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Addictions can take many forms. They can be deliberate misuse of drugs or accidentals falls into addiction. Some people with problems falling asleep or staying asleep will begin to take sleeping medications, and then find themselves addicted. Though these medications are generally considered safe when taken for short periods, it is difficult to know in advance who will develop an addiction problem after taking them. Knowing the facts about the addictive properties of many sleeping medications can help you to recognize when you have a problem and to aid in seeking treatment immediately.

Are Sleeping Medications Addictive?

Sleeping MedicationsThe fact is that many medications can induce sleep. Many of the opioid painkillers also act as hypnotics as cause people taking the to feel sleep and fall asleep easily. However, some drugs are specifically designed to induce sleep. These sleeping medications help to relax muscles and reduce nervousness. People find that they can easily fall asleep after taking these medications. Generally, these medications are prescribed to only be used for a short period of time to allow people to learn better habits regarding their sleep patterns. Sometimes, they are given to people who are going through a difficult time in their lives and they are expected to not require the medication after the troubled period passes. Over time, however, researchers have learned that many of these medications can cause a psychological or even physical dependence on the drug. In these cases, the patient may have difficulty stopping the medication.

Types of Sleep Medications

A wide range of sleeping medications are used to treat sleep disorder of various kinds.

  • Benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Restoril, Xanax and Ativan.
  • Non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, such as Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata.
  • Anti-Parkinson’s medications, such as Sinemet, Parlodel, Requip and Mirapex
  • Melatonin-receptor stimulators, such as Rozerem
  • Anti-convulsives, such as Tegretol, Depakene and Neurontin
  • Opiates, such as methadone, oxycodone and dihydromorphone

Benzodiazepine Addiction

Many of the drugs that are prescribed for muscle spasms, anxiety and sleep problems in the past were from a category of medications called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepine medications were introduced for physician use in the 1960s. They were very effective at managing patients’ anxiety and insomnia, but they were found to be habit-forming. Through careful research, the medical community now knows that these benzodiazepine medications can cause addiction through a mechanism that is very similar to the one associated with opioids, cannabinoids and some of the club drugs that are used. Benzodiazepines activate the gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, receptors on cells in the brain. These receptors are extremely sensitive to activation. The effect is a feeling of pleasure. This reward reaction becomes anticipated and reinforced, producing addiction.

Ambien Addiction

Ambien is another sleep medication that causes addiction. Though considered less addictive than benzodiazepine medications, Ambien has been found to cause dependence and withdrawal symptoms when the medication is abruptly stopped. Ambien can be extremely dangerous to use because it causes memory loss. The person may forget they have already taken some when they indulge in more. According to the U.S. Mental Health Department, 17,000 people are seen in emergency rooms due to Ambien overdose and misuse. Ambien is commonly found in homes currently. As many as half a million people are abusing Ambien. Addiction can cause a variety of symptoms including euphoria, which causes the person want to repeat the feeling. It can also cause nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, delusions, short-term memory loss and chronic fatigue. Inpatient treatment is important to manage the severe withdrawal symptoms that can include brain dysfunction that leads to seizures. Ongoing treatment can help to reduce the risk of relapse and help the person restore a normal life.

The Mechanism of Addiction

At the University of Geneva in Switzerland, Dr. Christian Lűscher and other researchers studied the neurological pathways affected by benzodiazepine drugs. Their results suggest that the dopamine surges caused by taking the drug cause changes in the synoptic plasticity of dopamine-producing cells. The research found that bezodiazepines inhibited the effect of interneurons, which help to regulate the amount of dopamine in the brain. Thus, the brain experience more pleasure-giving dopamine, much like the effect of other addictive drugs. The use of these drugs causes in changes in the cellular reactions of the brain and can lead to addiction. The process of treatment must not only manage the physical effects of the addiction reaction, but also change the behaviors that caused the addiction and that have reinforced the addiction.

Symptoms of Addiction

People who become addicted to sleeping medications show a number of common symptoms.

  • Withdrawal symptoms of nausea, anxiety, nervousness, muscle pain when the medication is not taken
  • Obsession with obtaining the drug that keeps the person from his normal responsibilities
  • Difficulty coping with life without the drug
  • Increased tolerance to the drug which makes the person need more and more of it to maintain a state of comfort
  • Denial of drug use
  • Defensiveness about the drug use
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene and habits
  • Inability to reduce the amount of the drug
  • Reduced ability to manage daily work, family and social responsibilities

Effects on Interpersonal Relationships

Of course, it’s not only the person abusing sleeping medications that feels the effects of addiction. Family and friends also become pulled into the behaviors and emotions surrounding the abuse. Lying, deception, theft and absence from family events are often common. The abuser may pull away from friends they have had for years in favor of associating with other abusers, or the person may isolate himself completely from other people in order to indulge in the abuse. Conflicts over money, unexplained absences, work problems and legal problems can cause considerable tension within the family. The behaviors may leave family and friends feeling left out and helpless to stop the cycle of abuse.

Getting Treatment

Generally, people do not set out to become addicted. They may be prescribed sleep medications for legitimate reasons and simply find that their use of the medication spins out of control. Physicians many not be aware that the person is getting multiple prescriptions from the medication from a number of different doctors. The patient may also be getting the medication on the underground market. Fortunately, people who have become addicted to sleeping medications can find inpatient treatment help to assist them through the process of withdrawing from the drug and learning new ways of dealing with problems. Recovery starts with the desire to make changes. These changes often require considerable self-examination under the supervision of trained addiction counselors who can help patients find new ways to express them, choose better companions, resolve other mental health issues and repair their interpersonal relationships. An inpatient treatment facility will allow you the time and space to focus on these issues and examine why the addiction occurred, as well as hopes and goals for the future.

How To Get Effective Treatment

Experts in substance abuse understand that each person’s addiction problem is different, and they have different needs when embarking on the process of recovery. A treatment facility should design a treatment program that suits your individual needs. This can only be done by a thorough assessment of the addiction problem, proper treatment of any physical issues that are involved in the abuse problem and a thorough understanding of the psychological makeup of the individual. The process of recovery from sleeping medication addiction can be complex and involve significant personal examination. Counseling in both group and individual settings can help the patient unravel the complex issues that lead to addiction.

Treatment Options

Inpatient treatment for sleeping medication addiction may encompass a variety of methods. Medications may be necessary to deal with the physical effects of withdrawal. In addition, many people with substance abuse problems may have concurrent psychological issues such as depression or anxiety disorders. These problems may require medication in order to function without the crutch of the sleeping medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy, a method of analyzing problems and reactions and practicing new ways of handling them, has been found to be very useful for those dealing with substance abuse. Family therapy may help overcome problems that have developed with the family because of the substance abuse. Counseling with legal problems or work problems may also be a part of the recovery therapy. Inpatient treatment can help with these and other methods of therapy. If you need help with your sleeping medications addiction problem, call for help today and start on your own personal road to recovery.

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