapy, which take place a few times or more every week.

If you or a loved one need help for sleeping pill addiction, contact us today to learn more about our treatment options.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Prescription Sleep Aid Use Among Adults: United States, 2005 to 2010
Cleveland Clinic - Sleeping Pills
Drug Enforcement Administration - Drug Fact Sheet: Depressants
Mayo Clinic - Prescription Sleeping Pills: What's Right for You?

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