Prescription Sleeping Pills Abuse

Prescription Sleeping Pills Abuse

Those who suffer from insomnia may be prescribed sleep aids by a doctor. These are medications that can help the sufferer fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, or sleep when depression is a factor. Sleeping pills of the past were much more harmful in terms of side effects and dependency, but with today’s aids, the risk of addiction is still very real. They should be taken only as directed by a physician. If someone you know is using prescription sleep aids, learn about the different pills and look out for possible signs of addiction.

The Different Types of Sleep Aids

There are many different kinds of sleeping pills with brand and generic names. Many of them treat the common problem of difficulty falling asleep. Although these drugs do not treat the underlying problem of trouble sleeping, they can help someone fall asleep. Those who are being treated by a physician should be receiving care beyond simply taking a prescription. The doctor should be searching for and treating the real problem. Here are some of the pills that help people fall asleep:

  • Ramelteon (Rozerem). Dependency is less of a risk with Rozerem, but it cannot be taken with alcohol.
  • Triazolom (Halcion). Halcion carries a risk of dependency and should not be used by someone with addiction problems.
  • Zaleplon (Sonata). Also habit-forming, Sonata cannot be used by those with liver or kidney disease, depression, or addiction issues.

For people who have little trouble getting to sleep, but then wake throughout the night, another series of prescriptions are possible:

  • Estazolam. This drug interacts with other medications and is habit-forming.
  • Temazepam (Restoril). Restoril is also addictive and should not be taken by anyone with a history of dependency, depression, or lung, liver, or kidney disease.
  • Doxepin (Silenor). Although it can cause weight gain and is contraindicated for certain people, Silenor is not very habit-forming.

The following drugs both help the sufferer fall asleep quickly, and stay asleep throughout the night:

  • Eszopiclone (Lunesta). This medication can cause withdrawal symptoms when stopped too suddenly. It is not recommended for anyone with a history of addiction.
  • Zolpidem (Ambien). Ambien causes sleepwalking and is not indicated for anyone with depression, liver disease, or kidney disease.

Another series of medications are considered sedating antidepressants. This means that they are first and foremost antidepressants, but also have a sedating effect when used in lower doses. They are not approved for treating insomnia alone, but can ease sleeplessness in those who suffer from depression. These drugs include Amitriptyline, Doxepin, Trazodone (Oleptro), and Mirtazapine (Remeron).

How Sleeping Aids Work

Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata are newer sleep aids and are called GABAs. They act on places in the brain called Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. These receptors control a person’s level of relaxation or alertness. These medications act at the receptors that are principally involved in sleeping.

Rozerem is an even newer sleeping pill that acts differently from the GABAs. It directly acts upon the brain’s sleep and wake cycle. It binds to receptors in the hypothalamus in the brain. These receptors normally bind melatonin. The effect is to cause sleepiness. Rozerem is believed to be safer than the GABAs because it is much less likely to cause dependency.

Older sleep aids that are still prescribed like Halcion and Restoril are drugs called benzodiazepines. Like Ambien and Lunesta, these drugs act on GABA receptors, but not as selectively. While the newer drugs target those dedicated to sleeping, benzodiazepines target all GABA receptors. Anyone using benzodiazepines are at risk of developing a tolerance and a dependency. These drugs should not be taken for more than a few days.

Addiction to Sleep Aids

Although not everyone who takes a sleeping pill will become addicted, it is a definite possibility for anyone. Especially when the riskier medications are taken, anyone is vulnerable to becoming dependent on these medications for sleep. It starts with developing a tolerance. Someone taking a benzodiazepine is likely to become tolerant to the drug within just a week or two of taking it. This is the first sign of sleeping pill addiction. If someone you know is taking more and more of their medication to fall asleep, they have a problem already. Some other signs of addiction include:

  • Obsessive thoughts about sleep aids
  • Cravings for the medication
  • Withdrawal symptoms when use of a sleep aid is halted, such as tremors, headaches, anxiety, stress, and insomnia
  • Continuing to use sleep aids even when the user experiences negative consequences

Consequences and Side Effects of Using Sleeping Pills

As long as they are used in conjunction with a doctor’s advice, prescription sleeping pills are largely safe. Benzodiazepines are the riskiest because of the issue of dependence. Several can be harmful if they are used by a patient for whom the drug is not recommended. For instance, sleeping pills can interact harmfully with other medications and can have adverse effects in people with kidney or liver disease, asthma, or COPD. They are also dangerous when taken with alcohol and grapefruit juice. The former can be fatal, while the latter causes increased absorption of the drug, which may cause more side effects.

Some of the side effects that can occur with sleeping pills even when taken as recommended include appetite changes, dizziness, heartburn, constipation, unusual dreams, parasomnia, dry mouth, stomach pain, and shaking. If you feel someone may be abusing prescription sleep aids, take action immediately, as often the worst side effect is addiction.

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