Sleeping Pill Addiction Dangers & Treatment

Sleeping pills addiction
Sleeping pills addiction

More and more people are turning to sleeping pills to get a good night's sleep in recent years. These medications are categorized as sedative-hypnotics that induce sleep and are typically prescribed to treat sleep disorders, such as insomnia. But did you know sleeping pills are addictive or habit-forming in nature, and long-term use can lead to dependency? Read on to learn more about the signs, dangers, and treatment of sleeping pill addiction.

What Is A Sleeping Pill Addiction?

Sleeping pills are employed as short-term sleep aids. However, owing to the psychoactive properties of prescribed sleeping pills, these drugs have the potential for abuse. In order to understand sleeping pill addiction, first, let's take a look at how sleeping pills work. These drugs are designed to induce drowsiness. They affect GABA receptors – the part of the brain that controls the ability to focus and relax.

The medication acts by working on the receptors to slow down the nervous system. Extended or overuse can cause changes in the brain. As a result, the drug poses a serious physical dependence, especially when taken for several weeks. Most people lack the understanding of just how quickly tolerance develops with sleeping pills, especially when the medicine is taken in more than the prescribed dosage. For some individuals, tolerance may develop within two weeks or even less. Tolerance eventually leads to physical dependence.

People who struggle with sleeping pill addiction often report increasing the initial dose after the effects diminish. That's how sleeping pill addiction starts for a majority of people. On the other hand, some people, usually youngsters, take sleeping pills for recreational purposes to achieve a 'high' state. Even occasional instances of such drug abuse can lead to sleeping pill addiction.   

Either way, it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of sleeping pill addiction and take appropriate actions to avoid the damaging and even life-threatening effects of sleeping pill addiction.

Potential Side Effects & Dangers

Sleeping pills present significant risks and side effects. Some common side effects of sleeping pills include impaired memory, weakness, dizziness, headaches, diarrhea, constipation, lightheadedness, dry mouth, and a change in appetite. These side effects are generally short-lived and tend to go away on their own as the sleeping pill wears off.

The use of sleeping pills is also linked to a higher risk of falls and injuries. This is particularly true for seniors who take sleeping pills to address sleeplessness or other sleeping issues. Moreover, studies on sleeping pills have revealed shocking side effects of sleeping pills for drivers. People who regularly take sleeping pills are two times more likely to get into a car crash than those who do not take sleeping pills.

Dangers of Sleeping Pill Addiction

Sleeping pills also have long-term side effects. The biggest downfall to these drugs is sleeping pill addiction. Owing to the physical or emotional dependency on the pill, individuals struggling with sleeping pill addiction may find it difficult to sleep without taking the pill. Furthermore, withdrawal symptoms, such as rebound insomnia, are typically severe and painful.

Rebound insomnia is another possibility with the cessation of the pill. It typically occurs when the user stops the medication or reduces the dosage. In most cases, rebound insomnia is more severe as compared to original insomnia. It may also cause bizarre dreams and increase the risk of experiencing anxiety or panic attacks. It is important to understand that rebound insomnia is a withdrawal symptom of sleeping pill addiction. It should not be considered as a reason to continue the usage of sleeping pills; otherwise, a vicious cycle of abuse may be formed.

Another major risk associated with sleeping pill addiction is overdose. As tolerance develops, individuals with sleeping pill addiction tend to increase the dosage, increasing the risk of overdose. Mixing sleeping pills with other drugs, like painkillers, antidepressants, and benzodiazepines, is also dangerous.

 Similarly, taking sleeping pills like Ambien with alcohol can be a deadly combination as the sedative effect of the sleeping pill is amplified when taken with alcohol. Unfortunately, people with severe addiction and increased tolerance often mix pills with drugs and alcohol to increase the potency, increasing the risk of a fatal overdose. Consequently, sleeping pill overdose results in thousands of ER visits every year.        

Much like any other kind of addiction, a sleeping pill addiction impacts the social life and decreases the overall quality of life. People struggling with sleeping pill addiction may find themselves losing focus or concentration. Personal relationships and work performance may take a hit, creating a downward spiral.

Symptoms of Sleeping Pill Addiction

A woman sleeping in bed

The first step towards recovery involves identifying the problem. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes the full criteria for diagnosing addiction clinically. It includes physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms that are associated with the extended use of drugs. Here are some common signs and symptoms of sleeping pill addiction.

