October 11th, 2023
Sleeping pills are medications that help people fall asleep and stay asleep. They are prescribed for people with sleep disorders like insomnia but they can be very addictive. Sleeping pill addiction can affect anybody but once it has its claws in you, it can be difficult to break free. Fortunately, there is help available and with a combination of sleeping pills detox and rehab for sleeping pills, you can overcome your sleeping pill addiction and start to live a happy, healthy life again.
On this page, we will explain everything you need to know about sleeping pill addiction including how sleeping pills are abused and the different routes to addiction. We will also explore the short- and long-term effects of sleeping pill addiction, the signs and symptoms that indicate addiction and how to get help.
What are sleeping pills?
Sleeping pills are prescription medicines that work by depressing the central nervous system and slowing down brain activity so that you feel drowsy and can fall asleep. Some of the most common types of sleeping pills include:
- Benzodiazepines: These sleeping pills have been around for longer but they can cause Benzodiazepine addiction when misused and take a long time to wean off from, so they are not often prescribed.
- Z-drugs: These are newer sleeping pills that work in a similar way but are sometimes, incorrectly, thought to be less addictive. These include Zolpidem and Zopiclone.
Sleeping pills usually come in tablet form and are taken orally. When taken responsibly and according to a doctor’s instructions sleeping pills can provide an effective, temporary solution to insomnia. However, they can be easily abused and when this happens, they can be very dangerous.
How are sleeping pills abused?
There are a number of ways in which people can abuse sleeping pills. Some people take them for reasons other than insomnia, such as to get high or to help with anxiety or depression. Others take more than the recommended dose or take them more often than they are supposed to. Some people also crush up the pills and snort them while others dissolve them in water and inject them. These methods make the pills work much faster but increase the risk of overdose or other complications.
All of these types of sleeping pills abuse are very dangerous so pills should always be taken as prescribed following your doctor’s instructions.
Routes to sleeping pill addiction
There are various ways that sleeping pill addiction can develop. For some people, it can start with taking the pills recreationally to get high or help with stress in their life. Others may be prescribed sleeping pills for a legitimate reason but then start taking them more often than they are supposed to. Some people develop an addiction after being prescribed the pills for a long time while others may have a genetic predisposition to addiction.
While everyone will have their own underlying causes for developing a sleeping pill addiction, all addictions share some common features. This includes developing a tolerance to the drug so that you need to take more and more to get the same effect, experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop taking the pills and continuing to take them despite negative consequences.
You may have an existing mental health condition such as anxiety or depression which makes you more vulnerable to addiction. Or you may have experienced trauma or stress in your life which has made it difficult to cope and led you to self-medicate with sleeping pills.
Whatever the underlying causes, if you are struggling with a sleeping pill addiction, it’s important to get help.
The dangers of sleeping pill addiction
The effects of sleeping pill addiction can be both short- and long-term. In the short term, you may experience drowsiness, confusion and impaired coordination. You may also have difficulty thinking clearly and making decisions. These effects can be even more pronounced if you abuse sleeping pills by taking them in high doses or combining them with other drugs or alcohol.
In the long term, sleeping pill addiction can lead to serious health problems such as liver damage, respiratory failure and heart problems. It can also cause mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. If you take a large number of sleeping pills in one go, there is also the risk of overdose and death.
You may also find yourself “sleepwalking” where you engage in behaviour without being fully conscious or aware. This can include driving, eating food without cooking it properly, becoming aggressive for no reason and engaging in dangerous sexual behaviour. When you regain your consciousness, you may not remember what you did.
As well as these health risks, sleeping pill addiction can also have a number of negative impacts on every aspect of your life. It can interfere with work, school and your personal relationships and can also lead to financial problems as you may need to spend more and more money on pills to maintain your addiction.
If your sleeping pill abuse is causing problems in your life, it’s important to get help as soon as possible so you can address the condition straight away.
