Sleeping disorders are common among Americans, with over 50 million currently suffering from the condition. Although only four percent of adults use prescription sleeping pills to get a good night’s sleep, they are still vulnerable to becoming dependent on the drug over time.
Taking sleeping pills is meant to be a short-term solution, but it has the potential to be abused. Some tend to rely more on the drug not just to aid them to sleep or feel drowsy, but also to feel more relaxed. If unregulated, taking sleeping pills other than its intended purpose may become a harmful habit.
While others recognize the potential danger of sleeping pills dependency, others are not as informed. In such cases, they can always seek professional help from either their doctors or medical professionals who are familiar with sleeping pill abuse. Should a person’s sleeping pill addiction become worse, there are treatment centers across the country that can help treat them. This can be a nearby facility to quickly facilitate the rehab process—for example, if you live close to Florida’s west coast area, then looking into Tampa drug rehab facilities might be a good idea. Whatever the case, the best option is always to seek treatment immediately.
Most sleeping pills are classified as sedative hypnotics, which are used to induce and promote sleep. They are often prescribed for individuals suffering from insomnia and other sleep disorders like sleepless leg syndrome.
There are two types of prescription sleeping pills available in the market: benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are powerful types of drugs that directly interact with the brain’s inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutryic acid (GABA), which is a chemical responsible for calming the mind. Benzodiazepines are used to help treat anxiety and are popularly recognized as Xanax, Valium, and Ativan. While non-benzodiazepines also interact with GABA, they activate receptor sites linked to sleep. This makes them less likely to be addictive, but the possibility remains. The common non-benzodiazepines are Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata.
Just like other prescription drugs, proper knowledge on dosage and intake is needed when it comes to taking sleeping pills. Depending on the individual’s sleeping disorder, doctors may recommend that patients take sleeping pills every night for two to four weeks. In case they still need help falling asleep after this period, the suggestion is to only take it when needed.
Signs of sleeping pill abuse
Sleeping pill dependence does not automatically mean the presence of abuse, but it can lead to that. This can happen when individuals develop certain tolerance towards a drug and take more than what is prescribed just to feel its effects. Also, sleeping pills abuse is harder to spot because the symptoms are not as alarming as with other addictive drugs, but there are common signs one can watch out for, including:
- Taking a pill to fall asleep every time
- Developing a tolerance to one’s current prescribed dosage
- Increasing dosage without consulting a licensed physician
- Having trouble with stopping the use of sleeping pills
- Resisting sleep just to feel pill’s effects after taking it
- Asking several doctors for prescriptions
- Continuing to take the pill despite negative effects such as slurred speech and inability to focus
- Experiencing memory loss
Side effects of sleeping pill addiction
Most people do not realise the harm of sleeping pill abuse because the sedated feeling seems like a minor result, but long-term abuse comes with significant risks and side effects. The side effects will differ depending on the pill and the individual’s tolerance but the most common ones are:
- Dry mouth
- Appetite change
- Weight gain or loss
- Headaches and dizziness
- Diarrhoea or constipation
Harmful sleeping pill combination
The side effects of sleeping pill addiction may not seem severe, but the combination with other addictive substances or consumption in large amounts may be harmful to one’s health. In some cases, it may also result in death. Sleeping pills are meant to treat insomnia, but those who abuse it would mix it with other drugs to achieve a pleasurable effect or high. These substances are alcohol, painkillers, and antidepressants.
Reducing sleeping pill consumption
Those who want to discontinue taking sleeping pills need to discuss it with their doctors. Sudden quitting may cause rebound insomnia, which may leave the individual to experience severe insomnia for three to four days. To avoid this, some doctors suggest weaning off the drug gradually. This may take days or weeks, depending on how frequently they take sleeping pills.
For example, they may be asked to reduce the nightly prescribed dosage for a couple of weeks. This new pattern will be repeated until the individual can manage to sleep without taking the drug. On the other hand, a low dosage should be easier to handle by reducing the prescribed weekly intake by removing one night’s worth of pills and slowly progress until they become independent of the drug.
Individuals experiencing sleeping disorders may have never intended to abuse sleeping pills. However, the drug can be addictive. Like other forms of substance abuse, sleeping pill addiction can be treated. Numerous treatment centers in the country can help with substance abuse. Before making a decision, it’s best to consult a doctor and undergo a formal medical evaluation. It’s only then can they recommend the proper treatment plan.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg.
Psychreg is mainly for information purposes only; materials on this website are not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Don’t disregard professional advice or delay in seeking treatment because of what you have read on this website. Read our full disclaimer.