For the 1 out of every 3 Americans who don’t get enough sleep, there are not really that many options. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the recommended first-line treatment, and it is considered to be the most-effective long-term option. But that requires patience and effort, things that most sleep-deprived people have in short supply.

And, as Dr. Andrew Krystal, M.D., says, “There’s clearly a subset of patients who don’t improve with CBT.” Dr. Krystal runs the sleep research program at the University of California at San Francisco.

That leaves medications, and that’s a tricky proposition.  Prescription sleeping drugs offer fast relief, but they are EXTREMELY habit-forming and carry with them a risk of overdose.

First, there were barbiturates such as phenobarbital, but those fell out of favor due to their high risk of dependence and overdose.

Next, there were benzodiazepines like Restoril and Halcion, but dependence and overdose are still major concerns. In fact, “benzo”  dependence can be so severe that abrupt discontinuations can be fatal.

Finally, there are the so-called “Z-drugs”, and they are supposed to be even safer, there are still reasons to use these with extreme caution.

What are Z-Drugs?

Z-drugs are non-benzodiazepine prescription sleep medications, each typically beginning with the letter “Z”:

  • Zolpidem (Ambien)
  • Zaleplon (Sonata)
  • Eszopiclone (Lunesta)

Are Z-Drugs Safe?

While some Z-drugs have fewer adverse side-effects than benzos, risks do exist:

  • In the elderly, a greater possibility of falls and fractures
  • Doubled risk of car crashes
  • Rapidly-developing tolerance, leading to a loss of effectiveness and the need for higher doses
  • Sleepwalking
  • Night eating
  • Dependence
  • Withdrawal
  • Addiction
  • Premature death

When Z-drugs are used in combination with other central nervous system depressants like alcohol, opioids, or benzodiazepines, and the effects are magnified to a dangerous degree, possibly leading to overdose and death.

What is the Bottom Line about Z-drugs?

There are a number of cases in the literature of such escalation of dosage with zopiclone, followed by dependence and withdrawal symptoms on stopping. There are also an increasing number of cases reported of misuse and abuse of high doses of zolpidem (Ativan). This can result in hallucinations and psychosis and is reminiscent of the adverse effects of triazolam (Halcion), the short-acting benzodiazepine hypnotic now banned in the UK.”

~ Dr. C. Heather Ashton, D.M.

The search for relief from insomnia can leave you desperate, so when you find something that works, you want to stick with it. But when your sleeping medication puts you at risk and you can’t stop, then it’s time for professional help.

If you live in San Diego, you can find that help at Lasting Recovery. With an evidence-based and award-winning approach to treatment, Lasting Recovery has become one of the top drug rehab programs in San Diego. You CAN heal from your sleeping pill addiction.

For more information, contact Lasting Recovery TODAY.