Sleeping pills are prescription-based medications used to treat temporary sleeping problems. They serve to help someone go to sleep and to stay asleep by stopping the circular thoughts that can occur while trying to sleep. These types of prescriptions can be very habit forming and even addictive.
Sleeping pills belong to a class of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics or sedatives. The common belief is that a person cannot become dependent on sleeping pills, but this is a misconception. After long-term use, when one’s prescription ends, he or she may have difficulty sleeping without the pills. This individual may experience some changes referred to as withdrawal symptoms or may look for other ways to treat sleeplessness.
Research indicates that four in 100 people are affected by sleeplessness. Some people have to look for a medication if they are to have a good night’s sleep. Every year, millions of individuals use sedative-hypnotic drugs to achieve better and longer sleeps every night. Sleeping pills and aids are either bought as over-the-counter remedies or as concentrated prescriptions.
Sleeping Pill Addiction
It has become common for doctors and physicians to prescribe sleeping pills to insomnia patients. Over-the-counter medicines are also available, but these usually have low concentrations. However, the readily available medications have fewer dependence risks associated with their usage.
The sleeping pills prescribed by doctors are usually more powerful. They have psychoactive properties and are classified as central nervous system depressants. This means that they affect the brain and can cause a change in feelings, thoughts, behaviors, moods, and awareness and affect GABA receptors in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that occurs naturally in the brain that is responsible for slowing and calming down the activity in the brain. Sleeping pills and aids enhance the effectiveness of GABA.
In addition to inducing drowsiness, these medications could also cause euphoria and pleasure as they increase the production of dopamine to the brain.
Similarity to Benzodiazepines
In a lot of ways, sedative-hypnotics are similar to benzodiazepines. An example of a benzodiazepine is Xanax, which has the potential for abuse. Doctors usually prescribe sleeping pills for a short period to prevent dependence cases. It is best for patients to take the medication just before going to bed to reduce the risk of falling asleep when attending to something else.
Doctors say that when patients use prescription sleep aids as instructed, they don’t lead to any problems. However, despite sleeplessness affecting many people, doctors and researchers warn against the long-term use of prescription sleeping pills. The long-term side effects of sleeping pills range from dry mouth to gastrointestinal problems. One may experience daytime drowsiness, have strange dreams, experience weakness, and have problems with attention and memory.
The perception that sleeping pills are not addictive or habit forming is beginning to change. Studies show that 30% of the people who use prescription sleeping pills get addicted to them. When a person’s body gains tolerance to the medication, he or she may need to increase the dosage to have the same effect. This leads to being physically dependent on the drug.
The Half-Life of Sleeping Pills
The half-life of sleeping pills refers to the amount of time it takes for half a dose of the drug to leave the body. This time period varies widely depending on the brand and the active ingredient in the medicine. Some sleeping pills, like Ambien, have short half-lives. Others, like Valium, have long half-lives. The time could range between 20 and 80 hours.
Apart from the half-life, there are other factors that influence the time that sleeping pills take to leave your system. These include age, genetics, kidney and liver function, overall body health, and the use of other substances. The length of a prescription and the level of dosage also affect the elimination process. Some sleeping aids will leave your body after a few hours, and others will stay for several weeks even after quitting.
Sleeping pills don’t just end up in your bloodstream, however. They can also be found in your urine and hair long after your body has eliminated them from your bloodstream. Your fatty tissues absorb some of the medication and slowly release it over time. This makes the sleeping aid detectable in your urine and saliva after it has gone through five half-lives or more.
Your hair follicles will still have traces of the medication for up to 90 days after the last use. After a month of recovery, this will be the only trace of the drug in your body.
Types of Sleeping Pills
There are various types of sleeping pills. The difference between them is based on how long they stay active in the body. Those that are short-acting are better for people who have trouble getting to sleep. On the other hand, long-acting pills are better for those who wake up frequently at night.
Some forms of sleeping aids are obtained both through prescription and over the counter. The drug concentration is what determines how it will be sold.
Some common sleeping pills are:
- Amorbarbital (off label)
- Butabarbital (off label)
- Chloral hydrate
Sleeping pills should not be taken with alcohol as adverse effects could occur. Alcohol enhances the effects of sleeping aids and could cause a state of deep sleep, resulting in death.
