What Are Sleeping Pills?
Do you ever have a night where you just don’t sleep well? Most of us do; that’s why we have sleeping pills. Sleeping pills, also known as sedative-hypnotics, come in all shapes and sizes. While most sleep medications exclude benzodiazepine hypnotics, their purpose is to induce sleep.
But did you know 40 million Americans suffer from chronic long-term sleep disorders? That isn’t the counting the people who experience occasional sleeping problems (20 million people).
You might think an easy fix to your sleeping problem is to take a sleeping pill. But this is a slippery slope to sleeping pill addiction.
Common Sleeping Pills Include:
Between 2006 and 2011, doctors prescribed approximately 38 million Ambien prescriptions. By 2013, 9 million Americans regularly used sleeping pills.
Statistics on Sleeping Pill Addiction
People use sleeping pills for a variety of reasons. While some need them to combat their insomnia, others battle other chronic sleeping problems.
It’s suggested adults should get 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis. Only 3.2 percent of adults (20 years or older) get the recommended 7 hours of sleep.
Those who sleep less than 5 hours a night (6 percent ) take sleep medication. Moreover, 5 percent of women take sleeping pills whereas 3.1 percent of men take them. Those who sleep 8 hours or more showed higher use of sleeping pills at 5.3 percent.
While only 2 percent of adults aged 20 to 39 use sleeping medication, those aged 80 and up had the highest use at 7 percent. Adults between the ages of 50 to 59 fell in the middle at 6 percent.
When doctors prescribe sleeping pills, they are typically for short-term use only. These pills are meant to be used on an as-needed basis, but users tend to use them anytime they have difficulty sleeping.
Signs of Sleeping Pill Addiction
Although sleeping aids pose no threat on the surface, it’s easy to become dependent on their effects. Those who begin taking sleeping medications find it nearly impossible to sleep without them.
Other signs of a sleeping pill addiction include:
- Trying to quit taking them, but failing
- Craving sleeping pill medications
- Getting prescription refills from more than one doctor
- Continually taking sleeping pills after experiencing negative side effects
- Suffering from frequent memory loss due to the sleeping aid
Am I Addicted to Sleeping Pills?
If you or a loved one has been taking sleeping pills and you’re not sure if you’ve become addicted, there are ways to tell. One of the quickest ways is if you experience withdrawal symptoms after you stop taking a sleeping aid.
Common withdrawal symptoms from sleeping pills are:
- Body spasms
- Drug cravings
- Increased heart rate
- Hand tremors
In addition to the above withdrawal symptoms, a sleeping pill addict will also suffer from rebound insomnia. Rebound insomnia is when a person experiences insomnia much worse than they did before taking sleeping aids.
While these symptoms aren’t fatal, medical detox can ease the withdrawal process. This process will help you through the withdrawal phase while also ensuring you don’t relapse.
The withdrawal process is different for everyone. But most withdrawal symptoms begin to manifest between a few hours and a few days of quitting the sleeping pill.
During this time, you’ll experience mood swings, confusion, anxiety, and temporary memory loss. Depending on how dependent you were, you may also experience hallucinations and psychosis.
You’ll notice the physical symptoms fading after a week or two, but you will have difficulty sleeping along with cravings for the sleeping pill and anxiety. You may also have an increased heart rate, tremors, and sweating.
Once you go into week three, your physical symptoms will fade. Your anxiety might continue, though, and you may experience panic attacks. This is the stage where depression is likely to occur. In the following weeks, most of your physical symptoms will go away, though you may still crave the drug.
Consequences of Sleeping Pill Abuse
Like any other prescription medication or opioid, there are dangers to abusing sleeping pills. Because most become dependent on them to help them fall or stay asleep, a persons tolerance will become higher, resulting in a person taking more pills than prescribed.
In some cases, people will take 10 or 20 pills a night to help them sleep. Keep in mind, most recommended doses are one pill a day.
While some simply become addicted to the effects of the pill, others do experience a “high” feeling, similar to the effects of anxiety-easing pills.
Brands like Ambien are known to have some unsettling side effects when taken long-term. While some begin gaining weight for no unforeseen reason, they actually raid their refrigerators in the middle of the night.
Others sleepwalk, sleep talk, among other odd actions while under the effects of the medication. Arguably one of the most dangerous parts of these side effects? The user has no recollection of doing them!
In addition to becoming dependent on sleeping pills, they can also cause anxiety. In fact, 21 percent of people who abused sleeping pills in 2012 had suicidal thoughts relating to their sleeping pill medication. Moreover, 30,149 people who used Ambien nonmedically in 2011 were hospitalized.
You should not mix sleeping pills with alcohol or other medications. If you are on other prescription meds, make sure to talk with your doctor before taking a sleeping pill aid.
Treating Sleeping Pill Addiction
Despite so many adults taking sleep aids, many become dependent. This dependency can easily manifest into a sleeping pill addiction and abuse. While you may not take the drug to get high, you will rely on it to fall and stay asleep, have trouble quitting, and experience withdrawal symptoms.
Like many other addictions, this is manageable with addiction treatment services. With the support of family and friends, you can break your sleeping pill addiction.