There are millions of people worldwide living with a sleeping pill addiction. Sleeping pills can be useful if used in moderation; however, for those who rely on them nightly to fall asleep, it can quickly turn into abuse. Sleeping pills are available in both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription forms, with the more additive type being the latter. Regardless of how people get their hands on them, they are not intended for long-term use.
In the medical world, prescription-strength sleep aids are known as sedative-hypnotics, and they can be highly addictive when abused. It can be extremely difficult for people to abruptly stop taking them because they’ve become dependant on them to get a good night’s rest. If you try to take them away from someone you care about, it can do more harm than good. It can create withdrawal symptoms with night sweats, tossing and turning, and no sleep as well as increased side effects.
What Are Sleeping Pills?
Sleeping pills are a generic term that people use to describe both OTCs and prescription medications. Sleeping pills are known to induce, promote, and extend sleep for individuals who have trouble falling and staying asleep. They are also known as sedatives, which causes a calming effect coupled with drowsiness. Both sedative-hypnotics and OTCs come with different effects and risks.
Sedative hypnotics are generally classified into three categories:
- Melatonin: Melatonin sleeping pills like Rozerem and Ramelteon are known to exit the body quickly. They work by targeting the brain’s melatonin receptors and are less habit-forming than other types of sedative-hypnotics.
- Nonbenzodiazepines: Nonbenzodiazepines such as Lunesta, Eszopiclone, Zolpidem, and Ambien target a chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GAMA). It works by lowering the body’s nerve activity while inducing sleep. They tend to stay in the body longer than melatonin sleeping pills, but they do have a few more side effects with daytime sleepiness.
- Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines like Restoril, Ativan, and Xanax are more commonly known as Benzos. They also work much like its counterpart nonbenzodiazepines by focusing on the GAMA with one big difference. These sleeping pills are highly addictive when abused and desirable on the black market. Abuse of Benzodiazepines can cause dangerous effects when taken with other prescription painkillers.
Over-The-Counter Sleeping Pills
Most people at one time or another have tried an over-the-counter sleeping pill to help them fall asleep. These sleep aids are typically affordable and accessible in most convenient and drug stores. Most OTCs contain melatonin, which is an all-natural sleep aid, but they also contain antihistamines. Antihistamines are known to make people feel groggy and sick the following day, and tolerance to antihistamines can occur rather quickly. Therefore, causing the individual to take more sleeping pills for the same effect, which can become habit-forming and very dangerous.
Common brand names for OTCs include but are not limited to:
- Tylenol PM
- Aleve PM
- Unisom Sleep Aids
- Vicks ZzzQuil Nighttime
- Kirkland Signature Sleep Aid
- Life Extension Melatonin
Addiction and Abuse
Addiction and abuse of sleeping pills can happen to good people despite their best efforts not to abuse them. The reason why sleeping pills become so addictive? They have psychoactive properties coupled with powerful effects that can be magnified when abused or used with other medications and alcohol. The effects can be dangerous and sometimes fatal.
When doctors prescribe a sleeping pill to those living with a variety of sleeping disorders, it’s meant for short-term use only. The problem begins when people start taking more than prescribed. Once the abuse takes hold, it can be hard to stop this train.
Symptoms and Warning Signs
Being able to recognize the symptoms and warning signs of sleeping pill addiction and abuse can save someone you care about from having a stroke, heart attack, respiratory failure, or even death. Sometimes people underestimate the strong grip that sleeping pills such as Sonata or Ambien can have on someone’s life. There are specific and imminent dangers of abusing these drugs.
Common symptoms of sleeping pill abuse include:
- Unusual euphoria
- Impaired memory
- Inability to focus
- Unsteady gait
- Uncoordinated movements
- Slurred speech
Common warning signs of sleeping pill addiction include:
- Running out of prescription early
- Depressed breathing rate
- Itching and swelling
- Unusual dreams
- Memory loss
- Daytime drowsiness
- Difficulty with coordination
- Dry mouth
How Long Do Sleeping Pills Stay in Your System?
Since sleeping pills have a short half-life, they can leave your system rather quickly. Some sleep aids like Ambien can leave the body in just three hours, while others like Valium take between 20 and 80 hours.
Treatment and Rehab
Once addiction and sleeping pill abuse are evident in someone’s life? An intervention may be necessary to get them to recognize how serious this problem has become. People with any drug addiction are the hardest ones to break, and it’s a good idea to get a facilitator from the rehab center to conduct the meeting with your loved one. Treatment and rehab at this point is the best course of action to help someone who’s addicted to sleeping pills.
Withdrawal and Detox
Individuals who have become addicted to sleeping pills can experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Dependency on sleeping pills can happen within the first week of use. The withdrawal symptoms can have varying effects on different people. The time that someone may experience these withdrawals depends on the length of abuse, gender, age, the amount taken, and other factors. Professional treatment centers offer the best way to keep withdrawal symptoms from becoming overbearing by undergoing medical detox.
Taking Action to End Sleeping Pill Abuse
When the signs of sleeping pill addiction and abuse are clear and evident, it is time to take action before something more serious occurs. You should immediately contact the services of a treatment and rehab facility to help yourself or someone you love before it’s too late.