Lunesta (Eszopiclone) Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options
Lunesta (eszopiclone) is a hypnotic sleep aid with a high potential for abuse. This medication is only intended for short-term use, as addiction to Lunesta can develop rapidly.
Lunesta (eszopiclone) is a nonbenzodiazepine, hypnotic sedative used to treat sleeping disorders, such as insomnia. Researchers estimate that more than 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. There were also approximately three million prescriptions dispensed for Lunesta in 2013. While Lunesta can feasibly be a short-term sleep aid, its potential for abuse remains quite high.
Due to its significant abuse potential, Lunesta is highly regulated and intended for short-term use only. When taken in large doses, Lunesta can induce euphoria. Although the abuse potential of eszopiclone is lower compared to that of benzodiazepines, it is still abused, which can lead to various negative consequences, including addiction.
Often, people who abuse sleep aids do not recognize the full extent of their dependence on the substance until they no longer have access to the medication. Lack of access can lead to the development of addictive behaviors, such as illicit drug purchasing. It is not recommended to suddenly stop taking medications such as Lunesta without proper medical guidance.
Signs Of Lunesta (Eszopiclone) Abuse And Addiction
Someone who is abusing Lunesta may exhibit specific behaviors which can indicate their abuse or addiction to the drug. It has been reported that some individuals will make themselves stay awake to experience the drug’s euphoric and hallucinogenic effects.
Other possible signs of Lunesta abuse and addiction can include:
- mental confusion
- severe irritability
- excessive sweating
- unusual sleep patterns
- consistent daytime drowsiness
- drastic changes in body weight
- isolation from friends and family
- increasing the dose without consulting their doctor
- continuing to take Lunesta after the prescription is expired
- abusing Lunesta with other substances to increase its side effects
Although Lunesta is designed for oral consumption, some individuals may crush and snort the medication to intensify and speed up its effects.
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Effects Of Lunesta (Eszopiclone) Abuse And Addiction
Sometimes referred to as a “z-drug” due to its similarities in nature to benzodiazepines, Lunesta works to increase the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is a natural sedative produced in the brain and helps to reduce and slow brain function so that someone may fall asleep easier.
Many people may start out taking Lunesta for a legitimate medical purpose, but as they use the medication as a part of their nightly routine, they may develop a dependence on the drug. Some reports have indicated that people may abuse Lunesta due to the deep, uninterrupted sleep the drug affords.
Increased quality of sleep may lead to improved energy levels and cognitive function the next day. Another reason people abuse the drug is due to the overwhelming feelings of calm and drowsiness it can cause.
In addition to the desired effects of Lunesta, the medication also produces adverse effects. The chances of adverse effects occurring increase as the dosage increases.
Some effects of Lunesta abuse include:
- daytime drowsiness
- loss of coordination
- nausea and vomiting
- decreased sex drive
- unpleasant taste
- dry mouth
- unusual dreams
- painful menstrual periods (women)
- breast enlargement (men)
Dangers Of Lunesta (Eszopiclone) Abuse And Addiction
A potent sedative, Lunesta has the potential to cause unusual and, at times, dangerous side effects. In some cases, individuals who have abused the drug at high doses report severe cases of amnesia and extreme sleepwalking, where they are not able to recall what actions they performed the next morning.
During these sleepwalking episodes, individuals have reported engaging in many different risky behaviors, such as driving a car, having sex, or leaving the stove on high and forgetting to turn it off. People who are under the influence of Lunesta often lack the mental clarity to recognize that they are in danger.
Lunesta is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that works to slow brain activity. When taken in large doses it can result in severe respiratory depression, making it difficult to impossible to breathe.
Potential risks which result from Lunesta abuse can also depend on whether someone mixes it with another substance, also referred to as polydrug abuse or mixing. If Lunesta is combined with another CNS depressant, such as alcohol or opioids, the likelihood of respiratory depression significantly increases.
When abused for more than six months, it is also possible for Lunesta to interfere with someone’s sleeping pattern. Negative changes to sleeping patterns can drastically reduce the body’s ability to induce sleep, as it becomes dependent on the drug for this function. Improper sleeping patterns may lead to additional health concerns, such as hypertension and impaired physical and cognitive function.
Once someone has abused Lunesta for a while, their bodies may become dependent on the medication. As this happens, the body will be unable to function normally without it and will slowly develop a tolerance to its effects. Tolerance can cause individuals to take increasing amounts of the drug to achieve the same desired outcomes.
As the dose amount of Lunesta increases, so does an individual’s chances of experiencing an overdose. However, fatal overdose as a result of Lunesta abuse is relatively rare. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that fatal overdose as a result of Lunesta abuse only occurred when the drug was mixed with other CNS drugs or alcohol.
In cases of Lunesta overdose, there have not been many symptoms reported, other than a broad spectrum of mental clarity ranging from drowsiness to complete loss of consciousness.
Individuals who take Lunesta for six months or more will most likely experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug. Withdrawal symptoms from Lunesta can be uncomfortable and may include upset stomach, night terrors, extreme anxiety, nausea and vomiting.
It is also possible for some individuals to experience intense cravings for the drug and psychological symptoms similar to benzodiazepine withdrawal. Potential psychological symptoms can include impaired thinking, memory and judgment.
Rebound symptoms are another common occurrence during Lunesta withdrawal. These symptoms are usually similar or the same as the symptoms experienced before taking the medication, only with increased severity. Typically, symptoms include insomnia accompanied by higher levels of anxiety. While rebound symptoms can be intense, they usually only last for three to seven days.
Treatment Options For Lunesta (Eszopiclone) Abuse And Addiction
Many people struggle with an addiction to sleep medications. However, there are many treatment options for people struggling with Lunesta abuse and addiction. Due to the somewhat unpredictable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms Lunesta can cause, individuals who have abuse issues with the medication are urged to seek medical help when considering stopping use of it.
Detoxification from Lunesta will usually consist of tapering off the dose until it is no longer required by the body to function in a normal manner. Inpatient drug rehab programs can provide detox services, as well as medication-assisted treatments and behavioral therapies, to comprehensively treat addiction on both physical and mental fronts.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment — Eszopiclone: its use in the treatment of insomnia
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Eszopiclone
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration — FDA warns of next-day impairment with sleep aid Lunesta (eszopiclone) and lowers recommended dose