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Are you addicted to sleeping pills, like Ambien or Sonata? If so, you are not alone. The CDC reports that about 9 million U.S. adults use sleeping pills on a regular basis. Many people see these medications as harmless but keep reading to see why they are not.
What Are Sleeping Pills?
When someone has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, they may seek out a medication to help induce sleep. These drugs may be over-the-counter sleep aids or sleeping pills prescribed by a doctor.
Sleeping pills have been around in various forms since the 1950s. Each time a new drug is introduced to improve sleep there is great hope that it will be safe and effective. Over the decades, there have been barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and hypnotics used, all effective at aiding sleep. However, with prolonged use each of these drug classes has the potential for dependency, abuse, and addiction.
In recent years, the hypnotic or hypnotic-sedative class of sleep aids has become the most popular. These drugs include:
Sleeping pills are not meant to be taken on a long-term basis. Read on to learn more about these drugs, and how you can become addicted to sleeping pills with chronic use.
How Do Sleeping Pills Work?
The two types of hypnotic drugs, with or without benzos, induce sleep in slightly different ways. The benzos work by enhancing the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain at the benzo receptor sites. This causes decreased activity in the amygdala, where the brain controls the fear response, which reduces stress and increases relaxation.
The hypnotic drugs, called the “Z” drugs, also enhance GABA activity but at a different site and using a different mechanism. This action causes a drowsy effect and induces the onset of sleep.
What Causes Dependency or Addiction to Sleeping Pills?
Daily use of sleeping pills often leads to an increase in tolerance to the drug’s effects. This means that the person does not enjoy the same level of sleep enhancing effect after prolonged use. This signals that the brain has adjusted to the effects of the drug and has become less sensitive to it. A typical response is to double up the dosing.
With continued use, two things can occur dependence or addiction, if not both. Dependence happens when the body is expecting the daily dosing, and when that doesn’t happen, withdrawal symptoms ensure. Addiction occurs when the person has become psychologically needy, meaning they come to believe they must take the sleeping pills. The use of the drug then becomes compulsive.
The other scenario is when someone abuses these drugs simply for the sake of getting high. They may crush the pills and inhale the powder to feel a more potent effect, or drink alcohol with them. This can lead to a sleeping pill addiction or a poly-substance addiction.
What Are the Signs of Being Addicted to Sleeping Pills?
The signs of a sleeping pill problem may creep up slowly. Here is a list of the most common signs that a sleeping pill dependence or addiction has developed:
- Feeling drowsy the next day.
- Taking these drugs during the day.
- Rebound insomnia.
- Doctor shopping to obtain refills for the drug.
- Using the drug recreationally, such as inhaling the drug or taking with alcohol or other substances.
- Having a compulsive need to take the sleeping pills.
- Taking higher doses than prescribed.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Memory problems.
- Stealing sleeping pills from family or friends.
- Unable to cut back on the sleeping pills.
- Feel anxiety when the supply runs out.
- Experiencing mounting negative consequences, such as accidents, unexplained weight gain, or a DUI arrest.
- Having withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit taking the sleeping pills.
The Dangers of Being Addicted to Sleeping Pills
There is a multitude of risks linked to long-term sleeping pill use. The sedating effects, the habit-forming features, and many other serious problems can arise when taking sleeping pills.
Some of these risks include:
- Injuries. Sleeping pills can impair balance and lead to falls and injuries. Reaction times are also slower when taking these drugs. Head injuries, broken bones, and even death may occur due to sleeping pill-related sleepwalking or falls.
- Impaired memory. When taken over long periods, sleeping pills are known to cause memory problems during the day. The drugs have also been linked to higher rates of dementia.
- Overdose. People may not take seriously the label warnings on these meds and may drink alcohol or use other drugs. The sleeping pills already slow the central nervous system so adding alcohol can cause an overdose.
- Addiction. Long-term use of the drugs can cause the person to develop an addiction, especially to the benzos. Benzos are very difficult to get off of once dependence and/or addiction has occurred.
How to Break the Grip of Sleeping Pill Addiction
To successfully detach from chronic sleeping pill use you will need the help of an addiction treatment program. The first phase is detox, followed by a treatment program that helps you retrain your thought and behavior patterns:
- Detox. Recovery begins with detox, which can take up to 2-3 weeks in some cases. This is because the only safe way to eliminate the drug from the system is by a taper program that steps down the dosing over a period of weeks.
- Psychotherapy. Therapies like CBT, DBT, contingency management, and others are core treatment strategies for addiction recovery. You will engage one-on-one with a licensed therapist to discuss underlying issues that may be factors. Behavior choices and how to change them are also a focus of therapy.
- Group therapy. Small groups discuss topics pertaining to addiction and recovery. Group sessions encourage open and supportive discussion, which is a valuable source of peer support.
- Psychosocial skills. You will learn new coping strategies that will assist you in recovery. These become key skills to help you resist relapsing back to the use of sleeping pills. You will create your own relapse prevention strategy, which becomes a tool for managing triggers.
- 12-step groups. Recovery meetings, such as A.A., N.A., or SMART Recovery offer helpful skills to help protect the recovery.
- Holistic. Learning how to relax at bedtime is essential in recovery. To achieve this, you will engage in various holistic activities that you can also use beyond treatment. These might include yoga, mindfulness, art therapy, deep breathing, and journaling.
If you have been wondering if you are addicted to sleeping pills, chances are you could use some support. Reach out today for the help you deserve.
Rehabs Malibu Provides Treatment for Sleeping Pill Addiction
Rehabs Malibu offers a safe, supportive space for breaking free from sleeping pills. Our dedicated team is here for you. Please reach out today at (424) 425-3541.