Signs of Sleeping Pill Abuse
Sleeping pills are classified as sedative hypnotics and are prescribed for insomnia and other sleep disorders to induce sleep. Sleeping pills are only prescribed as a short-term solution for sleep as many of them have the potential to lead to misuse, abuse and addiction. Though they do have legitimate uses, sleeping pills also come with significant risks and side effects, which many people don’t realize. Being able to recognize the signs of sleeping pill abuse can save the life of someone you care about.
Many people abusing sleeping pills experience memory and concentration problems.
Some of the signs of sleeping pill abuse include:
- Slurred speech
- Uncoordinated movements
- Unsteady gait
- Inability to focus
- Impaired memory
- Unusual euphoria
The Dangers of Sleeping Pills
Both the immediate and long-term dangers of sleeping pill abuse are enough for most people to exercise caution when using them. However, many people aren’t aware of the dangers of these medications.
The dangerous effects of sleep medications range from seizures to depressed breathing. Some people also experience allergic reactions from sleeping pills that can cause difficulty breathing, chest pain, nausea and swelling.
Though rare, people who use sleeping pills may even develop parasomnias. Parasomnias are defined as sleep disorders that include behaviors like sleep-walking, sleep-eating, sleep-sex, sleep-driving and other potentially dangerous sleep-related activities.
The immediate dangers of sleeping pills range from minor fatigue to coma. Some of these side effects can even lead to deadly overdoses, casting light on the true dangers of sleeping pills.
Common symptoms and side-effects of sleeping pill abuse include:
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty with coordination
- Daytime drowsiness
- Memory loss
- Unusual dreams
- Itching and swelling
- Depressed breathing rate
- Relying on sleeping pills every night in order to fall asleep
- Not experiencing the same effects from the same dose
- Preoccupation with bedtime in order to take medication
- Taking medication without the intent to go to sleep in order to feel euphoric effects
- Having cravings to use sleeping pills during the day
- Running out of prescription early
Those who use sleeping pills over a long period of time are likely to experience intensified side effects. As they continue taking these pills over time, the substance builds up in their body and produces unwanted side effects. These effects may include high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and depression.
One side effect of acute withdrawal from sleeping pills that most chronic users experience is “rebound insomnia,” or the resurgence of sleeping troubles once the user stops taking the drug. Rebound insomnia is most common when the user abruptly stops taking their medication (also known as quitting “cold-turkey”) or reduces their dosage. Often, this kind of insomnia is worse than the original insomnia. Rebound insomnia might even cause bizarre and disturbing dreams that can lead to panic attacks and increased anxiety upon waking.
Rebound insomnia is a withdrawal symptom from an addiction to a sleeping pill and should not be considered a reason to continue use. Rebound insomnia is often the cause of relapse for those trying to recover. This can create a dangerous cycle of abuse.
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Recognizing a Sleeping Pill Addiction
Sleeping pills pose a serious risk of physical dependence, especially when taken for longer than two weeks. Individuals often lack understanding of how quickly tolerance develops with sleeping pills, especially when someone takes an extra pill here and there. Tolerance can result in physical dependence and/or an addiction.
Many people who develop an addiction to sleeping pills have reported increasing their dose after the effects had diminished. Over time, they developed a tolerance that turned into an addiction. The first step in overcoming this powerful addiction is recognizing that there’s a problem.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders outlines the full criteria for clinically diagnosing an addiction. These criteria include behavioral, physical, and psychological symptoms that result from prolonged drug use. Those who become addicted to their sleep medication may exhibit symptoms such as:
- Needing larger doses to fall asleep
- Trying and failing to quit more than once
- Ignoring social, professional, educational, and familial obligations
- Seeming confused or frequently detached
- Isolating oneself from friends and family
- Engaging in hazardous behavior while under the influence
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
- No longer engaging in previously enjoyed activities
- Craving sleeping pills
- Having mood swings
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Intervention and Next Steps
If someone you care about exhibits the signs and symptoms of having an addiction to sleeping pills, whether it’s Lunesta, Sonata, or Ambien, it’s time to talk to them about getting help. According to research staging an intervention is one of the best ways to show an addicted person that you are on their side and that it’s okay to get help.
The goal of intervention is to get the addicted person in treatment immediately. Some families hire an intervention specialist for help managing the situation. Specialists can also help you figure out what to say to your loved one and outline consequences if they refuse to get help.
Withdrawal and Treatment
Users who have become dependent on sleeping pills will experience withdrawal symptoms when quitting, and a dependency can develop in as little as 7 days. Withdrawal symptoms can last a few weeks depending on length of use, age, gender, dosage levels, and other factors. Research shows that one of the best ways to manage withdrawal symptoms is by going through medical detox.
The severity of withdrawal symptoms varies from person to person. Symptoms include insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, irritability, excessive sweating, depression, muscle tension, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes seizures.
Rebound insomnia is also particularly hard to overcome for many people, but it can be managed through proper treatment. A trained medical professional can help you overcome your sleeping pill addiction without the symptoms of quitting “cold turkey.”
Sleeping pill addiction treatment is usually carried out in either an inpatient or an outpatient setting. Inpatient rehab, where the patient lives in a rehab facility and is under continuous medical and psychological observation is generally considered the best method for achieving and maintaining sobriety. Inpatient rehab is especially recommended for those with severe sleeping pill addictions, those who have unsuccessfully attempted rehab in the past, and those who live in an environment where drugs and alcohol are easily accessible.
Outpatient rehab does not include residential or a medical supervision components, but it does require participants to meet several times a week for a few hours each time. Outpatient rehab may be best suited to those who have already completed an inpatient program and need to readjust to normal life or to those who have professional, academic, or familial obligations that they cannot abandon. Potential patients should have a substance abuse evaluation conducted by an addiction professional to determine which level of care is appropriate for them.
If you or someone you know has a problem with sleeping pills, there is help available. Contact a treatment provider today to discuss treatment options.