As many as a third of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of sleep each night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To combat this, many doctors prescribe central nervous system depressants like Lunesta to help facilitate sleep and relaxation. However, even though Lunesta is a mild drug when compared to other sleep-aid alternatives, it can cause dependence, addiction, and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Learn more about Lunesta withdrawal and how it can be treated safely.
Lunesta is a brand name for a medication called eszopiclone, which is used to treat insomnia. Lunesta is in a category called nonbenzodiazepine sedative-hypnotics, which work in a way that’s similar to benzodiazepines, though they have a different chemical structure.
Along with benzodiazepines and alcohol, Lunesta is in a broad category of psychoactive chemicals called central nervous system depressants. These work to suppress the nervous system by affecting a specific chemical messenger called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This neurotransmitter is responsible for binding to its receptor and activating it, causing it to regulate excitability in the nervous system. In people with sleep disorders like insomnia, this process may not be efficient enough to facilitate sleep when it’s time to rest and relax. Lunesta can bind to GABA receptors and increase the effectiveness of your own GABA neurotransmitters.
However, Lunesta can also have some side effects when it’s abused. In high doses, the drug can cause alcohol-like intoxication that includes sedation, lowering of inhibition, loss of motor skills, and euphoria. For that reason, it’s sometimes used recreationally. When the drug is abused, it can cause tolerance, chemical dependency, addiction, overdose, and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
The symptoms of withdrawal you experience when you stop taking Lunesta can be different from someone else going through the same thing. However, you are likely to feel drug cravings and feelings of discomfort and restlessness.
Here are some of the most common symptoms:
Your symptoms can be worse if you’ve gone through depressant withdrawal in the past. A phenomenon called kindling can cause you to experience more severe withdrawal symptoms in subsequent withdrawal periods because of lasting changes made in the brain because of withdrawal. Lunesta is not likely to cause the most severe depressant withdrawal symptoms like seizures and delirium, but kindling can make it possible.
Your Lunesta withdrawal timeline can vary based on a number of factors, including the amount of time you were dependent on the drug, the size of your usual dose, and the size of your most recent dose. The longer you’ve been using and the higher your usual dose, the more likely you are to experience sooner withdrawal symptoms.
Though your specific timeline can vary, you will likely experience symptoms on a general timeline. Lunesta’s half-life of about six hours, which means that it will be reduced to half of its original concentration in your blood after that much time. A drug’s half-life is generally a good indication of how long it will be active in your system. When you stop using, your first symptoms will start at some point after six hours.
As a depressant, Lunesta can be potentially dangerous during its withdrawal symptoms. When you become dependent on a depressant, your brain may adapt to the presence of the drug. That can mean increasing your natural excitatory neurons to counteract the drug to balance your brain chemistry. When you stop suddenly, your nervous system will become chemically unbalanced, causing central nervous system over-excitability. This can lead to symptoms like panic, anxiety, tachycardia, tremors, seizures, and delirium tremens.
Seizures can be dangerous when you are on your own. They can come on suddenly, causing accidents and injuries to people that are standing, walking around, or driving. Delirium tremens can be deadly if left untreated. It’s characterized by sudden and extreme confusion, anxiety, catatonia, chest pains, coma, and death. In fatal cases of delirium tremens, tachycardia and arrhythmias lead to cardiac arrest.
NCBI involves 24-hour medically managed care that lasts for about a week to ten days, depending on your needs. During detox, you may be treated with medications to ease your symptoms, or you may take medicine to help wean you off of the drug.
After you complete a detox program or if doctors and clinicians determine that you don’t need detox, you might continue to the next level of care. If you have high-level psychological or medical needs, you may go through an inpatient program that offers 24-hour medical or clinical monitoring.
If you can live on your own, you may go through an intensive outpatient program or an outpatient program. Through treatment, you will address substance use issues and underlying problems like mental health disorders. You will also learn how to deal with stress and cravings without using drugs or alcohol to help safeguard a long-term recovery.
Becker, H. C. (1998). Kindling in Alcohol Withdrawal – National Institutes of Health. from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-1/25-34.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, February 22). CDC – Sleep Home Page – Sleep and Sleep Disorders. from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html
The National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64119/
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019, September 11). Delirium tremens: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000766.htm
WebMD. (2017, March 20). What is GABA? from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/qa/what-is-gaba