Doctors typically prescribe sleeping pills to help people with insomnia. These prescription pills are sedative-hypnotic drugs that carry a risk of addiction when abused. Most people don’t develop an addiction as long as they use these drugs for a short time and follow their doctor’s instructions.
How Are These Drugs Dangerous?
Sleeping pills like Ambien (zolpidem) can effectively treat insomnia but can also cause addictive behaviors when overused. A busy life, intense stress, and mental health disorders can make a person unable to sleep. Some people have taken steps to “fix” their insomnia by using sleeping pills like Ambien. But when they take too many pills or take them in combination with other drugs, they may become addicted.
Addiction develops because the body and brain can become tolerant to many types of sleeping pills. This means that the person needs more of the drug to get the same results. Larger doses lead to dependence: the body requires the drug to function “normally.” Drug dependence makes it exceedingly difficult for a person to stop using the medications on their own.
Some common types of sleeping pills include:
- Sonata (zaleplon)
- Ambien (zolpidem)
- Lunesta (eszopiclone)
These drugs cause the same type of physical reaction as benzodiazepines do. That is, they trigger the GABA receptors in the brain, creating cravings to use the drugs repeatedly.
Signs of Sleeping Pill Addiction
It can be hard to recognize sleeping pill addiction. Some of the most common signs include:
- Seeking out more than one prescription for the medication from multiple doctors
- Feeling cravings for the drug when not taking it
- Trying but being unable to stop using the drug
- Recognizing the risks of continued use (including overdose) but continuing to take the drug
- Feeling pain, headaches, and the recurrence of insomnia when not taking them
Overuse of sleeping pills can be dangerous. Yet, once a person develops a dependence and addiction, they can rarely stop taking the medication without professional help and, in some cases, detox.
Prescription Drug Abuse and Sleeping Pills
Doctors tend to reserve sleeping pill prescriptions for those with a severe level of insomnia and to prescribe the pills for a short time only. When used properly, these drugs work quickly and tend to be very effective in providing relief.
However, these drugs do not do anything to fix the underlying cause of the insomnia. For many people, high stress, anxiety, or certain physical or mental imbalances make it very difficult to sleep. Sometimes, other medications or illnesses may also be a component of insomnia. Treating the underlying cause is still critical, especially since sleeping pills are intended for short-term relief.
Illicit Use of Sleeping Pills
Some people buy or sell sleeping pills illicitly for their effects. When used in high doses, these drugs can create hallucinations. Some people may combine the use of sleeping pills with alcohol to intensify the intoxication effect.
A person using sleeping pills consistently and/or illicitly may experience a number of health risks. Large doses, long-term use, or mixing sleeping pills with other drugs can increase the risk of health complications. Some of the likely side effects include:
- Changes in appetite
- Impairment the next day, making it hard to wake up
- Digestion problems, especially over time
- Unusual dreams
- Uncontrollable shaking
Another risk is parasomnia. This is a term used to describe strange behaviors a person engages in while sleeping. This may include walking and talking, but also eating, leaving the home, or calling people on the phone. There have even been cases of people driving vehicles while sleeping.
Additionally, those combining sleeping pills with other drugs, especially benzodiazepines or opioids, are at a high risk for overdose. These drugs can depress the function of the nervous system, reducing the beating of the heart and respiration rates. This can lead to a coma or death.
Sleeping Pill Withdrawal
A person may have a sleeping pill addiction if they have signs of withdrawal when not using them. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle aches and pains
If you are experiencing these, there is a good chance you’ve developed an addiction to sleeping pills. It may be hard to stop using them on your own. If that is what’s happening to you, reach out to our team at DK Solutions Group. We can help you analyze your situation and find the treatment you need.