Lunesta Addiction

Lunesta Addiction

Lunesta Addiction

Lunesta AddictionOne in three Americans tell researchers they have trouble sleeping, and one in four say they are using a prescription or over-the-counter drug to get to sleep. Doctors prescribed sleeping pills over 60 million times in 2011, up from 47 million just five years before. Although sleep disorders are typically associated with the elderly, demand for sleep aids among adults ages 20 to 44 years old doubled between 2000 and 2004, and the biggest increases have come among those ten to 19 years old.

Part of the reason for the increased demand for sleeping pills is the introduction of two new drugs, Ambien and Lunesta, that have been heavily promoted as safer and less addictive than older ones. When Lunesta was introduced in 2004, its manufacturer spent the equivalent of McDonald’s annual advertising budget to promote it in exquisite television advertisements featuring a beautiful Luna moth flying over a sleeping woman. The next year Lunesta’s advertising costs grew to over $185 million, but sales were over $330 million. Lunesta had made over $950 million for its manufacturer by 2009. In the first nine months of 2012, sales of Lunesta amounted to $550 million and it ranked 83 out of the top 100 prescription drugs in America.

Yet many doctors specializing in sleep disorders do not prescribe Lunesta or other sleeping pills to their patients. They believe these drugs are not particularly effective in the short-run and do not work at all in the long-run. Lunesta and such drugs can pose significant risks to some patients. They are addictive, can worsen depression, increase suicidal thoughts, cause some people to sleep-walk and even sleep-drive, and may even increase a person’s risk for cancer. Sleep experts also know that insomnia can often be a symptom that something else is wrong, and sleeping pills can just be a way of covering up a serious psychiatric or physical problem that needs immediate treatment.

What Is Lunesta?

Lunesta is the trademarked name of a sleeping pill first marketed by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals in 2004. Sunovion advertises Lunesta as “the number one branded prescribed sleep aid” in the United States today based on the number of prescriptions for brand-name, non-generic sleeping pills.

The active ingredient in Lunesta is eszopiclone, a drug that depresses the central nervous system. Lunesta targets the same brain networks the way anti-anxiety drugs called benzodiazepines do. Lunesta and benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium slow down the central nervous system and brain activity by enhancing a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA. In terms of how much the central nervous system slows down, six to 12 milligrams of Lunesta equal 20 milligrams of diazepam (Valium). Lunesta is classified as a sedative.

The makers of Lunesta initially spent $60 million to promote the drug as a breakthrough product , calling it the first sleeping pill that could be prescribed long-term and the only one “approved to help you fall and stay asleep.” Despite such claims, most medical authorities consider Lunesta to be very similar to Ambien (zolpidem), which was already on the market, and identical to zopiclone. The Europe Medicines Agency did not approve Sunovion’s application for its eszopiclone product to be sold in Europe because the Agency considered it identical to zopiclone, which was already being sold.

The United States government classifies Lunesta as a Schedule IV Controlled Substance, which means it has potential for addiction and is available legally only by prescription. Most benzodiazepines are Schedule IV. If you are caught possessing, selling or otherwise dealing in Lunesta, you can face criminal charges for a felony, resulting in heavy fines and prison sentences.

The chemical name for eszopiclone is (S)-6-(5-Chloro-2-pyridinyl)- 7-oxo- 6,7-dihydro- 5H-pyrrolo[3,4-b]pyrazin-5-yl- 4-methyl- 1-piperazinecarboxylate.

What Are The Medical Uses Of Lunesta?

Lunesta is prescribed for insomnia. The manufacturer recommends that people take Lunesta for no more than seven to ten days, although it advertises the drug as the first sleeping pill for “long-term” use. The drug was the first one to be tested for six months or more, and found to be effective at a 3mg dose even after six months of use. The makers claim that “the majority of people in the studies fell asleep quickly and stayed asleep for seven hours.” These and other trials performed by the drug’s manufacturer also found that patients did not build up a tolerance to Lunesta after six months of use. During these experiments, 13% of those taking Lunesta discontinued the drug, but their adverse reactions to the drug were not counted in the results.

