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Article Summary

Sleeping Pill Addiction

Even though some people can treat insomnia successfully in the short term using sleeping pills, many more end up developing an addiction to them. According to recent statistics, doctors wrote close to 38 million prescriptions for common sleeping pills like Ambien from 2006 to 2011 - numbers that show just how dangerous the sleeping pill addiction problem has become in the United States.

With growing accessibility to these drugs - as well as the developing perception that these medications are blessings from the medical community - it is now surprising that so many Americans have been falling prey to the all-consuming power of sleeping pill abuse and addiction.

Today, many assume - and wrongly so - that it is impossible to develop an addiction to these sleeping aid medications. Some people also claim that they got the information from certified doctors.

However, the truth is that abusing sleeping pills and developing an addiction to them can cause to lose your sleep unless you use the tablets. At some point, you might also find that you have to increase your usual dose to get any sleep at all.

Understanding Sleeping Pills

But what exactly are sleeping pills? Essentially, these are medications that are classified as sedative hypnotics. Sedative-hypnotics is a category of drugs that includes benzodiazepines (such as Xanax) and barbiturates).

However, sleeping pills are unlike other substances in this category of drugs in the sense that they are non-benzodiazepines. Due to their ability to induce sleep, they are also known as Z-drugs.

The most common drugs in this category of medications include:

  • Ambien (zolpidem)
  • Amytal
  • Lunesta (eszopiclone)
  • Sonata (zaleplon)
  • Tramadol

Even though most of these non-benzodiazepine drugs come with different molecular structures, they are similar in the way that they have the same effects. They work by binding to the same receptors in the brain (GABA) as benzodiazepines. However, they have fewer adverse side effects - which is why they are effective as sleeping pills.

Sleeping Pill Abuse And Addiction

Most people will not realize that they are addicted to sleeping pills until they stop using these medications. At this point, they will start experiencing a variety of withdrawal symptoms - one of the telltale signs of ongoing addiction and dependence.

Other signs and symptoms that your sleeping pill abuse has been getting out of hand include but are not limited to:

  • Continuing to abuse sleeping pills even if they have been causing negative consequences in your life
  • Experiencing intense cravings for these medications
  • Suffering memory loss on a frequent basis as a result of using sleeping pills
  • Finding that you have to see multiple doctors to get a prescription for sleeping pills
  • Trying to quit several times but being unsuccessful every time

For many people, sleeping pill addiction will start when they find that they have to up their doses to experience the beneficial effects of these drugs. This will often happen without the express instructions of a physician.

At this point, the user might find that sleep no longer comes as easily as it used to or frequently gets interrupted. As a direct result, they may start taking more of the sleep medications than their doctor prescribed.

In many cases, this will still occur even if the guide in the medication has clear instructions that ask patients to use the products exactly as their doctor prescribed to them.

Sleeping Pill Abuse And Effects

Many doctors will only prescribe sleeping pills for use in the short term. These drugs are effective in cases of severe sleeplessness and insomnia. However, they are not usually provided on a strict dosage regimen. Additionally, sleeping pills are fast-acting, and you might be asked only to use them on an as-needed basis.

Even so, you might find yourself starting to use these drugs every time you have problems falling asleep. Alternatively, you could begin to abuse them whenever you feel anxious about something in your life.

If you use sedatives by taking them in ways that your doctor did not recommend or prescribed, then you could be said to be engaging in sleeping pill abuse - a problem that is highly likely to lead to chemical dependence and addiction.

In high doses, these drugs are also dangerous. This is in the sense that they can produce the same feel good and drowsy effects as other highly addictive substances - including benzodiazepines.

Additionally, using, misusing, and abusing sleeping pills has also been known to create hallucinatory effects. This is when you start taking the drugs while still fighting your urge to fall asleep.

In other instances, sleeping pills can also cause different effects, including but not limited to:

  • Dizziness
  • Dreamless sleep
  • Hallucinations
  • Lack of coordination
  • Lightheadedness
  • Reduced anxiety

In the recent past, students in high schools and college have also been abusing sleeping pills. This is because of the sometimes pleasurable effects that these drugs cause.

In many cases, this happens because sleeping pills often exacerbate the pleasurable effects of alcohol. In other cases, they can cause similar feelings and experiences. The problem has been ongoing because most young people - especially those who are still at home or can access the medicine cabinet of someone with a sleeping pill prescription - can get these medications easily.

Irrespective of how you abuse sleeping pills, it is important to note that their effects on the brain - as well as on how it functions - might become manifest easily. This could be as soon as you abuse these drugs for the first time in your life.

In the long run, your brain may start becoming accustomed to the pleasurable effects of these drugs. As such, recovery from ongoing sleeping pill addiction will get harder with every instance of abuse.

Additionally, many recovering addicts who were dependent on sleeping pills might suffer from rebound insomnia. This is described as compounded insomnia and sleeplessness that is often worse than what you used to experience before your doctor prescribed sleep medication.

This side effect is quite common. However, you should never use it as the reason why you are still abusing sleeping pills. Instead, you would be better off checking into a medically assisted detox program. Through the detoxification services you will receive, it is highly likely that you could potentially minimize this symptom of withdrawal - as well as any other that may show up.

