An estimated 70 million Americans grapple with sleep disorders every year. Their condition prevents them from getting the restorative sleep they need to lead productive lives. A lack of sleep can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle where the body becomes more susceptible to illness. This is why so many people turn to sleep aids like Lunesta, the brand name for eszopiclone. They take this sedative-hypnotic because they have trouble falling asleep or they wake up frequently during the night.
While Lunesta has become a viable solution for many seeking restful sleep, it does pose an addiction risk. The pattern starts when you get into the habit of taking a pill nightly to fall asleep. When you need to take more Lunesta to achieve the desired results, dependency is established. Subsequently, the belief sets in that you cannot sleep without the drug.
Lunesta is one of the most popular prescription sleep drugs in the U.S. While it has been marketed as a safer alternative to other sleep aids, abuse of the drug can be quite harmful to your body and well-being.
Along with the addiction risk, other dangers associated with taking Lunesta include depression, memory loss, and organ damage. What’s more, mixing Lunesta with alcohol or other medications only worsens its destructive effects.
How Does Lunesta Work?
Lunesta is a different class of drug from benzodiazepines, yet it behaves in a similar way. It increases levels of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that the body naturally produces. It inhibits the nerve signals, reducing feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear. Ultimately, GABA restores calm in the body.
By acting like these neurotransmitters, Lunesta binds to the brain’s GABA receptors, which it activates to create excess GABA. While benzodiazepines bind with all GABA receptors, Lunesta only focuses on those targets to initiate sleep. This is what fuels the myth that Lunesta is medically safe and incapable of being abused.
Over time, the GABA receptors become desensitized because of the drug, which compels the brain to produce less of the natural chemical on its own. This is what happens when you develop a tolerance. Lunesta then becomes less effective in the treatment of sleep and can actually intensify your insomnia.
Signs of Addiction
The signs of addiction vary depending on the individual. Because Lunesta is a prescribed medication, it is difficult to pinpoint the warnings that signal addiction. Lunesta users may not realize when their common consumption morphs into total dependency.
One key aspect of Lunesta addiction is duration. Simply put, the longer the drug is used, the more flagrant the signs of addiction become. These signs can manifest in different ways, either in combination with one another or as an intense occurrence of a common side effect.
It is crucial that you become aware of these signs for yourself or a loved one you may suspect of abusing Lunesta.
The signs of addiction that could indicate a dependence on Lunesta include:
- Frequent mood swings
- Increase in aggressive behavior
- Sinus problems similar to the common cold
As the addiction progresses, you may witness a Lunesta user resort to compulsive behaviors in order to obtain the drug. The person will start to prioritize getting and using Lunesta over their relationships, work, and school. This is when Lunesta addiction resembles any other chemical dependency.
For the most part, users will behave abnormally when dependent on a substance. The signs of Lunesta addiction include:
- Consuming Lunesta in ways not intended (e.g., crushing and snorting)
- Taking Lunesta without a prescription
- Taking Lunesta in larger doses than prescribed
- Increased tolerance to the effects of Lunesta
- Doctor shopping with the purpose of obtaining multiple prescriptions
- Hiding Lunesta use or lying about it
- Experiencing withdrawal when not taking Lunesta
- An inability to function without Lunesta
- Failure to stop using Lunesta despite repeated attempts
If you or anyone you know has been exhibiting any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is time to consider treatment. Professional addiction services can help you regain sobriety so that you can live a normal and healthy life. This may be an overwhelming time, but you are never alone.
What is Involved in Addiction Treatment?
Once you have taken that crucial step of acknowledging the addiction, the journey toward your recovery begins with medical detoxification. Detoxification is the process of ridding your body of drugs and other toxins so that you can regain mental and physical stability.
While Lunesta withdrawal symptoms do not have the intensity of those associated with stronger sedatives such as barbiturates or benzodiazepines, dangerous symptoms persist. Those include hallucinations, suicidal behavior, uncontrolled vomiting, as well as, in rare cases and if not properly addressed, seizures. It is recommended that you undergo a detox under the medical and professional supervision available at Arete Recovery.
Detox is especially critical if you are abusing Lunesta along with alcohol, benzos or other sedatives. If you are using the sleep drug with other substances, it is recommended that you also undergo residential treatment. This means you will live at the facility while participating in daily therapy and counseling. At this step, you will gain vital coping mechanisms and strategies to help you combat your addiction. Depending on the case, this can be a 30-day to 90-day process with your complete recovery being the primary goal.
If further treatment is needed at the conclusion of this phase, you can participate in our partial hospitalization program. The PHP is offered at these South Florida treatment center locations: Ocean Breeze Recovery (OBR), Pathway to Hope (PTH), and The Palm Beach Institute (PBI).
How Dangerous is Lunesta?
Lunesta is weaker than other benzos, but it does not mean it is any less dangerous. When you misuse the drug, it can have a debilitating impact on your life, producing a host of negative outcomes.
Sleepwalking is just one serious side effect of Lunesta. There are other activities you could engage in when taking Lunesta that you may not remember, those that can put you in harm’s way. Reported activities done while asleep and under the influence of Lunesta include:
- Preparing and eating food
- Engaging in phone conversations
- Engaging in sexual intercourse
While participating in activities with no memory can be hazardous enough, long-term effects from abusing Lunesta can include irreparable damage to the lungs, kidneys, and liver. These complications can remain long after someone stops using the drug.
- 21 million people in the U.S. reported abuse of prescriptions like Lunesta at least once.
- 2 million-plus prescriptions for Lunesta were written in 2015 alone
- 1 in 6 adults report using sleep aids like Lunesta