A study from Oregon State University found that Lunesta was not much more effective than generic Ambien or the older benzodiazepines, and it was much more expensive (almost $4 a Lunesta pill compared to 45 cents for generic Ambien). A major study published in the December 2012 British Medical Journal found that half of the benefits of non-benzodiazepine sleeping pills could be attributed to the placebo effect and that the drugs are of “questionable clinical importance.” Earlier studies found that Lunesta decreased the time it takes to fall asleep by 15 minutes compared to a placebo, and increased the minutes sleeping by 37 minutes or to an average of six hours, 22 minutes. Some researchers believe that people taking these sleeping pills rate them high because they develop “retrograde amnesia” under their influence. They simply do not remember how long they tossed and turned before they got to sleep.

Lunesta comes as round film-coated tablets. The1mg are light blue, the 2mg are white, and the 3mg are dark blue. The usual dose is 2mg for adults, and 1mg for elderly patients. You take Lunesta before you go to bed and only if you can remain in your bed for eight hours. Even small amounts of food can interfere with the effectiveness of Lunesta. It should never be taken with alcohol.

What Are The Side Effects Of Lunesta?

The most common side effects are severe headache and an unpleasant taste in the mouth, reported by 34%. Some people wake up feeling “hung over” -“woozy,” drowsy, and nauseous. Other common side effects can be cough, hoarseness, fever, dizziness, lower back or side pain, painful urination, flu symptoms, and fatigue. The following side effects have also been reported, but they are rare: belching, heartburn, nausea, stomach upset, diarrhea, heavy menstrual periods, vomiting, problems with memory, and rashes.

Rare but more dangerous side effects can be sleepwalking, aggression, agitation, hallucinations, confusion, and a worsening of depression. You should discontinue Lunesta if you experience suicidal thoughts or hallucinations.

What Are The Dangers Of Taking Lunesta?

The main dangers of taking Lunesta are its potential for addiction, performing activities while asleep, severe allergic reactions, and overlooking the underlying cause of your insomnia, which could be a serious psychiatric or physical condition.

Since Lunesta is a relatively new drug, not much has been written about its potential for addiction and physical and psychological dependency. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency does classify Lunesta as a controlled substance, and it is on the National Institute of Drug Abuse’s list of abused central nervous system depressants. The DEA lists similar sleeping pills that have been around longer like Ambien as drugs of diversion, i.e., they are being diverted from medical purposes for recreational use and/or to people addicted to them. A government survey found that two percent of American children have experimented with sleeping pills recreationally, and the number of emergency room visits for sleeping pills doubled between 2004 and 2008. Lunesta is no doubt being diverted in similar ways, and it is easily available illegally through Internet pharmacies. Like all addictive drugs, Lunesta can cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it.

In 2012 Dr. Daniel Kripke wrote that he was “pretty startled by his findings” in his extensive research study of sleeping pills. He and his colleagues found that people who took the prescription sleeping pills were five times more likely to die within the next 30 months compared to those who did not take the drugs. Similar studies with similar results had already been published in Sweden in 2009, Norway in 2007, and in Canada in 2010. Dr. Kripke offered several explanations for the increased mortality rates in his article published in the British Medical Journal. First, he believes that people who take sleeping pills are simply not as healthy as those who do not. Secondly, since he and other researchers found a link between increased cancer rates and insomnia, Dr. Kripke believes that drugs like Lunesta could worsen depression or damage DNA, increasing a person’s risk for cancer. Studies on laboratory animals showed an increase in cancerous tumors and decreased fertility among animals who had taken very high dosages of Lunesta over a period of two years.

When Lunesta was first introduced as a remedy for “long-term” insomnia, some experts questioned the premise. Dr. Gregg Jacobs, a professor of psychiatry specializing in sleep disorders at Harvard Medical School, said, “The rationale for marketing a sleeping pill for long-term use is not only premature but questionable and probably inappropriate.” The reason is that research from Dr. Kripke and others indicates that insomnia may be a symptom of a serious condition. Dr. Judith Owens, director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, has said that you don’t just give people painkillers without finding the source of their pain, and “insomnia is just a symptom like pain.” The danger of using sleeping pills for more than two weeks is that a serious psychiatric or psychological condition can go undiagnosed and untreated.

