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As per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), up to 70 million people in the United States suffer from sleep disorders. These disorders commonly include insomnia, a disease that makes it harder for a sufferer to fall asleep or maintain it through the night. Insomnia can very easily and quickly diminish the quality of life of its sufferers while taking a toll on their mental health. Most experts end up prescribing medications for better control. Lunesta is one such medication frequently prescribed to control the symptoms of insomnia.
Despite being a non-benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotic, Lunesta carries a considerable risk of causing side effects and even addiction. Hence, those who have been using it for a long time must familiarize themselves with what side effects the drug can trigger, the common signs of addiction, and how to overcome these problems with professional help.
What Is Lunesta and Why do People Abuse it?
Categorized as a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic medication, Lunesta is a prescription medication primarily used to treat insomnia. Once promoted as a safer, non-addictive alternative to benzodiazepines with lesser potential for side effects, experts now know how it carries multiple risks of abuse liability, addiction, dependence, and withdrawal. Despite having a different chemical makeup than benzos, Lunesta follows a similar mechanism of action and produces the same effects as them. Both types of drugs are Schedule IV medications, meaning both carry a recognized potential for dependence and abuse. The risk is particularly high for people who consistently use it in higher doses or more frequently than needed for a long period.
People are likely to misuse drugs like Lunesta for various reasons, such as their potential to trigger dose-dependent euphoria. Additionally, there is always an option to boost the euphoric effects of this drug by combining it with other substances, like opioids and alcohol.
Potential Lunesta Side Effects
Lunesta and other similar drugs were promoted initially because of their safer profile and low addictive potential than other sedative-hypnotics typically used for insomnia management. However, even the use of this drug has now led to dangerous effects, such as complex sleep behaviors. This forced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to put a warning on all Lunesta stocks and supplies in 2019. The warning stated how Lunesta carried a risk of inducing complex sleep behaviors, injury, and death. At the same time, the FDA also added complex sleep disorders to the list of contraindications and encouraged clients to tell their doctor if they suffer from this disorder before they prescribed Lunesta.
Even before the boxed warning, the FDA had eventually started decreasing the recommended initial dose of Lunesta with a warning that it may mess with activities that require precision and attention, like a warning. This happened in 2014, approximately 5 years before the boxed warning appeared. Additionally, Lunesta can also lead to other symptoms, ranging from mild to severe categories. Most of these side effects occur in people who abuse the drug and may include:
- Bad taste in the mouth
- flu-like symptoms
- Dry mouth
- Lingering impairment the following day
Sometimes, Lunesta may also cause more serious side effects, such as:
- Behaving or thinking in a strange manner
- Confusion or agitation
- Worsening depression
- Feelings of anxiety
- Experiencing memory loss
- Suicidal thoughts
Perhaps the most concerning side effects include the risk of engaging in complex behavior during sleep. Many individuals may participate in cooking, walking, driving, or taking medications during sleep and not remember these events when they wake up. This may put them at risk of injury or even death in severe circumstances.
Lunesta Compulsive Use and Addiction
Many people who continue to use or abuse Lunesta for longer time periods may develop a diagnosable condition called anxiolytic, sedative, or hypnotic use disorder. This may even happen in people who started taking Lunesta for therapeutic purposes but, at some point, increased its dose or frequency to a problematic level. When their urges to use Lunesta begin messing with their everyday life and activities, such people are said to be suffering from addiction.
Though not exhaustive, the following list mentions the criteria that experts use to diagnose substance use disorder in people taking Lunesta:
- Taking Lunesta in larger quantities or for prolonged time periods than originally prescribed or intended
- Strong cravings to use the drug all the time
- Experiencing a persistent desire to cut down on or completely stop using Lunesta but failing to do so
- Avoidance of essential social, recreational, or personal responsibilities and work to use Lunesta
- Social withdrawal from friends, family, and colleagues at work
- Dedicating a progressively increasing amount of time to obtain, use, or recover from Lunesta effects
- Developing withdrawal effects upon missing a dose or reducing the quantity consumed
Many people who have been using Lunesta for a long time are surprised to find out that an addiction to Lunesta is even possible. Despite rare, the daily use of this drug can lead to reinforcing, potent euphoric effects capable of causing both physical dependence and consequent withdrawal syndrome.
Though once touted as a safer and non-addictive version of benzodiazepines, there is enough evidence to suggest that even Lunesta can lead to abuse, misuse, dependence, and even tolerance.
