Drug and Alcohol

Lunesta Abuse: How This Popular Sleep Aid Can Be Dangerous When Abused

Lunesta is a prescription sleep medication, but it can be dangerous if abused. Learn the facts about Lunesta abuse and treatment in our blog.

Lunesta: Facts About Lunesta Abuse, Addiction & More

Table of Contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

November 15, 2023

The Edge Treatment Center

Sleep, the elusive realm where dreams and restoration intertwine, is often a coveted sanctuary for the weary mind. Yet, sleep can be a distant mirage for millions worldwide, plagued by insomnia and restless nights. Many of them turn to sleeping pills for relief.

In the past, many people turned to barbiturates, a class of highly addictive drugs that aren’t commonly used anymore. Nowadays, many people use “z-drugs” like Lunesta to help them sleep.

Lunesta, also known by its generic name eszopiclone, is a prescription sleep medication used to treat insomnia. It belongs to a class of drugs called sedative-hypnotics that work by slowing down brain activity to induce sleep.

Lunesta has gained popularity as an effective sleeping aid due to its ability to help individuals fall asleep quickly and stay asleep for a longer period of time. However, like any medication, there are potential risks associated with using Lunesta, especially when it is abused.

Lunesta Abuse: What Is Lunesta?

Lunesta, known by its generic name eszopiclone, is a sedative-hypnotic medication commonly prescribed for sleeplessness. It belongs to nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics, designed to help individuals fall asleep and maintain a restful night's sleep.

Lunesta works by targeting specific chemicals in the brain that regulate sleep. It acts on the GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors, enhancing the inhibitory effects of GABA. This neurotransmitter slows down brain activity. By increasing the effects of GABA, Lunesta promotes relaxation and sedation, ultimately helping individuals initiate and sustain sleep.

Lunesta is typically prescribed for short-term use, usually ranging from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the individual's specific needs and response to the medication. It is often recommended for individuals who have difficulty initiating sleep or struggle with frequent awakenings during the night.

Unlike other sleep medications, Lunesta has a longer duration of action, allowing individuals to experience a full night's rest. It is typically recommended to take Lunesta immediately before bedtime, as its onset of action is relatively rapid.

Lunesta Abuse: Is Lunesta Addictive?

Yes, Lunesta can be addictive when not used as prescribed. It is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) due to its potential for abuse and addiction.

Individuals who take Lunesta for longer than recommended or in higher doses than prescribed are more likely to develop a dependence on the drug. This means that their body becomes accustomed to the presence of Lunesta and they may experience withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop using it.

Lunesta Abuse: What Is Lunesta Used For?

Lunesta, also known by its generic name eszopiclone, is a medication primarily used to treat insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep disorder marked by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restful and satisfactory sleep. Lunesta is a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic medication, which enhances the activity of a neurotransmitter called GABA in the brain.

One of the primary uses for Lunesta is to help individuals with insomnia fall asleep faster and maintain a full night's rest. It works by binding to certain receptors in the brain that enhance GABA's sedative and hypnotic effects. By increasing GABA activity, Lunesta helps calm the brain's overactivity, reducing racing thoughts and promoting a relaxation conducive to sleep.

Lunesta is typically taken shortly before bedtime, and its effects can last throughout the night. The medication helps individuals achieve the recommended amount of sleep, generally around 7-8 hours for adults. By improving sleep quality and duration, Lunesta can increase daytime functioning, improve mood, and a greater overall sense of well-being.

In addition to its primary use in treating insomnia, healthcare providers may sometimes prescribe Lunesta for off-label uses. Off-label utilization means applying medication for a condition or purpose not approved by regulatory authorities. Off-label use of Lunesta may include treating sleep disturbances associated with certain medical conditions or as an adjunct treatment for sleep disorders that do not respond to other interventions.

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Lunesta Abuse: How Lunesta Works

Lunesta offers remarkable benefits for individuals with insomnia, a common and distressing sleep disorder. This sedative-hypnotic drug has garnered attention for its positive effects on sleep quality and duration, ultimately leading to more restful and rejuvenating nights.

One of Lunesta's most notable advantages is its proven effectiveness in enhancing sleep quality. Clinical studies have consistently shown that individuals taking Lunesta experience improvements in their overall sleep patterns. Notably, patients reported falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer, reducing those disruptive nighttime awakenings that often plague those with insomnia.

Lunesta also addresses another key aspect of sleep difficulty by reducing sleep latency. Sleep latency refers to the time it takes for someone to fall asleep after getting into bed. Lunesta has been found to decrease this time significantly, allowing individuals with insomnia to transition more smoothly into a peaceful slumber.

Beyond its impact on sleep, Lunesta users have reported experiencing positive changes in daytime functioning and overall well-being. By promoting better sleep, Lunesta helps individuals feel more alert, focused, and productive during their waking hours. This improvement in daytime functioning can lead to better cognitive performance, an uplifted mood, and an overall sense of wellness.

Potential Side Effects of Lunesta

Lunesta is a widely prescribed medication for insomnia. Still, like any medication, it's essential to be aware of potential side effects and considerations. Understanding these aspects can help individuals make informed decisions and use Lunesta safely and effectively.

Common Lunesta Side Effects

Lunesta may cause certain side effects, although they may vary in frequency and severity among individuals. Common side effects of Lunesta include drowsiness, dizziness, and dry mouth. These effects are generally mild and diminish over time as the body adjusts to the medication. However, if these side effects persist or worsen, a healthcare provider should be consulted for further guidance.

