Lunesta is the brand name of the prescription sleep aid eszopiclone, a nonbenzodiazepine sedative-hypnotic. In other words Lunesta is meant to be a safer, less addictive alternative to benzodiazepines (or benzos) such as Klonopin or Valium for individuals with insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Unfortunately, marketing Lunesta as the safe way to treat sleep disorders can actually make people more likely to abuse it, since they think they can do so without negative consequences. In fact, according to a study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), about 21 million Americans people said they’d abused Lunesta and similar non-benzos at least once.
Lunesta abuse isn’t safe, and it can lead to addiction within just a few weeks. Heavy use can lead to depression, memory problems, and significant organ damage.
While Lunesta isn’t a benzo, it’s still a sedative, so it also depresses the central nervous system. But while most benzos are meant to broadly treat the symptoms of anxiety and insomnia, Lunesta explicitly induces sleep.
By increasing the levels of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), your brain can regulate feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear by inhibiting the nerve impulses that carry these feelings to the brain. Lunesta mimics this natural GABA flow, so it binds with receptors in the brain, activates them over and over, and creates an excess flood of GABA.
However, Lunesta isn’t intended to be a long-term solution. Since GABA receptors quickly become less sensitive, users require more and more Lunesta to provide the same effects.
Here’s one thing that makes recognizing the signs of Lunesta abuse and addiction difficult: People aren’t as aware of the risks involved in abusing Lunesta because it’s perceived as being safer than prescription medications such as Xanax.
Therefore, an individual abusing Lunesta may not realize they have a problem until they’ve developed a full-blown addiction. Some common side effects of regular Lunesta abuse include:
After users are addicted to Lunesta, they will become compulsive and unable to control how much they use. They will exhibit behaviors consistent with a substance use disorder, such as continuing to use despite the negative impact it has on their relationships and finances.
Other signs of Lunesta addiction include:
If you’ve recognized these signs in yourself or someone you care about, get help from professional addiction treatment services as soon as you can. Then you might be able to avoid some of the serious health consequences caused by Lunesta abuse and addiction.
The first step in the treatment for almost every addictive substance is medical detoxification. Detox is the process of removing any trace of drugs or alcohol from someone’s system, which is accomplished by removing all of the toxins from their bodies.
Depending on specific factors (such as physical health and the abuse of other substances in tandem), patients may only attend an outpatient detox, as the symptoms associated with Lunesta withdrawal are on the milder end of the drug-abuse spectrum. That being said, Lunesta is still a depressant, so it can sometimes present dangerous symptoms, such as hallucinations, insomnia, suicidal behavior, and seizures. Therefore, detoxing from Lunesta should not be attempted without medical supervision.
After completing detox, the next step in Lunesta addiction treatment is ongoing care in an addiction recovery treatment program. Depending on someone’s specific treatment needs, this step can be performed in an inpatient program, which involves living onsite at a treatment center during recovery. The other option is an outpatient program, which involves regularly commuting to a facility.
Regardless of the patient’s decision, ongoing treatment is crucial to achieving lasting sobriety. If detox isn’t followed up with further care, relapse is all but guaranteed. During treatment, clients learn about the underlying issues driving their addictive behaviors, so they can manage them in a more positive, effective manner.
Generally, a client will work with their therapist to put together an addiction treatment plan that’s customized to best meet their needs. Here are some common therapies and treatment elements that might be included:
Lunesta isn’t as dangerous as opioids and some sedatives, barbiturates, and benzos. However, many users of Lunesta will experience sleepwalking as a common side effect. Users have also been documented as cooking, eating, holding conversations, having sex, and driving while asleep. Generally, people wake up with no recollection of what they were doing while they were unconscious.
Since Lunesta isn’t intended for long-term use, it can lead to serious health problems, including damage to the liver, kidneys, and lungs. This damage may become permanent after someone has stopped using it.
People will often use Lunesta with alcohol or other drugs, which creates an increased risk of overdose. However, it is possible to overdose on Lunesta alone.
The idea of Lunesta abuse and addiction may not have the same dangerous implications as depressants such as benzos, barbiturates, and alcohol. However, they’re still serious, potentially life-threatening conditions.
Is your loved one struggling with Lunesta abuse or addiction? Are you? If so, it’s important for you to treat it with the seriousness it requires and get help before it’s too late.
Kripke, D. F. (2016, May). Hypnotic Drug Risks. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4890308/
Stoppler, M. C., M.D. (2018, April 18). Common Side Effects of Lunesta (Eszopiclone). from https://www.rxlist.com/lunesta-side-effects-drug-center.htm
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017, November). Consumer Updates: Combating Misuse and Abuse of Prescription Drugs. from https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm220112.htm
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2016, February). FDA Drug Safety Communication: Lunesta. from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drugsafety/ucm397260.htm