Lunesta Withdrawal: What to Expect
Despite a low propensity for both addiction and tolerance, individuals using Lunesta may still become dependent on the drug. Once dependence sets in, it can become tough to stop using the drug, as doing so may lead to uncomfortable withdrawal effects. Additionally, even reducing the dose after using this drug for a long term can trigger these withdrawal effects, which may include the following:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
Depending on the duration of use and the severity of the associated physical dependence, acute withdrawal from Lunesta can be highly uncomfortable and often generate complications like seizures. For such people, the best way to keep this phase under control is by opting for a medically-supervised detox process that gets patients past this phase safely and comfortably.
In most people, withdrawal from Lunesta continues for a period of 7 to 10 days. However, some continue to experience mood-related difficulties for months to come and need additional therapeutic consideration for comprehensive recovery.
Lunesta Addiction Treatment: A Time for Healing
The medical detoxification process is an important part of the early recovery program from Lunesta addiction. The process involves either a tapered course of the medication, a substituted sedative agent or other medical interventions, including symptomatic management. A detox process aims to help individuals prepare for the subsequent long-term rehabilitative phase. The process can occur in an outpatient or residential setting and involves additional behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, individual and group counseling, and aftercare services to ensure long-term sobriety. One of the aims of detox is to allow clients comfortably manage withdrawal from Lunesta without resorting back to drug use.
Following the Lunesta detox, many continue treatment by joining a long-term rehab program. Detox only addresses the physical aspect of addiction, whereas rehab helps addicts take care of the psychological aspect. The primary purpose of joining a rehabilitation unit after completing a medical detoxification process includes the following:
- Identify and address the underlying causes of addiction
- Seek behavioral therapy to break free from harmful addictive behaviors
- Acquire new strategies and techniques to learn relapse prevention
- Learn how to recognize high-risk situations, stressors, and triggers and deal with them in a healthy way instead of going back to drug use.
Lunesta rehabs and programs are of different types, each continuing for a long time. Research, however, believes that seeking treatment for at least 90 days or longer leads to the best recovery outcomes. The 30-day programs remain the more convenient and popular choice of addiction treatment for most people, but they may not be as effective as their long-term counterparts.
Lunesta treatment programs also vary depending on the setting they are operating in. Broadly classified, these programs are of two types: inpatient and outpatient drug rehab. During the inpatient rehab, a patient:
- Lives on-site at a dedicated accommodation
- Follows a well-structured routine every day
- Attends one-to-one and group therapy sessions and counseling
- Remains under round-the-clock supervision of the nursing staff
- Participates in 12-Step meetings
- Takes part in alternative therapies, such as art therapy and music therapy
- Utilize the free time to communicate with other residents and form a support system
During an outpatient program for Lunesta addiction treatment, a patient:
- Lives at home and visits the rehab for therapy and counseling
- Attends group support sessions at a nearby location
- Participates in 12-step programs, discussions, and meetings
Depending on the type and duration of a Lunesta addiction treatment program, the cost may vary. However, most of these rehabs offer more than one mode of payment options to make the process easier for everyone. These options for payment include the following:
- Medical insurance
- Financed loans
- Employee assistance programs
- Healthcare credit cards
- Out-of-pocket payments
- Grants or scholarships
- Personal loans from friends or family members
What do people commonly combine Lunesta with?
Many people take Lunesta with other drugs to enhance the overall effect. However, most of them are unaware of how dangerous this polysubstance use can be for their health. Sleeping pills is one of the most common drugs often combined with Lunesta. The combination can severely intensify the latter’s side effects, leading to headaches, sneezing, sore throat, daytime drowsiness, and an unusual taste in the mouth.
Combining Lunesta with alcohol is also equally dangerous, as both substances act as depressants of the central nervous system. When mixed with alcohol, the sedative effects of Lunesta increase, leading to drowsiness, dizziness, impaired judgment, and concentration difficulties. Individuals who binge drink while consuming Lunesta can also experience breathing issues and blood pressure dysregulation.
Is Lunesta addictive?
Data suggests Lunesta alone is not able to trigger addiction severe enough to warrant treatment. In other words, not many people enter treatment just because of Lunesta misuse. However, these statistics do not mean people do not misuse Lunesta. Most of them abuse it in combination with other drugs to boost its sedative effects and feel euphoric. This euphoric feeling can easily make a person addicted to Lunesta and force them to depend on its use to carry out everyday activities.
Can you overdose on Lunesta?
Yes, an individual is very likely to overdose on Lunesta, although the issue remains uncommon. If used alone, Lunesta overdose typically leads to oversedation and intense drowsiness, which is not life-threatening. The threat becomes particularly serious if a person uses the drug in combination with other substances, like benzodiazepines and alcohol. Such combinations intensify the side effects, leading to the following symptoms of overdose:
- Slowed down or stopped breathing
People who are using opioids therapeutically or even misusing them are particularly at a high risk of overdose when they use Lunesta simultaneously.