How Does Sleeping Medication Abuse Affect You?

Sleeping pills are among the most commonly used medications in the U.S. There are different types of sleep medicine, each of which is designed to help promote sleep in people with sleep disorders.

Unfortunately, sleeping pills are also frequently misused, which can lead to abuse and addiction. Understanding the physiology of sleep medicine and its biological effects within the body is important for preventing misuse and dependence.

Types of Sleeping Pills and Their Indications

Doctors typically prescribe sleeping medication to patients who have been diagnosed with acute or chronic insomnia. For some, this may include difficulty falling asleep. For others, the problem may include nighttime waking with difficulty going back to sleep.

Based on each individual’s symptoms and how long the insomnia has been present, a medication may be prescribed to promote better quality sleep.

These medications are categorized into two primary groups – pills that induce sleep and pills designed to help a person stay asleep. Some sleep medicines, such as Eszopiclone (Lunesta) and Zolpidem (Ambien CR), actually serve both purposes.

How Does Sleeping Medication Abuse Affect You?

Biological Interactions and Dependency

The chemical compounds in sleeping pills bind to GABA receptors within the brain – the same ones that benzodiazepines bind to. They work very quickly, causing the body to relax and fall asleep often within just 15 minutes.

The Half-Life

The main difference between most sleep medications is their half-life, which refers to how long the effects of the drug remain active within the body. A longer half-life means that the effects of a drug may persist long after a person wakes up in the morning, potentially causing daytime impairment.

Taking the wrong dosage outside of that which is prescribed by a doctor can have serious consequences.

The Illegal Use of Sleeping Pills

Sleeping pills are often and easily misused for both medical and recreational purposes. As a ‘street’ drug, prescription sleep medications may be taken to enhance the effects of alcohol.

Even people with a prescription can abuse sleeping pills, taking too large of a dose or taking the pills more often than prescribed.


How Does Sleeping Medication Abuse Affect You?

Over time, misuse can cause the body to build up tolerance to the drugs, requiring an increasingly larger dosage to achieve the same effects. In some cases, a person may become dependent on sleeping medications for sleep or even develop an addiction to the drugs.

Attempts to stop taking sleep medicine after an addiction has formed are often unsuccessful, as the brain has been ‘trained’ to only feel good or normal when the medication is present. In addition, a person abusing sleeping pills may exhibit unusual behaviors such as:

  • Persistent drowsiness
  • Blackouts
  • Loss of interest in seeing friends and family
  • Failure to take care of otherwise normal responsibilities

Help for Sleeping Pill Addiction

If you or someone you know is showing signs of abuse or dependency, help is available. Take steps today to break the cycle of addiction in your life.