Lunesta (eszopiclone) is a sedative-hypnotic medication. It is prescribed to treat adults who have insomnia, a sleep disorder. It is one of many sleep disturbances that affect an estimated 50 to 70 million people in the U.S., according to the Sleep Health Foundation.
The sleep aid Lunesta promises relief from the endless struggle to get some Z’s. This is one of the reasons it has grown in popularity over the years.
Many people are turning to medications to get some rest. Consumer Reports once surveyed 1,767 U.S. adults who complained of sleep problems at least once a week. It found that nearly a third of them reported using either over-the-counter medication or a prescription sleep aid in the previous year. Even still, many of them who did this still didn’t get the rest they thought they would, according to the publication.
Lunesta may seem like a harmless pill because it is not an opioid or benzodiazepine, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without its dangers. Read on to learn how Lunesta works and why people who are recovering from substance addiction may want to seek alternatives to using this medication.
How Does Lunesta Work?
Like benzodiazepines, Lunesta affects a natural brain chemical called gamma-Aminobutyric acid or GABA. GABA inhibits the nerve signals that bring on feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear. When this happens, the brain slows down, and the user relaxes, become sleepy, and then falls asleep.
People who use drugs that affect the receptors of this chemical can stay calm for longer periods, which is one of the reasons why they are prescribed. When a drug like Lunesta is taken for a specific period, GABA receptors come to rely on it more. This means it makes less of the drug naturally and waits for the drug to enter the body and produce more. This is problematic when a frequent Lunesta user decides to reduce their intake of the drug or stop using it altogether.
Long-term or frequent use also means the person will get used to the drug and may seek to take more of it just to feel the effects they initially felt. A desire to fall asleep or stay asleep could have someone reaching for the pills more than they should. This is a habit that leads some people to develop a dependence on the drug, which can then become an addiction.
Some users are taking their sleeping pills at the wrong time or taking more of them than prescribed. This practice counts as misuse if that’s not what their prescription instructs them to do.
A 2013 study found that among 2,000 respondents who were prescribed sleeping medication, 20 percent reported using it in the middle of the night. Some respondents said they took two such sleeping pills during the same night.
As the American Academy of Sleep Medicine notes, taking sleeping pills in the middle of the night can increase one’s chances of experiencing drowsiness in daytime waking hours. It also increases the likelihood that users are rising from bed not fully awake.
This is problematic because people have been known to engage in activities while under the drug’s influence. Sleep-driving is one behavior that occurs when this happens. Other behaviors people have reported while under the influence of Lunesta include:
- Sleep cooking
- Talking on the phone
- Engaging in sexual activity
If you find yourself involved in any of these after taking Lunesta, alert your doctor right away.
The FDA states that it has received reports of people taking medications for insomnia and then doing things that leave them injured. These include falling, being burned, shooting themselves, or accidentally overdosing on the medications. FDA. gov writes, “Since Ambien was approved in 1992, the FDA has identified 66 serious cases of complex sleep behaviors after a person has taken a Z-drug, 20 of which resulted in death.”
Lunesta Is Intended For Short-Term Treatment
According to WebMD, Lunesta is intended for short treatment periods of one to two weeks or less. People who struggle with insomnia for longer periods are advised to talk with a doctor about exploring other treatment options. The medication should be taken exactly as prescribed.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that Lunesta be administered at the lowest effective dose. The recommended initial dose is 1 mg (milligram), and as much as 3 mg can be prescribed. It is advised that it be taken right before bedtime. It should be noted that complex sleep behaviors such as those mentioned earlier can still occur at lower dosages as well as high ones, the FDA notes.
Users should have at least seven or eight hours of sleep after taking the medication. If not, they risk experiencing memory loss and difficulty with operating machinery or driving a car.
Consult with a physician so that you have specific instructions for your condition.
Taking the drug for longer than needed can result in dependence or addiction, both of which are hard to break. When people fully rely on Lunesta to fall asleep, they may feel the need to cut back or cut it back entirely. Withdrawal from this drug can occur, too. This is one reason why going cold turkey is not recommended.
Should Recovering Benzo, Opioid Users Take Lunesta?
With more than 80 sleep disorders in existence, there are plenty of reasons why people aren’t getting enough rest; substance or medication-induced sleep disorder is one of them. Trouble sleeping is one of the harrowing symptoms people deal with while in withdrawal from opioid and benzo use.
Like many others, they may be open to trying anything that allows them to sleep. Recovering from a lifestyle of substance abuse requires a lot, and sleep is among the top priorities.
As VeryWell Mind writes, getting better sleep is essential in overcoming addiction. “Establishing good sleep habits—as difficult as that may be—early in your recovery can increase your chances of avoiding a relapse.”
While Lunesta and other Z-drugs (Ambien, Sonata) may seem like a safe alternative to getting back on track with a sleep schedule, recovering substance users need to exercise caution with these medications. It may be safer to avoid them.
Lunesta is an addictive drug, especially when it is used in recreationally. Its euphoric effects can make someone abuse it more, particularly among people who may be working to recover from substance use.
The FDA advises that people who have a history of alcohol or drug abuse are at greater risk of developing a physical or psychological dependence on Lunesta. Patients who also have a history of psychiatric disorders are also at risk. Careful monitoring is advised for people with any of these conditions.
If users develop an addiction to Lunesta while trying to overcome their addiction to benzos or opioids, this may only complicate matters.
Rebound insomnia, when the inability to sleep is worse than it was before, is also a possibility. People who are in withdrawal from benzodiazepine misuse or abuse may already be experiencing symptoms of rebound insomnia. A Lunesta addiction followed by withdrawal from the drug may also compound the condition.
Other Things You Can Do For Insomnia
If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, there are methods you can try to get the sleep you’re seeking. Harvard Health offers some approaches that can help with insomnia.
Relaxation techniques that include meditation, breathing techniques, and progressive muscle relaxation may help calm your mind and put you in the mindset for bed. This can be especially helpful for people who have anxiety and have a hard time controlling their thoughts.
It also may help to associate certain feelings and activities with where you sleep. Thinking of your bedroom as the designated place for where you sleep is part of the reconditioning process. Part of that process means you go to bed only when you’re sleepy.
If you find that you go to bed after feeling sleepy, but you can’t get to sleep, then you are encouraged to go to another room and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Go back to your bedroom and try to get some rest again. Getting up at the same time, and avoiding naps can also help you get your desired sleep schedule.
You can also try a warm bath before bed, or you can have a caffeine-free or herbal tea that can help you relax before bed. Some people have found aromatherapy helpful. Essential oils, such as lavender, valerian, and clary sage, are popular natural sleep aids.
Holistic addiction therapy helps many people manage insomnia and other symptoms of withdrawal. In addition to aromatherapy, you may find other methods that promote relaxation and healing, such as massage, yoga, or even art therapy. Therapies such as these can help you achieve goals for getting better sleep so that you can be effective during your waking hours.