Learn About Sleeping Aid Addiction and Treatment

Sleep Aid Abuse StatisticsMany people think of sleep aids as harmless pills used to treat insomnia, but the reality is that sleep aids are among the most commonly abused drugs in the country. A 2015 report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) revealed just how pervasive sleeping aid addiction has become in the United States.

According to SAMHSA, more than 18.6 million Americans used prescription sedatives, a category that includes popular sleeping aids like Ambien and Lunesta, in 2015. An estimated 1.5 million of those Americans misused their prescription sedatives that year.

Some other figures worth noting that involve sleep aids:

  • More than 400,000 Americans aged 12 and older abused sedatives for the first time in 2015, while another 154,000 Americans developed a sedative use disorder.
  • Despite the widespread evidence of abuse, just 116,000 Americans received treatment for sedative misuse in 2015.

This significant gap of those with a sleeping aid addiction and those who received treatment for it underscores the lack of available information about the potential dangers and addictive nature of popular sleep aids.


Among all of the sedative-hypnotic drugs used to treat insomnia, zolpidem is easily the most popular. Better known by the brand name Ambien, zolpidem was used by nearly 60 percent of the 18.6 million Americans who used a sleep aid in 2015, according to SAMHSA.

Ambien is a fast-acting sedative. Users feel its effects in as quickly as 15 minutes after consuming the sleep aid.

Zolpidem is classified as a non-benzodiazepine. The drug is chemically different from traditional benzo compounds, but it acts by binding to the GABA neurotransmitter in the same way that a benzodiazepine chemical would. This neurotransmitter is responsible for regulating muscle tension, which can determine how easily a person falls asleep.


More widely known as Lunesta, eszopiclone is another popular sleeping aid used to treat patients dealing with insomnia. Like Ambien, Lunesta is a sedative-hypnotic that affects the human body by interacting with the brain’s GABA neurotransmitter receptors. Unlike Ambien, Lunesta is not recommended for treating elderly patients with insomnia.

Another quality that Lunesta shares with Ambien is that the sleeping aid is highly addictive. In fact, both drugs have a potential for dependence that is similar to that of widely abused benzodiazepine medications.

Lunesta and Ambien interact directly with the central nervous system, and long-term abuse can eventually lead to permanent changes in the chemistry of the brain. These risks emphasize the need for patients to learn as much as they can about sleeping aid addiction and dependence.

Short- and Long-Term Effects of Sleeping Pills

Ambien and Lunesta are both very effective sleep aids. However, these hypnotic sedatives have a long list of side effects. If users begin to abuse their sleeping aid prescription, it is likely that these symptoms will worsen and could even become permanent.

Common short-term effects of sleeping aid abuse include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Somnambulism (sleepwalking)
  • Difficulty maintaining good posture

Over time, it is not uncommon for patients to become physically and emotionally dependent on their sleep aid. Hypnotic sedatives like Ambien and Lunesta become less effective as the user begins to develop a tolerance. This change encourages many users to up their dosage and continue taking the drug after their prescription has run out.

Eventually, continued sleeping pill abuse will lead to the following symptoms:

  • Chronic headaches
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Debilitating memory loss
  • Limited coordination and focus
  • Major behavioral shifts
  • Chest pains
  • Extended memory loss

The Need for Sleeping Aid Addiction Treatment

A common misconception that patients hold is that a drug prescribed by their doctor is not dangerous or addictive. However, many types of prescription medication, ranging from sleeping aids to painkillers, have a high potential for dependence if patients do not follow their doctor’s exact instructions. Treating these problems becomes even more difficult when the patient is also struggling with mental health issues.

At The Treatment Center by The Recovery Village, we recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to addiction and dependence. We seek to develop personalized treatment plans for each of our patients, based upon input from our experienced physicians and psychiatrists. We can customize a plan for your or a loved one that will address all substance abuse and insomnia issues.

Get in touch with our admissions counselors at (866) 295-6003 if you have more questions about sleeping aid addiction and finding proper treatment.

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