We’re all told to try and get a good night’s sleep for both our physical and mental wellbeing but that can be easier said than done. For many reasons, some individuals turn to sleeping pills if they are unable to sleep.
The latest research shows that these pills could actually be causing our bodies more harm than good. What’s more, the reliance that some people have on sleeping pills has led many to question ‘are sleeping pills addictive?’. Here, we explore everything there is to know about sleeping pill use and addiction.
Common Sleeping Tablets
There are various types of sleeping pills, each of which has different chemical structures and interacts with the brain in different ways.
- Benzodiazepines: This includes common sleeping pills like Valium and Xanax. While these types of pills are usually prescribed for anxiety, they do also have sedative properties.
- Non-benzodiazepine hypnotics: Sometimes called Z drugs, these include Zopiclone, Ambien and Sonata and are believed to be less addictive than other types of sleeping pills. Zopiclone is one of the most commonly prescribed hypnotic drugs in England.
- Barbiturates: Less common nowadays but these were originally used to suppress the nervous system and were used as anesthesia and insomnia. However, there are huge risks associated with overdose.
- Over-the-counter sleeping pills: These types of pills aren’t as strong as the medication that would be prescribed by a doctor and typically contain antihistamines that cause drowsiness.
In the UK, recent figures show that the number of prescriptions for sleeping pills has been on the rise for several years. In fact, in recent years more than 14 million prescriptions have been written every single year in the UK.
Sleeping Pill Dependence Symptoms
While sleeping pills are frequently prescribed by medical professionals and certain strains are available over the counter, they are also very addictive and can lead to prescription drug addiction. However, being aware of the signs and symptoms of a sleeping pill addiction can help you detect a potential issue before it becomes serious. The most common symptoms include:
- Having an increased tolerance to the drug
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms without it
- Taking more pills than prescribed
- Not being able to stop using the drug
- Spending a huge amount of time trying to find, use or recover from the drug
A study found that older adults are more likely to be prescribed sleeping pills, and ⅕ of all adults over 85 are prescribed sleeping pills in a given year. What’s more, concerns about the risk of addiction in those who regularly take sleeping pills have resulted in calls for more prescribing guidelines in the UK. Currently, the NHS has advised that adults should not be prescribed sleeping pills for longer than 4 weeks to avoid dependence. It is important to note that when used as prescribed, sleeping pills can be safe.
How Addictive are Sleeping Pills?
When an individual takes a sleeping pill, the drug begins to change the way the brain’s neurotransmitters work. These are the chemicals in the body that send messages between nerve cells. Sleeping pills also work on the GABA, the gamma-aminobutyric acid neurotransmitter which when activated helps someone to feel calm and relaxed. This is why sleeping pills are sometimes used for anxiety and is also why individuals find falling asleep easier with sleeping pills as the GABA slows down the brain’s activity.
Unfortunately, sleeping pills carry the risk of dependency and addiction, especially when they are used for prolonged periods of time. Benzodiazepines carry the highest risk but it is also still possible for an individual to become addicted to non-benzodiazepine hypnotics. While over-the-counter sleeping aids have a lower risk of addiction, when used as prescribed, they do carry the risk of addiction and other health concerns when they are overused. A sleeping pill rehab programme may be required if you are struggling with addiction and prescription drug abuse.
Why Are Sleeping Pills Addictive?
There are several reasons why sleeping pills are so addictive. One of the main reasons is that sleeping pills can change the way the brain functions and alter the neurotransmitters. This means that the body requires more sleeping pills in order to maintain the altered state. What’s more, as the body begins to depend on the drug in order to function, withdrawal symptoms can occur without sleeping pills. There is also a psychological reliance for many as after a long time the thought of not using sleeping pills can be scary. Sleeping pills are addictive, so use them with care and as advised by your doctor.
Seeking Professional Help for Sleeping Pill Addiction
There have been many concerns about the adverse effects of sleeping pills. Studies show that there could be potential links to dementia, worsening mental health and even an increase in accidents and injury among older adults. Not to mention that addiction of any kind can take its toll on an individual’s health, finances, relationships, family life and career.
Therefore, if you or someone you know is showing signs of a sleeping pill addiction, it’s essential to seek help. Together, with a professional team of addiction recovery experts, you’ll be supported through prescription drug detox and therapy to safely remove the drug from your system, address the underlying cause of the addiction and put in place strategies for healthier coping mechanisms. What’s more, you may also be prescribed medication to help ease underlying conditions and local support groups will help you to connect and engage with those in similar experiences.
While sleeping pills might seem like they are providing that much-needed relief in the short term, they do come with potential risks and long-term effects. If you are going to use sleeping pills, you should do so responsibly and under the guidance of a medical professional. For those concerned about becoming addicted to sleeping pills, natural sleeping aids and good sleep hygiene can help you get a better night’s rest.
If you have any questions about addiction to sleeping pills or want to know more information about treating sleeping pill addiction, our friendly team is always here to help – contact us on 0800 001 4070 for help.