Common Drug Interactions And Combinations

Most people who receive a prescription for sleeping pills do not follow the warning bottles that are on their medicine bottles. These warnings advise users against combining sleeping pills with any other drugs - alcohol in particular. This is because taking sleeping pills with alcohol is usually a deadly combination.

To be more specific, sleep medications come with sedative effects. When you drink alcohol while on these drugs, these effects will be greatly amplified - which could potentially increase your risk of suffering an overdose.

Unfortunately, those who struggle with concurrent tolerance and sleeping pill addiction might start taking alcohol at the same time. This is because they will be looking to bump up the effects and potency of these medications.

However, some people might also combine sleeping pills with many other intoxicating and mind-altering substances, including but not limited to:

  • Antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Painkillers

Warning Signs And Symptoms

In many cases, sleeping pill addiction tends to creep up unexpectedly on unsuspecting victims. There are many different negative effects and some dangerous withdrawal symptoms that this form of substance addiction comes with.

Your ability to recognize some of the common signs and symptoms of sleeping pill abuse and addiction can potentially save your life - or that of anyone who has been misusing these medications.

Additionally, it is important that you never underestimate the often powerful grip of sleeping pills as well as the dangers that might arise when you decide to start abusing these medications.

The following are some of the signs and symptoms of sleeping pill addiction and abuse:

  • Concentration problems
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Depressed breathing rate
  • Difficulty with coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Inability to focus
  • Itching
  • Lightheadedness
  • Memory problems
  • Slurred speech
  • Swelling
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Unsteady gait
  • Unusual dreams
  • Unusual euphoria

Both the short and the long-term dangers of abusing sleeping pills should be enough to caution you about how you use these drugs. However, many people might not be aware of all the risks that these medications pose.

Some of the dangerous effects that might arise as a result of using sleeping pills in any way other than your doctor recommended and prescribed include:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Chest pain
  • Coma
  • Deadly overdoses
  • Depressed breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Parasomnias, or a sleep disorder that includes behaviors like sleep driving, sleep eating, sleep sex, and sleepwalking among other dangerous activates related to sleep
  • Seizures
  • Swelling

If you have been abusing sleeping pills for a long period, it is highly likely that these side effects might become intensified. As you continue abusing these drugs over time, they will keep building up in your body. As a direct result, you may suffer addiction unwanted side effects. These effects include depression, irregular heartbeat, and high blood pressure - among many others.

Rebound Insomnia And Withdrawal Symptoms

Another side effect that you might experience as a result of abusing sleeping pills chronically is rebound insomnia. This refers to the resurgence of any sleeping problems that you were experiencing before your doctor prescribed sleeping medications. In many cases, rebound insomnia is often worse than the other sleeping trouble you used to suffer. It might even be accompanied by disturbing and bizarre dreams that could cause increased anxiety and panic attacks when you wake up.

In many cases, rebound insomnia is considered to be one of the symptoms of withdrawal that you will experience if you are addicted to sleeping pills. However, you should not use it as your primary reason for continued use of these medications.

If you check into an addiction treatment and rehabilitation facility, it is also highly likely that rebound insomnia might be the reason that you relapse back to your old drug abuse habits. This is dangerous because it might lead to a vicious cycle of substance abuse.

Some of the other withdrawal symptoms that arise as a result of abusing sleeping pills include:

  • Anxiety
  • Body spasms
  • Confusion
  • Delirium
  • Depression
  • Drug cravings
  • Hallucinations
  • Hand tremors
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

Understanding Sleeping Pill Addiction

Abusing sleeping pills comes with a serious threat of tolerance and dependence. This problem has been growing in the past few years because these medications are, and many people end up abusing them as a result.

If you use these drugs in any way other than your doctor recommended, it is highly likely that you will increase your dose every time the effects of the medication diminishes.

With time, you may develop tolerance to the drug because your body will get accustomed to it. This means that you will have to take more pills to achieve the pleasurable and therapeutic effects that you desire. Over time, this could lead to addiction - which you will only be able to overcome once you realize that you have a problem with these drugs.

According to the DSM (abbreviation for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), there are some criteria that you have to meet to receive a clinical diagnosis for an addiction to substances like sleeping pills. These criteria include physical and behavioral symptoms that will arise as a result of problematic and prolonged substance abuse.

If you are addicted to sleeping medications, therefore, it is highly likely that you will exhibit any or all of the symptoms listed below:

  • You could seem confused and detached on a regular basis
  • You may find that you are increasingly ignoring your familial, professional, and social obligations so that you can abuse sleeping pills
  • You will find that you have to take larger doses of the drugs to fall asleep
  • You will try to quit and fail in your endeavors at least once

Next Steps

If you exhibit any of the signs and symptoms of sleeping pill addiction, it is advisable that you talk to your doctor and consider getting help for the problem. Alternatively, check into a drug treatment and rehabilitation facility - where you will benefit from a wide variety of addiction treatment services like medical detoxification and behavioral therapy and counseling. In the long run, you might even be able to overcome your addiction and start leading a drug-free lifestyle.

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