Lunesta’s label has carried an FDA warning since 2007 to the effect that in some rare cases, people who have taken the drug have driven cars, had sex, made phone calls, taken baths, walked around outdoors while naked or wearing pajamas, cooked and eaten meals, and performed other activities they don’t remember in the morning. They are in a “twilight state” when they perform these activities, and are therefore much more likely to be injured, get into accidents, embarrass themselves, or even get arrested. Since drugs like Lunesta and Ambien are so widely used, these cases are fairly common. Some defendants, including the daughter of former presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy, have already used impairment by sleeping pills as a defense in court. Lunesta can make it hard to form memories while you are under its influence, it can make you less inhibited as if you were drunk, and it can cause physical impairment, making it dangerous to operate machinery.

Some people will have rare but potentially fatal allergic reactions to Lunesta the first time they take it. Symptoms can be rashes, hives, fast heart rate, and tongue, lips and throat swollen to the point that breathing becomes obstructed. The person needs to be treated immediately at an emergency medical facility.

What Drugs Interact With Lunesta?

Lunesta slows down the central nervous system and should not be taken with other depressants because the combination can slow down your breathing and heart rate to the point that they stop and you die. Other depressants might alcohol, illegal narcotics like heroin, illegal narcotic painkillers like OxyContin, barbiturates, antidepressants, other sleeping pills, seizure medications, anti-histamines, cold and allergy drugs, sedatives, muscle relaxants, and anesthetics (even ones for dental surgery).

Do not take Lunesta with Fospropol, Rifampin, Oxycodone, Tapentadol, hydromorphone, Zolpidem, Ketoconazole, or Perampanel.

Who Should Not Take Lunesta?

Lunesta has not been approved for children under 18 years old. However, one study found that 180,000 children or about one in every 500 children under age 20 years old were prescribed sleeping pills between 2000 to 2005, despite concerns about the effect of these drugs on their developing brains. Many of these children were on medications for attention deficit disorders. One study found that after 12 weeks, children with ADHD taking Lunesta were not sleeping any better than children on sugar pills.

People with breathing or lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sleep apnea, or liver diseases should not take Lunesta. Because of its potential for addiction, Lunesta is not prescribed to people with histories of alcoholism or drug abuse. Because it can increase the number of suicidal thoughts or worsen depression, Lunesta is not prescribed to people with histories of mental illness, suicide attempts or clinical depression.

Lunesta has not been approved for pregnant women.

What Is Lunesta Overdose?

Lunesta overdoses can be fatal. They most often occur if the person has combined Lunesta with other depressants, especially alcohol. In one study of 525 Lunesta overdoses in Texas in 2005, the majority of patients were trying to commit suicide.

Symptoms of a Lunesta overdose are losing consciousness, extreme drowsiness, change in consciousness and coma. If Lunesta was the only drug used, doctors can administer Flumazenil as an antidote. They may also administer activated charcoal and “pump the stomach” to save the person’s life.

Does Lunesta Show Up On Urine Drug Tests?

A regular dose of Lunesta should completely clear the body within 36 hours so it would show up if you have taken the drug within that time. Urine tests often classify both Ambien and Lunesta as false positives for benzodiazepines, the family of drugs that includes Valium and Xanax.

What Is Lunesta Withdrawal Syndrome?

Lunesta withdrawal syndrome can occur when you stop taking Lunesta. Your symptoms will depend on how much Lunesta you had been taking and for how long, as well as individual factors such as your general health, age, and weight. Although most people do not have withdrawal symptoms, they can developed in people who have been using Lunesta for only two weeks.

Symptoms of withdrawal are moodiness, behavioral changes, cramps, nausea, sweating, trembling, vomiting, dizziness, and anxiety. Some people get panic attacks.

If you stop taking Lunesta too suddenly, your brain is no longer being “slowed down” and can become overwhelmed. When this occurs, you will have seizures. For this reason you should not stop taking Lunesta on your own if you have been abusing it. If you have been using it in medically recommended amounts, your doctor can help you withdraw by gradually lowering your dose and monitoring your reactions. This “tapering off period” usually takes several weeks.

People who stop taking Lunesta usually develop “rebound insomnia,” which means they will have more trouble getting to sleep within the first few days of not using their drug. This is not the same as withdrawal syndrome.

How Can I Tell If I Am Addicted To Lunesta?