Signs, Symptoms, and Side Effects of Sleeping Pill Abuse
Sleeping pills are prescribed for use for different types of sleep problems. Some sleeping pills have a higher risk of dependency and substance use disorder than others. For this reason, it is essential for a person using sleeping pills to understand how to take them correctly and the side effects that could occur.
Some of the side effects of sleeping pills are:
- Problems keeping balance
- Next-day impairment
- Tingling in appendages
- Dry mouth
- Shaking and weakness
- Vivid dreams
- Attention and memory problems
- Appetite changes
- Low sex drive
People may experience different side effects depending on a wide range of factors. The severity of the symptoms also differs from one person to another.
Treatment Options for Sleeping Pill Addiction Symptoms
It’s important to monitor the above side effects and their severity to know when to seek medical assistance. It is not safe for you to have memory blackouts, frequent diarrhea, or uncontrollable shaking. When you notice these symptoms, reach out to a doctor before the condition progresses. With medical help and treatment for sleeping pill addiction, you’ll be able to quit the drugs safely and minimize the side effects that you are experiencing.
Many people who try quitting the use of sleeping pills after long-term usage experience withdrawals. One may start experiencing withdrawal symptoms within hours of the last usage. The duration of withdrawal symptoms varies based on the length of usage of medication and dosage levels. It could last several weeks, but the intensity typically reduces after a week. Physiological issues might persist without professional treatment.
Common Withdrawal Symptoms
After a few days of quitting, you may experience vomiting, hallucinations, nausea, and anxiety as withdrawal symptoms peak between four and 10 days after quitting. Drug cravings may get more intense; they usually being tapering off between 11 and 17 days after quitting. Heavy dependencies could cause drug cravings for several months and could also lead to depression.
Common symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Heart rate changes
- Body spasms
- Heart rate changes
Most of these symptoms are not life-threatening, but if you are not careful, complications could occur. The most common withdrawal symptom is rebound insomnia. It is a condition where the body still depends on drugs to sleep in the first weeks of quitting. A person’s insomnia may return, and it is sometimes worse than his or her previous experience.
A more severe side effect is parasomnia. It refers to behaviors and actions performed when one is asleep. This includes sleepwalking and driving in an altered state of consciousness. One may end up harming himself or herself and others in the process.
Medical Detox for Sleeping Pill Addiction
Doctors recommend medical detox for managing withdrawal symptoms. At Granite Recovery Center, we offer a medical detox program that will help your body slowly let go of the sleep medicine. This is the period during which your body re-adjusts to functioning without medication. It is sometimes mentally and physically exhausting. Detox may come with severe headaches, chills, agitation, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pains that may be alleviated with medication. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.
Under medical supervision, these reactions become much more bearable than when a person tries to detox independently. Our medical team will monitor your vitals to ensure that the withdrawal symptoms don’t result in unstable conditions. If they happen to be severe, we adjust your treatment to one that will suit your body. This goes on for a few weeks until your body learns to function without the medicine. Continuing with treatment after detox will help you achieve long-term recovery and manage any psychological issues.
With a proper treatment plan in place, you can get your life back on track much faster and easier.
Sleeping Pill Rehabilitation Programs
For heavy users, detox alone is not usually enough. If you find yourself relapsing, inpatient rehabilitation could work for you. It usually begins with a full medical assessment. After detox, you will undergo inpatient treatment and subsequently outpatient treatment. This sets you on a path of full recovery and an addiction-free life.
During inpatient treatment, you’ll undergo detox in a safe and medically supervised environment. You then take part in counseling sessions at the treatment center. These are usually both individual and group sessions. They help you to determine the cause of your addiction and set recovery goals.
All forms of treatment at Granite Recovery Center are completely confidential, and your privacy is respected. Your happiness and health are our top priorities.
After completing inpatient treatment, you may choose to go home and begin outpatient treatment. There are many temptations when you are exposed to the environment in which you got addicted, and this is where outpatient treatment comes in. It helps you deal with and overcome struggles to secure your recovery.
Our team of certified professionals will help you plan a treatment plan that will work for you. Granite Recovery Centers aims to improve people’s quality of life who struggle with addiction. Get treatment for yourself or a loved one by calling us today to learn more.