Lunesta is a short-term medication used to treat sleep disorders, like acute insomnia. As one of three “Z-drugs”, Lunesta is a powerful sedative-hypnotic prescription sleep aid.
The term “Z-drug” refers to the generic names of the three sleeping pills that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat insomnia. They are non-benzodiazepine sedatives: zolpidem, zaleplon, and eszopiclone, also known by the brand names Ambien, Sonata, and Lunesta, respectively.
Z-drugs appear to be safer than benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotics when treating sleep disorders. Lunesta works differently than benzos, like Valium, because it attaches differently to the receptor sites in the brain and it has a shorter half-life. Because of this, Lunesta has less next-day sleepiness.
A person taking Lunesta for more than a couple weeks may become tolerant to its effects. Tolerance occurs when a higher dose of Lunesta is needed to feel the intended effects.
Taking higher doses of Lunesta increases the risk of dependence on the drug in order to function. In this case, a person may actually start to struggle to go to sleep without Lunesta.
Signs Of Lunesta Abuse
Taking Lunesta in ways that are not prescribed is considered drug abuse. Some people try to stay awake on purpose, because Lunesta can evoke euphoria and sometimes even hallucinations. Others may abuse Lunesta by taking higher doses or crushing and snorting the pills.
Additional signs an individual is abusing Lunesta:
- intense irritability
- frequent bouts of the hiccups
- excessive sweating
- bizarre sleep patterns
- constant drowsiness
- spending long periods of time in isolation
- polydrug use (combining Lunesta with other drugs)
- significant weight change
- panic attacks
- finding and abusing Lunesta without a prescription
- unusual shifts in blood pressure
Side Effects Of Lunesta Abuse
The effects of Lunesta can be alarming and unpredictable, especially when it is abused. In fact, the FDA has issued a warning about an alarming list of effects that have been coined “Complex Sleep Behaviors” and anyone who has experienced them should never take Lunesta, Ambien, or Sonata.
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People who engage in these complex sleeping behaviors often have no recollection of the events, as they seem to have “blacked out” or have some kind of amnestic episode.
Examples of complex sleeping behaviors observed or experienced while taking Lunesta:
- being burned
- accidentally taking more Lunesta and overdosing
- having sex
- shooting themselves
- property damage
- criminal activities
- road rage
- turning a gas stove on high and leaving the flame
Mixing Lunesta with other drugs can compound the effects of both drugs, making the side effects more intense and incalculable. For example, taking too much Lunesta may cause respiratory depression, leading to the person being unable to breathe. If a person consumes alcohol and Lunesta, two central nervous system depressants, the person could experience respiratory failure.
Other side effects of Lunesta abuse include:
- abnormal thoughts
- dry mouth
- unpleasant taste
- suicidal thoughts
- chest pains
Additionally, long-term use of Lunesta or having a Lunesta addiction can impact the body’s ability to fall asleep naturally. Being unable to sleep can cause cognitive impairments, hypertension, delusions, and extreme aggression.
An addiction to Lunesta can turn deadly very quickly. It is important to be able to discern between someone who is taking Lunesta short-term for the treatment of insomnia and someone who may be addicted to Lunesta.
If someone is taking Lunesta for more than a couple of weeks, it can suggest that they are abusing the prescription medication. Physicians will usually only prescribe Lunesta for two weeks at a time, and there are restrictions on refills.
One way that someone addicted to prescription drugs attempts to get around restrictions or raising concerns is to see multiple doctors and attempt to have as many Lunesta prescriptions as possible. This activity, called “doctor shopping”, is a clear sign of an existing or emerging addiction.
When someone struggles with addiction, they may start to act in ways that are completely out of character for them. They may stop spending time with loved ones or friends, drop hobbies, slack on responsibilities, or they may become irritable and aggressive.
Another good indication that a person is struggling with an addiction to sleeping pills, like Lunesta, is they will take them during wakeful hours. They have no intention of going to sleep, but instead are attempting to get high. They are likely to crave Lunesta as well.
My Loved One Has A Lunesta Addiction: What Next?
Addiction is consuming and exhaustive for everyone involved, but especially the person who is addicted. They experience obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, engage in questionable activities, and seem to systematically lose pieces of their previous lives. And to cope, they return to the thing that is actually causing them to lose themselves, in this case, Lunesta.
When reaching out to an addicted loved one, remember the goal: sobriety. Keeping that in mind may make it easier to go to them with love, concern, and hope. Let them know that you want to support them in getting clean, and that you will help them in any way that you can, as long as they agree to stop using and get help.
Lunesta addiction usually needs more than an outpatient substance abuse treatment program, or a support group, like Narcotics Anonymous. Having information about inpatient substance abuse treatment facilities that are willing to accept your loved one, should they agree to treatment, will increase the likelihood of them following through with that decision.
There are professional interventionists that can help with appropriately confronting your loved one and helping them agree to rehab.
Lunesta Addiction Treatment Options
Substance abuse treatment centers that offer a supervised medical detox program are very capable of treating a Lunesta addiction. A detox program will help decrease the intensity of Lunesta withdrawal symptoms, like rebound insomnia and anxiety.
Treatment facilities also help a person understand why they were abusing substances in the first place, including mental health issues. These programs attempt to break down the nature of addiction, and that understanding can encourage long-term sobriety.
We can help you find a treatment facility that offers the options that will provide you or your loved one with the services necessary to open the road to recovery. Contact our knowledgeable staff today.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
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- Drugs in R&D — Benzodiazepines and Z-Drugs: An Updated Review of Major Adverse Outcomes Reported on in Epidemiologic Research
- Journal of Medical Toxicology — The Clinical and Forensic Toxicology of Z-Drugs
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration — Taking Z-drugs for insomnia? Know the risks
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration — Lunesta Insert