Some people who experiment with sleeping pills in a recreational way crush, inhale, inject or snort them to experience bizarre states of consciousness and hallucinations. Abusers of methamphetamine and other stimulants use sleeping pills to “come down” from their drug highs and to “avoid crashing.” Others simply like the sedative effects of sleeping pills like Lunesta, and keep taking them until they are up to ten or even 20 tablets a day. If this describes your use of Lunesta, you may be a candidate for a comprehensive program and a residential drug rehabilitation center. The street name for Lunesta is “zombie pills.”

People in chronic pain or who are taking anti-anxiety drugs often have problems falling asleep because their other drugs are already depressing their central nervous systems. Other people have mental disorders that can disrupt their patterns of wakefulness and sleep. Some people need to take sleeping pills to get them through a time of severe trauma. It is appropriate for all these patients to take sleeping pills as prescribed by their doctors because getting enough sleep will help them heal.

One problem is that when a patient tries to stop taking sleeping pills, he or she may experience extreme insomnia and even panic attacks, and end up going back to the sleeping pills.

If you are concerned about your use of Lunesta and if you can answer yes to the following questions, it is time to consult a doctor about your problem with sleeping pills.

  • Have you been taking Lunesta for more than two weeks?
  • Do you have withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and rebound insomnia when you try to quit on your own?
  • Do you have side effects from Lunesta such as drowsiness and irritability that interfere with your day?
  • Have you ever increased your dose of Lunesta without telling your doctor?
  • Do you buy Lunesta from illegal sources or do you go to more than one doctor in order to get your supply?
  • Do you enjoy the sedation effect of Lunesta?
  • Do you think you need a complete physical and psychiatric examination to understand what is causing your insomnia?
  • Are you worried about the long-range effects of taking sleeping pills?
  • Are you depressed and anxious during the day?
  • Does Lunesta make your depression worse?
  • Have you ever walked in your sleep or done other activities while under the influence of Lunesta?

What Treatments Are Available For Lunesta Addiction?

You are a not a Lunesta addict if you are taking the drug with an appropriate doctor’s prescription and as directed. If you have been taking it more than two weeks and if you have never had a complete psychiatric and physical examination to determine the cause of your insomnia, you should consider asking your doctor for one. You may also consider consulting a sleep specialist or going to a sleep clinic to evaluate your sleep disorder.

If you are abusing Lunesta as a sedative that you take during the day, if you are increasing your dose on your own, if you are buying Lunesta illegally or using it with other drugs, it may be time to enter a residential treatment center. Your first step at the center will be detoxification, a process in which all drugs are allowed to clear your body under medical supervision. Doctors can use certain techniques and medications to ease your discomfort during detox.

A good residential treatment center will help you understand how your drug abuse problem came about and how to cope with it on a permanent basis. Most experts in the field of drug abuse consider substance abuse and dependency to be a brain disease in which a person’s chemical reward system has become damaged by repeated substance abuse. You will have to learn to deal with drug cravings and how to come back from the inevitable relapses that will occur until you become able to live without abusing drugs. Various therapies like yoga, meditation, physical sports and work-outs, good nutrition, journaling and art can help you in your journey to a new life. The key focus of any good residential treatment is always one-on-one therapy with a psychologist or psychiatrist who can help you understand yourself and overcome your addictions.

Sources:

“Have Trouble Sleeping?” The Web MD, see http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/having-trouble-sleeping

Rabin, Roni. “New Worries About Sleeping Pills,” The New York Times, March 12, 2012.

“Sleeping Pills,” The Livestrong Foundation, see http://www.livestrong.com/sleeping-pills/

Saul, Stephanie. “Record Sales of Sleeping Pills Are Causing Worries,” The New York Times, February 7, 2006.

” U.S. Pharmaceutical Sales – Q3 2012, Top 100 Drugs,” see http://www.drugs.com/stats/top100/sales

“Lunesta,” Lunesta Official Website, see http://www.lunesta.com/

“Are Sleeping Pills Addictive?” The New York Times, July 16, 2010.

“Lunesta (Eszopiclone) Drug Information, The RX List, see http://www.rxlist.com/lunesta-drug.htm

“Lunesta,” Lunesta Official Website, see http://www.lunesta.com/

“Withdrawal Assessment Report for Lunivia, International Non-proprietary Name: eszopiclone, Procedure No. EMEA/H/C/000895 see http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Application_withdrawal_assessment_report/2010/01/WC500061611.pdf

“Drug Scheduling Actions 2005,” The Drug Enforcement Agency, see http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/fed_regs/rules/2005/fr0404.htm

“Lunesta,” Lunesta Official Website, see http://www.lunesta.com/

Ibid.

