Sleeping pills are a general term used to refer to prescription sleep tablets commonly used to help treat sleep disturbances like insomnia, as well as anxiety disorders. Some sleeping pills are even prescribed to help reduce seizures. The most common sleeping pills include Lunesta, Sonata, Ambien, and Restoril, though there are many more available as well. Even when taken appropriately, these medicines can have negative side effects. These include sleepiness, dizziness, weakness, and problems standing or walking. Some people may also have changes in their moods, headaches, vivid dreams, irritability, or problems remembering things. They also have a very high risk of addiction if they are taken for an extended period of time.
What are the Dangers of Sleeping Pills?
When someone takes a sleeping pill in any way other than it is prescribed, or uses it without a prescription, this is considered sleeping pill abuse. When sleeping pills are abused, they can create a feeling of relaxation and euphoria, or what people call a “high.” The longer someone abuses sleeping pills, the more likely they are to start crushing pills in order to inhale them or to dissolve them in water to inject them. Many people who abuse sleeping pills also end up addicted to opioids because they enhance the high that sleeping pills create. But the combination of these two medications is very dangerous, as it increases your risk of experiencing an overdose. Studies have found that the overdose rate for people who were abusing both sleeping pills and an opioid was 10 times higher than for those who were just using opioids. In fact, about 60 percent of opioid overdose deaths each year also had benzodiazepine in their system.
Signs of Addiction to Sleeping Pills
Sleeping pills are only meant to be taken for a short period of time, usually only about two weeks. If you take sleeping pills for any longer than that, you run a serious risk of becoming addicted to them. This happens because your body gets used to the dosage you are taking, so you need to take more in order to fall asleep. From there, it becomes all too easy to continue to take higher and higher doses and get wrapped up in a very serious sleeping pill addiction. If you aren’t sure whether or not you are suffering from a sleeping pill addiction, here are some signs that you can look for:
- You need larger doses in order to fall asleep.
- You take sleeping pills to intentionally get high.
- You have tried to quit but found that you couldn’t.
- You have a hard time remembering things.
- You are having trouble meeting work or school obligations.
- You are having trouble in your personal relationships.
- You often feel confused or detached or have a hard time focusing on anything.
- You have frequent or severe mood swings.
- You spend more and more time alone.
- You’ve given up activities or hobbies you used to enjoy.
- You crave sleeping pills when you aren’t taking them.
- You experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking sleeping pills.
If more than one or two of these situations applies to you, you are most likely addicted to sleeping pills. The longer you abuse sleeping pills, the worse these symptoms will become. It is important to seek help for your addiction as soon as you realize that you have a problem. Proper treatment is the key to overcoming a sleeping pill addiction.
What are the Signs of a Sleeping Pill Overdose?
People who take sleeping pills according to their doctor’s directions have little to worry about when it comes to overdosing. But if you take too large of a dose, or combine it with other drugs, you are at an increased risk of having an overdose. Some signs of sleeping pill overdose include:
- blue coloration in the fingernails or lips
- blurred vision
- difficulty breathing
- slurred speech
- unresponsiveness or weakness
The symptoms of a sleeping pill overdose can be different for each person, depending upon how much you took, whether or not you also took other drugs or drank alcohol, and how you took the pills. No matter what, if you or anyone you know shows signs of a sleeping pill overdose, it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible, as an overdose can be deadly if left untreated.
What Are The Withdrawal Symptoms From Sleeping Pills?
When you are addicted to sleeping pills, this means that your body is used to having them in your system. So if you stop taking them, you are likely to experience a number of different negative side effects, a process called withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as one to two days after you stop taking sleeping pills. The process usually happens in two to three different phases, which include:
- Early Withdrawal – During this phase, people usually experience an increase in their anxiety or insomnia symptoms. They may also experience vivid nightmares when they do sleep.
- Acute Withdrawal – This phase of withdrawal is the longest, and often the most difficult part of sleeping pill withdrawal. You may experience blurred vision, brain fog, cravings, diarrhea, hallucinations, insomnia, mood swings, nausea, problems concentrating, seizures, vomiting, and weight loss. This phase usually lasts for about five to seven days before the symptoms start tapering off.
- Protracted Withdrawal – For people with very severe or long-term addictions to certain types of sleeping pills, protracted withdrawal symptoms are a concern. These symptoms can last several months or even years in some cases. The symptoms can include prolonged anxiety, depression, insomnia, mood swings, muscle twitches, and tingling in your arms and legs. These symptoms can come and go without warning, but will eventually go away with proper treatment.
Because sleeping pill withdrawal symptoms can be so serious, it is highly recommended that you go through withdrawal at a rehab center. Rehab centers have detox programs that help to support you through the withdrawal process, making your symptoms less severe and easier to deal with. This is especially important if you are at risk of having to deal with protracted withdrawal, as without the support of a rehab center, you are far more likely to relapse in an attempt to make these symptoms go away.
How Sleeping Pill Addiction is Treated
Treatment through an inpatient residential clinic is the best way to treat this form of addiction. The first step of your recovery journey will typically be a supervised detox program, which helps the patient to stop using sleeping pills safely and avoid any withdrawal signs that might occur. Detox programs often wean you off of sleeping pills over a period of time rather than having you stop “cold turkey,” as this helps make withdrawal far less severe. After you have completed detox, the next step will be behavioral therapy. Many people find success with cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. This type of behavioral therapy allows you to get help for any underlying mental health issues, as well as dig into the reasons why you became addicted to sleeping pills. It will also give you the tools you need to manage stress and avoid your drug use triggers.
At a rehab center, you can expect to obtain the best care and support possible while undergoing treatment, to learn coping skills that will help to prevent relapse, and to get information on aftercare programs to keep you on track. Once you have completed your treatment program, you can be confident that you will be armed with all of the knowledge you need to stay happy, healthy, and drug-free.