In a candid interview with Gary Neville, footballer Dele Alli opened up about his recent spell in rehab after his mental health worsened.
The star revealed that he became hooked on sleeping pills to “numb” his inner turmoil. He even noted that he believes that tablet addiction is widespread among fellow players in the football industry.
Sleeping pill addiction can often fly under the radar – after all, we have to sleep every night, which could inevitably lead to consuming medication just as regularly.
Martin Preston, the addiction specialist at the private rehab clinic Delamere, explains that it is important to know the signs and symptoms of sleeping pill addiction and how to help someone you think may be struggling.
Why are sleeping pills so addictive in the first place?
Sleeping pills impact the part of our brains, known as GABA receptors, that regulate our emotions, how we feel pain, our cognitive abilities and sleep. This medication activates these receptors, helping relax the nervous system.
Many different sleeping pills work in different ways; for example, antihistamines are common over-the-counter sleeping aids which cause drowsiness and are primarily used to treat allergies. If you visit your doctor, they may prescribe you zopiclone, antidepressants or benzodiazepines. Zopiclone is particularly common and prescribed for short-term insomnia.
It is very easy to become dependent on the more relaxed state of mind that sleeping pills encourage, as they also can lessen feelings of anxiety – depending on the type you take. This could, in turn, lead to an emotional dependency.
You may also begin to feel like you cannot fall asleep without them, potentially due to your tolerance to their effects increasing and your body adapting to continuous medication. This could lead to taking the medication too regularly or consuming too much in one go.
Taking addictive medication can be habit-forming, especially when it aids with something as important as sleep. Due to this, addiction can begin without you even realising it.
Signs and symptoms
- Memory loss
- Loss of balance
- Irritability when awake
- Hallucinations – in some cases, usually when somebody takes medication to aid sleep but fights it
- A very dry mouth i.e. feeling like you cannot hydrate yourself
How can I help if someone has a sleeping pill addiction?
- Initiate a conversation and see whether your friend or relative brings up the topic themselves. This way, they are less likely to think you are prying.
- If this does not happen, confess that you have noticed changes in your friend’s behaviour. Explain that they do not seem like themselves and that you wondered whether they were doing anything differently.
- If they choose to confide in you, reassure them that there is no judgement between you – you only want to be a listening ear and help.
- It could be helpful to suggest therapy but start small, such as speaking to a therapist over the phone or on Skype.
- Depending on the level of your loved one’s addiction, you may have to suggest eventually going to rehab – but be sure to reiterate that nothing has to be done right away, as the whole process can be gradual and at a pace that suits the individual.
- Depending on how receptive your loved one is, you could gently explain that despite the fact the medication seems to be helping them sleep right now, a sleeping pill addiction could lead to worse insomnia – known as “rebound insomnia”.
- Addictions can fall upon anybody, and millions suffer from them worldwide. They are not alone in this situation.
- If the conversation turns sour or your friend shows signs of denial and resentment, leave the chat and pick it up at a different time. Your loved one must know you are not trying to force them to do anything they do not want to.
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