The Abuse of Sleeping Pills
Sleeping pills and sedatives are used to help induce a good night’s sleep, and are widely prescribed throughout the US. Any drug considered an anesthetic or sedative can be considered a sleeping pill; these may include barbiturates and benzodiazepines. Because many sleeping pills contain highly addictive substances, sleeping pills addiction and abuse is a common occurrence among those that are prescribed the medication.
Sleeping pills work by inducing sedation via suppressing the central nervous system. They “slow down” stimulus reception and brain messaging, resulting in a sense of calm, relaxation and somnolence.
Given that prescription and OTC drug abuse are the most common after marijuana and alcohol use, sleeping pill addiction is of increasing concern in the US. Commonly abused sleeping pills include pentobarbital sodium (Nebutal), Diazepam (Valium) and Alprazolam (Xanax).
About 4% of US adults over 20 report taking sleeping pills, with those aged between 50-59 and 80+ reporting prescription rates of 6% and 7% respectively. Given that sleeping pills may be taken for long periods, and they may be intentionally or unintentionally combined with other medications or alcohol to deleterious effect, sleeping pills pose a health and addiction hazard to US adults.
Common Street Names for Sleeping Pills
Common names of sleeping pills include the trademarked drug names Ativan, Halcion, Klonopin Librium, Valium and Xanax; common street names for sleeping pills include benzos, blues, candy, chill pills, french fries, downers, totem poles, tranks, z-bar, A- and zombie pills.
Sleeping pills typically fall under Schedule IV of the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that they are considered to have low potential for abuse and addiction. Examples of sleeping pills that fall under this classification include Xanax, Soma, Valium and Ambien.
History and Trends in Sleeping Pills Addiction and Abuse
The earliest sedatives probably involved alcohol or smoked opium. While sleep-inducing products were developed in the 1800s, it wasn’t until the rise of barbiturates in the first half of the 20th century that a treatment for insomnia was widely prescribed.
Barbiturates, or “downers” were used for both medical and recreational purposes; antihistamines also arose as a prescribed treatment for sleep disorders. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that sleeping pills as we know them became commonplace, with drugs such as Sonata and Ambien becoming widespread.
Commonly prescribed and with potential for abuse, sleeping pills have since become more wide-spread, with some 8 million Americans using sleeping pills every month. That number appears to be on the rise, as the prescription of sleeping pills for adults 18-24 tripled between 1998 and 2006.
Side effects of Sleeping pills
Different sleeping pills may cause different side effects depending on their active ingredients. Sleeping pills are intended to induce a state of sleep, but this sleep state may vary in duration depending on the pill taken.
Users will often feel groggy, drowsy, and impaired even after the main effects of the drug have worn off. They may struggle to perform daily tasks such as driving, putting themselves and others at risk. Other effects include hangovers, amnesia and abnormal behavior such as performing activities such as eating or driving while asleep.
Research from the FDA and the American Geriatric Society suggests that prescriptions of sleeping pills known as “Z-Drugs” – ie, Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata – be either reduced in potency or limited to a duration of no more than 90 days due to their potential side effects. The prolonged use of sleeping pills can also result in increased tolerance.
Combining sleeping pills and alcohol can be extremely dangerous, and may lead to overdose resulting in coma or even death.
Withdrawal symptoms of sleeping pills
Sleeping pill dependence can manifest in withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, dizziness and in some instances, seizures. It is usually recommended that regular users of sleeping pills gradually reduce their dosage rather than stopping immediately.
While some may consider self-medicating with alcohol to help combat sleeping pill withdrawal, it should be reiterated that combining sleeping pills and alcohol can have devastating effects.
Treatment for Sleeping Pills Addiction and Abuse
More than half of all Americans report having difficulties sleeping, which suggests that sleeping pill addiction may be worryingly widespread. While addiction to sleeping pills is relatively unlikely, those with a history of alcohol or other drug abuse are more at risk.
Sleeping pill addiction can cause physical harm and can one’s affect quality of life, including in work, family or social situations. For some, managing sleeping pill addiction may be as simple as slowly being “weaned” off the drug by seeking a reduced prescription. This approach may also help mitigate sleeping pill withdrawal.
However, for others addicted to sleeping pills, addiction treatment by way of a detox program should be considered. Such programs provide a safe and structured environment where individuals can manage their symptoms as well as the underlying causes of the addiction.
If you or someone you know is struggling with sleeping pills addiction and abuse, get help now. Contact White Sands Tampa about our sleeping pills addiction treatment programs today at 1-877-640-7820.