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– What Are Sleeping Pills?

“Sleeping pill” is a broader term used for over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medication like Desyrel, Xanax, Valium, and Ambien. They fall under the category of sedative-hypnotic drugs for their properties to induce or increase drowsiness.
These are basically therapeutic drugs used to treat and manage sleep-related disorders. The sleeping pills mechanism of action is to affect the GABA receptors in the brain and induce sedation and drowsiness. In addition, they also reduce anxiety and increase muscle relaxation.

Street names for sleeping pills include:

  • Bars
  • Blues
  • Chill pills
  • French fries
  • Planks
  • Poles
  • Totem
  • Tranks
  • Z-bar
  • Zanies
  • Downers

Various brands and classes of the best sleeping pills work on many levels to treat insomnia, and hence, the time taken to see their effects also differs. Most sleeping pills are supposed to be taken right before you go to bed, and you should have at least 8 hours of rest before you plan to wake up and go about your daily duties. Since these drugs are powerfulhypnotics, if you do not get a full night’s sleep, it will increase the risk of your daytime drowsiness.

Other sleeping pills used include sleep maintenance. This is for people who have trouble going back to sleep once they wake up in the middle of the night. In such cases, prescription pills like Intermezzo will help them go back to sleep. This pill can be taken in the middle of the night – when you have at least 4 hours of bedtime remaining.

How Do Sleeping Pills Work?

Sleeping pills mechanism of action is such that they encourage drowsiness in people by controlling the brain’s section that affects their ability to focus. If they have a hard time sleeping, these pills help relax the brain’s GABA receptors and induce sleep.

They work similar to benzos and cause the same side effects. They have a high potential for addiction as both activate GABA receptors and create relaxation in the users. However, the main difference is that benzos are used to treat anxiety and other issues while sleeping aids only target insomnia and related conditions.

Types of Sleeping Pills

People whose inner clock is off due to traveling a lot or with an irregular circadian rhythm may have trouble sticking to the normal sleep track. Sleeping aids are non-benzodiazepines, also called, “Z-Drugs,” which are those that sedate users by inducing a sleep-like state.
There are three main Z-Drugs types, apart from the generic versions:
Ambien (Zolpidem): It is marketed as having less addictive potential than benzodiazepines. However, that fact remains that, due to its fading effectiveness, people may get addicted in less than 2 weeks.

Lunesta (Eszopiclone): It is another sleep aid, available as small circular pills in white or blue, from 1-3 mg potency since they are recommended only for a short duration.

Sonata (Zaleplon): It is the most short-acting Z-drug, available as a time-release capsule, designed to induce sleep instantly.

Although all these Z-drugs are to be consumed orally, many abusers take them in a powdered form by crushing the pills and snorting them to get the instant effects. It is best you incorporate them in your normal night-time routine so that you don’t miss a dose.

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Sleeping Pills Intoxication

Some people double-up on their medicine if they miss a dose; however, the drug has the potential to overdose even when taken in small amounts or combined with other drugs or alcohol.

The interaction of sleeping pills and alcohol can be potentially fatal. First comes the dizziness, then, confusion and fainting. Prolonged intake of sleeping pills along with alcohol exacerbates existing insomnia and may result in unexpected behaviors and blackouts.

Sleeping pills overdose will be preceded with overwhelming sedative effects and the victims may hurt themselves as they lose control during their sleep. Consequences, like sleepwalking and getting behind the wheel in your sleep, might cause grave sleep-induced injuries. Under the influence of drugs, some people are known to commit crimes, as well.

Addiction to sleeping pills alone may not seem like a serious problem; however, when people mix them with certain substances or harsh drugs, it may lead to an unusual high. Likewise, taking sleeping pills in high amounts may result in death, so does taking them without a doctor’s prescription as patients would not know the right dosage to consume.

Typically, statistics reveal that users combine the following drugs with sleeping pills:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Painkillers
  • Antidepressants, and
  • Alcohol

Even when it is not the case, consuming the drug without a prescription or in lieu of proper precautionary measures may cause increased sleepiness, lethargy, unconsciousness, and forgetfulness. Victims may complain about abdominal pain, lose their appetite, constipation, vomiting, or lose or gain weight suddenly (in case of long-term abuse).

Elevated blood pressure, abnormal breathing may cause unconsciousness, which is when life-saving CPR should be administered without delay. In case someone has overdosed intentionally and is unwilling to accept help, you should contact authorities.

Sleeping Pills Addiction Symptoms

Sleeping pills are short-term prescription drugs provided as a solution to improve sleep quality. However, both patients and nonpatients often misuse the medicine. Repetitive patterns of abuse lead to the powerful grip of sleeping pills addiction that comes with significant risks. Recognizing the signs of abuse in time can save people from facing dangerous side effects or in worst cases, death.

Sleeping pills addiction side effects:

  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Unsteady gait
  • Loss of focus and memory
  • Unusual euphoria
  • Sleepwalking, sleep-driving, and others

You may notice intensified side effects with prolonged use, namely – irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, depression, paranoia, and others.

Sleeping Pills – Warnings

We have talked about the adverse combinations like alcohol and sleeping pills; both being sedatives, they can induce severe drowsiness and slow down crucial bodily functions like breathing. So, before taking the medication, talk to your pharmacist about the adverse consequences of each drug. If you are already using other medications, be honest with your doctor so you can avoid any potential drug interactions.
People with respiratory troubles like asthma, emphysema, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease should be extra careful while starting sleeping pills. Besides, it is not advisable to take sleeping pills alongside grapefruit as the fruit increases the medication levels in the bloodstream and may cause an overdose. They may face allergic reactions like chest pain, blurred vision, itching, breathing problems, pounding heartbeat, etc.

Sleeping Pills Withdrawal

Even if someone is addicted to sleeping pills, they may not themselves realize it or be in a position to admit it. Others may even argue that their doctor has insisted it is not an addiction. However, as their tolerance for the drug increases, they may start taking larger doses to achieve the desired effect. They only suspect it once they begin to detect withdrawal symptoms after suddenly stopping all sleep medication.

Rebound Insomnia

One of the biggest symptoms of acute withdrawal of sleeping pills addiction is that most chronic users experience a phase called “rebound insomnia.” Quitting the drugs “cold turkey” can cause these symptoms, which is when users stop taking their medications abruptly. This is often worse than original insomnia for which they were using the medicine. During this phase, users may have bizarre and disturbing dreams that can lead to severe anxiety, panic attacks, and even paranoia.
However, it is more likely that addicts may realize their dependence and wrongly assume that they need to continue taking sleeping pills. The result is a vicious cycle of dangerous abuse. But the silver lining is that this condition is manageable with proper treatment from trained healthcare professionals. The problem is getting the addicts to agree for treatment.


When you see that someone you care about being in the grips of Z-drugs like Lunesta, Sonata, or Ambien, you should talk to them receiving the required treatment. This process of letting them realize their addiction is called intervention.
Staging an intervention with their well-wishers, family, friends, coworkers, etc. can show them that you are on their side, and they are not alone in this fight. If you think that this process is out of your capabilities, there are intervention specialists that can do this for you. They can outline the severe consequences of refusing to get proper help in time. They can provide the contact numbers of the right professionals to reach out in case of an onset of the withdrawal mode.

Remember that getting addicted to powerful sleeping pills takes a toll on your life, career, and relationships. Talking to a medical expert about your next steps towards recovery can help a great deal. You can learn about the detox process, which will help you get through the withdrawal symptoms safely. If you don’t know where to start, call AddictionAide or look through our website for the right treatment clinic for you.


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