Sleeping pill addiction in the UK
The abuse of sleeping pills is an ever-growing problem in the UK, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, there are more prescriptions for sleeping pills than ever before. Between 2017 and 2018, there were one million people who were prescribed Z-drugs with many developing a dependence and later going through withdrawal when they tried to stop. Public Health England found that there was not enough support provided by the health service for patients experiencing these issues and that further research on the prevention of withdrawal and dependence was required.
Adding to the situation is the fact that as well as being over-prescribed, sleeping pills are widely available online so both people whose prescriptions have ended and people who was to abuse sleeping pills recreationally are easily able to obtain the drugs. During the Pandemic, an increased number of people experienced anxiety and insomnia and so turned to illegally obtained sleeping pills to cope. UKAT, we have seen the effects of this with more people being treated in our clinics for sleeping pill addiction.
Sleeping pill addiction in the UK
Recognising the signs of addiction in yourself or someone you care about can be difficult as addiction is a cunning and deceptive condition that will try to convince you that everything is fine. However, there are some common signs of addiction to sleeping pills. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do I take sleeping pills every night regardless of whether I feel tired or not?
- Have I built up a tolerance to sleeping pills so that I need to take more and more to get the same effect?
- Do I experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, sweating or shaking when I don’t take sleeping pills?
- Am I so reliant on sleeping pills that I need to take them just to get through the day?
- Do I continue to take sleeping pills even though I know they are causing problems in my life such as relationship difficulties or financial problems?
- Have I previously tried to give up or cut down on sleeping pills but been unsuccessful?
- Do I experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, sweating or shaking when I try to stop taking sleeping pills?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. Sleeping pill addiction is a serious condition that will only get worse without treatment so you should get started with your recovery right away.
What to do if your loved one has a sleeping pills addiction
If you have a loved one who is addicted to sleeping pills, it’s important to get them help as soon as possible. However, it’s also important that you don’t enable their addiction. This means not buying them sleeping pills or covering up for them when they miss work or school. Sometimes tough love is the best approach and by not enabling their addiction, you will be helping them in the long run.
If you’re worried about someone you know, the best thing to do is talk to them about your concerns and help them to get the treatment they need.
Myths about sleeping pill addiction
- Sleeping pills cannot be addictive because they’re not illegal…
This is one of the most common misconceptions. In fact, sleeping pills are highly addictive and can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs.
- I can’t be addicted to sleeping pills because I don’t take them every day…
Just because you don’t take sleeping pills every day doesn’t mean you’re not addicted. Addiction is about whether you’re unable to control your use, not how often you use.
- I can stop taking sleeping pills on my own…
While a small percentage of people are able to give up sleeping pills without professional help, most people will need treatment to overcome their addiction.
How is sleeping pill addiction overcome?
If you’re struggling with a sleeping pill addiction, the good news is that there is help available. At UKAT, we offer a range of treatment options that have proven to be successful at helping our clients overcome their addiction and start a new life. Get in touch with us today and we can explain more about the treatment programmes we provide.
Frequently asked questions
What are the most addictive sleeping pills?
The most commonly used sleeping pills are Zopiclone, Zolpidem and Diazepam. Due to the frequency of use, these are the pills that most often lead to addiction. However, it is possible to become addicted to any type of sleeping pill.
How quickly can you get addicted to sleeping pills?
It is possible to become addicted to sleeping pills after just a few weeks of use. However, most people will develop a tolerance over time and will need to take larger doses to get the same effect. This tolerance eventually leads to dependence and finally to sleeping pill addiction.
Is it okay to take sleeping pills every night?
Everyone is different and for some people, it is okay to take sleeping pills regularly if they are prescribed by a doctor. However, for most people, it is not advisable to take sleeping pills every night as this can lead to tolerance and then addiction. If you’re worried about your use of sleeping pills, we advise you to speak to your GP or contact UKAT for more information.
What are the symptoms of sleeping pill addiction?
The most common symptoms of sleeping pill addiction are an inability to control your use, cravings for sleeping pills, withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop taking them and continued use despite negative consequences. You may also experience:
- Slurred speech
- A difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Jerky movements
- Unpredictable moods
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Nightmares and strange dreams
- Drowsiness through the day