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 a 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. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), about 21 million Americans 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.
How Does Lunesta Work?
While Lunesta isn’t a benzo, it’s still a sedative because it 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.
Common Drug Combinations
Lunesta is commonly taken in conjunction with other drugs. Some mix Lunesta with other medications to intensify the effects of both substances but are often unaware of how dangerous this can be.
Mixing Lunesta With Other Sleeping Pills May Intensify Side Effects, Which May Include:
- Stuffy nose
- Unusual taste in the mouth
- Sore throat
- Daytime drowsiness
Combining Lunesta and alcohol is extremely dangerous. Alcohol and Lunesta are both central nervous system (CNS) depressants, and when they are combined can increase the sedative effects. It may cause drowsiness, dizziness, impaired judgment, and difficulty concentrating. Individuals who binge drink and use Lunesta may have problems breathing or watch their blood pressure plummet.
What Are The Signs Of Lunesta Addiction?
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:
- Memory issues
- Frequent sinus problems
- Increased aggression
- Noticeably altered sleep patterns
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:
- Taking the drug more often or in larger doses than prescribed.
- Using Lunesta without a prescription or attempting to forge one.
- Experiencing an increasing tolerance to the drug.
- Having cravings and withdrawal symptoms when not using it.
- Becoming socially withdrawn or isolated.
- Lying about or hiding Lunesta use.
- Experiencing a noticeable decline at work or school.
- Feeling unable to function normally without using Lunesta.
- Paying for it with savings or valuables.
- Being unable to stop using Lunesta, even after trying to quit.
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.
What’s Involved In Lunesta Addiction Treatment?
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:
- Behavioral therapy
- EDMR therapy
- Holistic therapy
- Relapse prevention planning
- Dual diagnosis treatment
- Addiction education
- Stress management
- Motivational interviewing
- Medication-assisted treatment
How Dangerous Is Lunesta?
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 symptoms of a Lunesta overdose include:
- Intense drowsiness
- Sudden unconsciousness
- Dangerously slow breathing
Lunesta Abuse Statistics
- According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 10 million Americans are currently using prescription sleep aids, including Lunesta.
- In 2015 alone, medical practitioners wrote almost 2.5 million prescriptions for Lunesta.
- A 2016 research study found that regular users of Lunesta and other sleep aids are about 15 percent more likely to die at night.
- In 2013, an estimated 330,000 people abused a sedative drug into the month leading up to the survey on sedative abuse.
- In 2014, the FDA recognized the potential for next-day impairment when using Lunesta, and suggested that the dose be brought down.
- The FDA reported that increased suicidal thoughts and behaviors might occur with Lunesta use.
- 31 percent of people admitted to misusing z-drugs to get high.