  • High Tolerance: People struggling with sleeping pill addiction require larger doses of the medication to fall asleep.  
  • Inability to Quit: One of the biggest signs of dependency is the inability to quit. If you or someone you know have tried and failed to quit sleeping pills more than once, it may be a sign of sleeping pill addiction.
  • Confused and Detached: Confusion and detachment are common symptoms of drug abuse, including sleeping pill addiction. They may also ignore professional, educational, or familial obligations.
  • Lack of Interest: An individual struggling with sleeping pill addiction may no longer engage in activities that they previously enjoyed. The lack of interest in anything but the high state induced by the drugs may be a sign of an addiction.
  • Craving the Pills: Sleeping pills are medications used to treat sleep disorders. However, craving the pill with or without reason at any time may be indicative of a sleeping pill addiction.  
  • Mood Swings: Severe mood swings, particularly associated with the use of sleeping pills, may be a sign of sleeping pill addiction. Individuals who experience a sudden uplift in the mood after taking the pill may have a sleeping pill addiction.
  • Continued Use: Sleeping pills are prescribed for short-term use. Continuing to take the pill after several weeks despite understanding and experiencing the negative consequences could be a sign of sleeping pill addiction.
  • Frequent Memory Loss: Memory loss or fuzzy memory is a side effect of sleeping pills, but it can also be a sign of sleeping pill addiction, especially if frequent episodes of memory loss occur following increased dosages.
  • Doctor Shopping: It entails seeing multiple doctors for the same illness. Individuals struggling with sleeping pill addiction tend to see multiple doctors to procure multiple prescriptions for sleeping pills.
  • Risky Behavior: Most doctors recommend taking sleeping pills before going to bed. However, people with sleeping pill addiction often tend to take sleeping pills at odd times during the day and engage in risky behavior such as driving.

If you or someone you know are experiencing these signs and symptoms, reach out for help at once. It is important to understand that sleeping pill addiction is a serious problem that can land people in all kinds of troubles. Fortunately, help is available for people with sleeping pill addiction. With love, care, support, and a proper treatment plan, it is possible to defeat the addiction and return back to a healthy lifestyle.    

Common Treatments for Sleeping Pill Addiction

Addiction treatment
A woman smiling

The symptoms of a sleeping pill addiction are not always apparent while the individual continues to take the pill. Most people realize the magnitude of the problem once they try to stop using the pill. Breaking dependence on medication can be challenging, both mentally and physically.

It may require a lot of patience, support, and determination to overcome the addiction. Let's take a look at some common approaches employed to eliminate a sleeping pill addiction.  

  • Tapering – Gradual Dose Reduction

Tapering can be defined as the reduction in dose with or without alternative medication. The best way to treat a sleeping pill addiction is to gradually reduce the dose under a doctor's guidance. This approach works better than going "cold turkey" or quitting the drugs at once.

A gradual decrease in the dose works especially well for people who have been using sleeping pills for a long time or in high dosage. As discussed above, sleeping pills can cause changes in the brain. Consequently, it takes a gradual process to reverse these changes and decrease the dependency on the pill. The goal is to reduce the dependency until it is safe to stop using the drugs altogether. While it can take several months to eliminate the problem completely with a gradual decrease in dose, it is generally deemed as the safer alternative with less chance of relapse.    

On the other hand, going cold turkey might also work for some people, especially those who are still in the early stages of developing a sleeping pill addiction. However, it also poses the threat of severe withdrawal symptoms, such as rebound insomnia.

Considering everything, it is best to consult your doctor to come up with a strategy that works best for you, depending on your individual circumstances. Your doctor may also suggest alternative medicines to counter the withdrawal symptoms and cravings. People with a severe sleeping pill addiction may also require inpatient rehab.  

  • Therapeutic Support – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be tremendously helpful when it comes to treating sleeping pill addiction. The therapy involves efforts to change the thinking pattern and teach healthy coping mechanisms to people struggling with a range of problems, including addiction. It can help people address problematic feelings and thoughts.

For example, CBT can be employed to teach how to control or respond to cravings. It can also be employed to teach healthy sleep habits to without the use of the pills. You can think of CBT as a multifaceted approach that works on several levels to help and support individuals struggling with sleeping pill addiction.

  • Ongoing Recovery and Relapse Prevention

Relapse is a very real possibility with any addiction treatment. External triggers and life problems, such as unemployment, financial issues, or relationship problems, can spark a relapse. Therefore, ongoing treatments and relapse prevention are always recommended after rehab or recovery.

It generally involves the help of a loved one or a counselor who can keep track of the individual and offer support when required. Support groups and counseling is also an excellent way to avoid a relapse. These preventative measures create an environment that can help cope with external problems without seeking comfort in self-destructive outlets that can lead back to addiction.  

The Bottom Line

The importance of a good night's sleep cannot be emphasized enough. It is incredibly important for your health and overall wellbeing. However, overmedicating with sleeping pills to achieve a restful sleep or replacing insomnia with a sleeping pill addiction is never an option. So, even if your doctor prescribes you sleeping pills to treat sleeping disorders, make sure you use the pills responsibly and follow the dosage instruction to the tee.

However, sleeping pill addiction can sneak up on people. If you or someone you know is already struggling with a sleeping pill addiction, you can always reach out for help. It is advisable to work with professionals to develop a safe and effective recovery plan geared towards getting rid of the sleeping pill addiction and minimizing the likelihood of a relapse.Remember, early intervention is the key. The earlier you address the problem, the better it is. The Coastline Behavioral Center is here to help! Get in touch with our team today to discuss different treatment options.

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