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Can You Get Addicted to Sleeping Pills?

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Most people start taking sleeping pills for legitimate reasons. Many people who struggle with insomnia or stress that negatively impacts their ability to rest are able to help correct their sleep patterns by using sleeping pills for a short period of time. Unfortunately, sometimes a person ends up addicted to sleeping pills and needs help getting off them.

How Sleeping Pills Work

When a person experiences insomnia or other sleep disorders, they are often prescribed sleeping pills. Sleeping pills fall under the category of sedative-hypnotics and are meant to be taken short-term in order to help regulate a person’s sleeping patterns. They affect the part of the brain responsible for being able to relax, allowing a person to return to a more natural circadian rhythm, which is the 24-hour cycle that’s part of the body’s internal clock. 

The three most popular prescription sleeping pills are Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata. These and other sleep aid pills all contain the risk of someone developing an addiction to them. While they are meant to be taken short-term, some people end up using them long-term either because their sleep cycle has not corrected itself or because an addiction has developed. The pills should be taken orally, but abuse of them may result in someone crushing them into a powder so they can feel an increased effect from snorting them. 

When anxiety or other situation-specific events are going on in a person’s life that contribute to difficulty sleeping, talk therapy may be used to complement the effects of the sleeping pills. Patients who take anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications often receive more than just a benefit for their mood disorders. These types of meds can offer assistance in getting to sleep and staying asleep, helping address a problem common for those experiencing anxiety or depression. Similar to sleeping pills, someone who develops an addiction to other medications that initially help them achieve better sleep may have trouble recognizing when an addiction has developed. 

Side Effects of Sleeping Pills

Whether used as directed or as part of an addiction, side effects from using sleeping pills can occur. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Headache
  • Digestive issues
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty with memory
  • Tingling in hands, arms, feet, or legs
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Unusual dreams
  • Difficulty thinking or paying attention
  • Hallucinations

Recognizing When a Person May Be Addicted to Sleeping Pills

It can be easy for a person who takes sleeping pills to find it difficult to understand when they have crossed the line into addiction. Often, an individual holds on to the idea that because a physician prescribed a medication, using it cannot become problematic. The problem can come in when they are using a higher dosage than they were prescribed or taking the pills more often than recommended. Some people with a prescription also seek other resources for sleeping pills or similar medications in order to keep up with their increasing need to sate the addiction. 

Even over-the-counter sleep aids can result in addiction. Similar to prescription meds, when someone becomes addicted to over-the-counter medications, they will take more than the recommended dosage and more often than directed. They may believe that because these drugs are over-the-counter, they do not come with any risks for addiction.

Symptoms of being addicted to sleeping pills can include: 

  • Taking more than the recommended dosage
  • Cravings for the pills when a person does not have them
  • An inability to sleep without them
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Slurred speech
  • Trying to quit taking them but failing
  • Using pills to achieve a high
  • Combining pills with alcohol or other medications or drugs

Treating Sleeping Pill Addiction

Once a person has become addicted to sleeping pills, professional treatment becomes necessary. While there may be the temptation to go it alone when it comes to stopping the use of sleeping pills, doing so proves to be a risky endeavor for many. Withdrawal symptoms can range from bothersome to physically dangerous. Most medical professionals recommend a person who needs to end the abuse of drugs do so under trained supervision. Detox programs provide a short-term residential setting that gives a person the assistance they need. Detoxifying from sleeping pills may result in physical and emotional difficulties. Trying to cope with these alone at home can be dangerous or prove so frustrating that the person gives up. 

A detox program can offer needed medications to address physical withdrawal symptoms, as well as therapeutic assistance for the emotional difficulties many people experience while detoxing. After detox, a plan can be put in place that allows a seamless transition into inpatient or outpatient care that helps the individual stay in recovery and handle the challenges that come with it. Trained professionals who understand sleep disturbances can also help teach their patients how to use natural remedies to achieve the sleep they need. 

Drug Addiction Treatment in California

At Gratitude Lodge, we know how scary it can be to reach out and get help for a substance use disorder. We offer detox, outpatient, and inpatient programs that guide you through recovery and treat any co-occurring mental health concerns. 

If you are ready to tackle your addiction to sleeping pills and get the help you deserve, contact Gratitude Lodge now and we’ll get you started. 

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Take the next step to your recovery.

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