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Sleeping Pill Addiction

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What is Sleeping Pill Addiction?

Sleeping pills are commonly prescribed to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders like sleepwalking and night terrors. Sleeping pills can be barbiturates, benzodiazepines, or hypnotic-sedatives, and work by slowing down the central nervous system to help people relax, fall asleep, and stay asleep. When used short-term and in low doses, sleeping pills can offer relief for those whose lives become impaired as a result of getting little to no sleep, or who suffer from sleep disorders. But using these drugs for too long or in high doses can lead to physical dependence and problems with addiction.

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What are the Risks of Sleeping Pill Addiction?

Sleeping pill addiction can be dangerous, and increase a person’s risk for some serious health problems, including worsened insomnia, coma, and death. But a person who becomes addicted to sleeping pills and who tries quitting cold turkey can face these same health problems and stay stuck in an ongoing cycle of insomnia and addiction. Fortunately, sleeping pill addiction can be safely treated at a drug rehab center using drug detox and therapy — both of which treat addiction as a whole both physically and psychologically.

What are the Symptoms of Sleeping Pill Addiction?

There are three main categories of sleeping pills, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and hypnotic-sedatives. Each of these poses their own set of symptoms, listed below:

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The side effects of barbiturates are often compared to the effects of alcohol. When used as directed, barbiturates relax the central nervous system to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. But abusing these drugs can cause changes in mood and behavior, and increase the risk for serious side effects including depression, psychosis, and respiratory depression.

Most common types of barbiturates:

  • Amytal
  • Butisol
  • Nembutal
  • Seconal

Common effects of barbiturate abuse:

  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Extreme sedation
  • Slurred speech
  • Behaving as if intoxicated by alcohol
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Uncharacteristic behavior
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slowed breathing
  • Paranoia
  • Memory loss
  • Suicidal ideation


Benzodiazepines work similarly to barbiturates but are now more commonly used than barbiturates since benzos are found to be less toxic and may carry a lower risk for tolerance and dependence.

Most common types of benzodiazepines:

Common effects of benzodiazepines:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slowed breathing
  • Impaired memory
  • Tremors
  • Suicidal ideation


Hypnotic-sedatives are also commonly known as “z-drugs” and work similarly to benzodiazepines. But sleeping pills in this category have a shorter half-life, produce fewer residual side effects during daytime hours, and carry a lower risk for dependence and addiction compared to benzodiazepines and other sleeping pills. Z-drugs including zolpidem and zaleplon are associated with a higher number of psychological side effects including hallucinations.

Most common types of hypnotic-sedatives:

Common effects of hypnotic-sedatives:

  • Confusion
  • Abnormal dreams
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory loss
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Poor judgment
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal ideation

What are the Signs of Sleeping Pill Addiction?

Insomnia and sleep disorders can happen for many different reasons. For instance, insomnia can be caused by feelings of anxiety, stress, and grief after a loved one passes away, or be caused by traveling between countries that have different time zones. Sleeping pills are generally only intended for short-term use for conditions such as these since the drugs can quickly trigger dependence and addiction when used for longer than just a few weeks. But some use sleeping pills as a way to self-medicate other underlying medical or psychological problems that cannot be fully treated or cured using these drugs.

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Common risk factors for addiction are:

  • Genetics/family history of addiction
  • Environment
  • Underlying mental health disorders
  • Inability to manage stress
  • Trauma

People who meet one or more of these risk factors are often more likely to abuse drugs and suffer from addiction. For instance, a person who suffers from an underlying mental health disorder like depression may continue using sleeping pills so they can fall asleep and not have to cope with feelings of sadness and distress. A person who spends time in an environment with family members who binge drink and use illicit drugs may abuse sleeping pills because they believe this type of behavior is normal.

Those who self-medicate using sleeping pills can receive therapy at an addiction treatment center that teaches them how to overcome these behaviors, or that helps them overcome the underlying reasons they started abusing these drugs in the first place.

What to Do If Someone You Love is Abusing Sleeping Pills?

Suddenly stopping sleeping pills is dangerous and not recommended, since doing so can lead to relapse and cause severe withdrawal symptoms including seizures, psychosis, and death. Many who try quitting sleeping pills cold turkey will often relapse and resume drug use to avoid experiencing these symptoms.

Common sleeping pill withdrawal symptoms:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Rebound insomnia
  • Tension and anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Nausea, vomiting, and retching
  • Headaches
  • Pain and stiffness
  • Seizures
  • Psychosis

If you or someone you love are abusing sleeping pills, the best course of action is to reach out to a doctor or addiction specialist to learn about your treatment options. You can research local rehab facilities that are best for your treatment.

Which Treatment Options are Available for Sleeping Pill Addiction?

Sleeping Pill Detox Treatment

Sleeping pill dependence can be safely treated using a tapering method, which helps reduce withdrawal symptoms and the risk for relapse. Tapering is when doctors gradually reduce a person’s dose of sleeping pills over the course of several weeks until medication is completely stopped, which may take anywhere between two and four months. Tapering allows the body to slowly adjust to lower doses of sleeping pills so patients can overcome dependence without suffering severe discomfort and other serious side effects.

Inpatient Treatment Programs for Sleeping Pill Addiction

Inpatient treatment programs that last a minimum of 90 days are recommended for those who need help recovering from sleeping pill addiction. Ninety-day programs often allow enough time for patients to completely taper off sleeping pills and receive therapy to overcome psychological symptoms and causes of addiction. For instance, patients who suffer co-occurring disorders such as anxiety and depression can receive therapy that teaches them how to manage these mental health disorders without using sleeping pills to self-medicate.

Financing Sleeping Pill Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment centers accept most health insurance plans and offer many other payment options so you or your loved one can overcome sleeping pill addiction and achieve improved physical and psychological health. Some rehab centers use sliding scale fees to make treatment more affordable for those without health insurance, while some treatment centers offer grants and scholarships to qualifying individuals.

Where do calls go?

Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Additional calls will also be forwarded and returned by one of our treatment partners below.

Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) for your visit will be answered by ARK Behavioral Health, a paid advertiser on

All calls are private and confidential.

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