“Lunesta (Eszopiclone) Drug Information, The RX List, see http://www.rxlist.com/lunesta-drug.htm

Ibid.

Saul, Stephanie. “Sleep Drugs Found Only Mildly Effective, but Wildly Popular,” The New York Times, October 23, 2007.

“Sleeping Pills Owe Half Their Benefits to Placebo Effect, Study Finds,” Science News, December 20, 2012, see http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121218121259.htm

Rabin, Roni. “New Worries About Sleeping Pills,” The New York Times, March 12, 2012.

Saul, Stephanie. “Sleep Drugs Found Only Mildly Effective, but Wildly Popular,” The New York Times, October 23, 2007

“Lunesta,”  Official U.S. Food and Drug Administration information, Drugs.com, see http://www.drugs.com/lunesta.html

“Lunesta,” Lunesta Official Website, see http://www.lunesta.com/

“Lunesta (Eszopiclone) Drug Information, The RX List, see http://www.rxlist.com/lunesta-drug.htm

“Eszopiclone (Oral Route),” The Mayo Clinic, See http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR600637

Ibid.

“Lunesta,” Lunesta Official Website, see http://www.lunesta.com/

“Lunesta (Eszopiclone) Drug Information, The RX List, see http://www.rxlist.com/lunesta-drug.htm

“Facts on CNS Depressants,” The National Institute on Drug Abuse, see http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_rx1.php

“Commonly Abused Drugs,” The National Institute on Drug Abuse, Monitoring the Future 2012, see www.monitoringthefuture.org

Rabin, Roni. “New Worries About Sleeping Pills,” The New York Times, March 12, 2012.

Koebler, Jason. “Study: Popular Sleeping Pill Ambien Linked to Increased Death Rate: Sleeping pill users were five times more likely to die young than non users,” USA Today, February 27, 2012

“Lunesta (Eszopiclone) Drug Information, The RX List, see http://www.rxlist.com/lunesta-drug.htm

Pollack, Andrew. “New Sleeping Pill, New Acceptability,” The New York Times, December 17, 2004.

Duenwald, Mary. “Doctors Ponder Drugs for Sleepless Nights of Adolescence,” The New  York Times, November 15. 2005.

“Lunesta (Eszopiclone) Drug Information, The RX List, see http://www.rxlist.com/lunesta-drug.htm

Saul, Stephanie. “F.D.A. Issues Warning on Sleeping Pills,” The New York Times,

March 15, 2007.

Ruderman, Wendy. “Kerry Kennedy Cites Possible Seizure during Car Crash,” the New York Times, July 17, 2012.

“Lunesta,” Lunesta Official Website, see http://www.lunesta.com/

“Eszopiclone (Oral Route),” The Mayo Clinic, See http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR600637

Ibid.

Duenwald, Mary. “Doctors Ponder Drugs for Sleepless Nights of Adolescence,” The New York Times, November 15, 2005.

“Lunesta (Eszopiclone) Drug Information, The RX List, see http://www.rxlist.com/lunesta-drug.htm

“Lunesta,”  Official U.S. Food and Drug Administration information, Drugs.com, see http://www.drugs.com/lunesta.html

“Eszopiclone (Oral Route),” The Mayo Clinic, See http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR600637

Forrester MB (October 2007). “Eszopiclone ingestions reported to Texas poison control centers, 2005 2006”. Hum Exp Toxicol 26 (10): 795–800.

“Eszopiclone (Oral Route),” The Mayo Clinic, See http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR600637

“Lunesta (Eszopiclone) Drug Information, The RX List, see http://www.rxlist.com/lunesta-drug.htm

Ibid.

Rabin, Roni. “New Worries About Sleeping Pills,” The New York Times, March 12, 2012.

“Long-term Use Side Effects of Lunesta,” The Livestrong Foundation at http://www.livestrong.com/article/78292-longterm-use-side-effects-lunesta/

“Facts on CNS Depressants,” The National Institute on Drug Abuse, see http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_rx1.php

Klosterman, Lorrie. Facts About Depressants (New York: Cavendish), 2005.

Ibid.

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