Potential Risks of Lunesta Abuse

When taken as prescribed, Lunesta can be a safe and effective medication for treating insomnia. However, when it is used in ways other than directed, it can become dangerous. Some of the potential risks of abusing Lunesta include:

Increased Sedation

Taking higher doses of Lunesta or taking it for longer periods than recommended can lead to excessive sedation. This can result in drowsiness, confusion, and impaired coordination.

Respiratory Depression

Misusing Lunesta can also cause respiratory depression, a serious condition where breathing becomes shallow and slow. This can be life-threatening if not addressed promptly.

Physical Dependence

Using Lunesta regularly for an extended period of time can lead to physical dependence, making it difficult to stop taking the medication without experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Behavioral Changes

Abusing Lunesta can also cause changes in behavior, such as irritability, aggression, and mood swings.

Memory Loss

Lunesta has been linked to memory loss, especially when used in high doses or for long periods of time. This can include difficulty recalling events that occurred while under the influence of the drug.

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Signs and Symptoms of Lunesta Abuse

It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Lunesta abuse so that it can be recognized and addressed promptly. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of Lunesta abuse include:

  • Taking higher doses than prescribed or taking it more often

  • Using Lunesta without a prescription or obtaining it illegally

  • Mixing Lunesta with other substances, such as alcohol or opioids

  • Continuing to use Lunesta despite negative consequences, such as poor performance at work or school, relationship problems, or financial difficulties

  • Changes in behavior, mood, or sleep patterns

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop using Lunesta

Treatment for Lunesta Abuse

If you or someone you know is struggling with Lunesta abuse, it is important to seek help from a medical professional.

Treatment for Lunesta abuse may include:

  • Detoxification: The first step in treating Lunesta addiction is detoxification, which involves slowly tapering off the medication under medical supervision to minimize withdrawal symptoms.

  • Therapy: Once detox is complete, therapy can help address any underlying issues that may have contributed to the abuse and develop healthy coping strategies for managing insomnia.

  • Support groups: Joining a support group can provide a sense of community and accountability during the recovery process.

How to Avoid Lunesta Abuse

To minimize the risk of side effects and ensure optimal results, it is crucial to use Lunesta as prescribed by a healthcare provider. This means adhering to the prescribed dosage and treatment duration as recommended. Misuse or over-reliance on Lunesta can lead to increased tolerance, decreased effectiveness, and potential dependency issues. It is important not to exceed the prescribed dosage or use Lunesta for longer than directed.

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Risks of Lunesta Abuse

One of the significant considerations with Lunesta usage is the potential for dependence. Prolonged or excessive use of Lunesta can lead to physical and psychological dependence, making it challenging to discontinue the medication without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms may include anxiety, agitation, and rebound insomnia (temporarily worsening sleep difficulties).

To mitigate these risks, use Lunesta as part of a comprehensive treatment plan under the guidance of a healthcare provider. They can help create a tapering schedule to gradually reduce the dosage and minimize withdrawal symptoms. Communicating openly with the healthcare provider about any concerns or difficulties experienced during the process is crucial.

How to Use Lunesta Safely

While it can effectively promote sleep, using Lunesta safely and responsibly is essential. Here are some guidelines for safe usage and precautions to keep in mind:

Follow the Prescribed Dosage

Taking Lunesta precisely as your healthcare provider prescribes is crucial. Follow the recommended dosage and duration without exceeding or altering it. Taking more than the prescribed amount can increase the risk of side effects and potential dependence.

Avoiding Alcohol and Other Sedatives While Taking Lunesta

Alcohol and other sedative substances can enhance the sedative effects of Lunesta. Combining Lunesta with alcohol or other sedatives can lead to excessive drowsiness, impaired coordination, and potentially dangerous respiratory depression. 

Follow the Advice of Professionals

It is always advisable to consult with your healthcare provider before initiating or discontinuing Lunesta. They can assess your situation, evaluate potential risks and benefits, and provide personalized recommendations. Your healthcare provider will consider factors such as your medical history, other medications you may be taking, and any existing sleep disorders or conditions.

Also, certain people should be especially cautious while using Lunesta:

Elderly Individuals

Elderly individuals may be more sensitive to the effects of Lunesta due to age-related changes in metabolism and elimination. Lower dosages may be prescribed for older adults to minimize the risk of side effects and ensure safety.

Pregnant Women

The safety of Lunesta during pregnancy has not been established. It is important to inform your healthcare provider if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding. They can evaluate the potential risks and benefits and guide you toward appropriate sleep management strategies.

Individuals With Certain Medical Conditions

Lunesta may not be suitable for individuals with certain medical conditions, such as liver disease, respiratory disorders, or a history of substance abuse. Inform your healthcare provider about any pre-existing conditions, as they can determine the appropriateness of Lunesta or recommend alternative approaches for managing your sleep difficulties.

It is important to note that while Lunesta can effectively manage insomnia, it is not a long-term solution. Its use should be monitored and limited to short durations, typically 7-10 days, to minimize the risks of dependence and potential side effects. 

Can You Overdose on Lunesta?

Yes, it is possible to overdose on Lunesta. Symptoms of a Lunesta overdose may include:

  • Extreme drowsiness

  • Confusion

  • Impaired coordination and balance

  • Difficulty breathing or slowed breathing

  • Loss of consciousness

If you suspect that someone has overdosed on Lunesta, seek medical help immediately.

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Are There Alternatives to Sleeping Medications Like Lunesta?

When it comes to managing sleep difficulties, alternatives and complementary approaches can be explored alongside or instead of medication like Lunesta. These approaches focus on addressing underlying causes and promoting healthy sleep habits. Here are some non-medication alternatives worth considering:

Sleep Hygiene Practices

Improving sleep hygiene can significantly contribute to better sleep quality. This involves adopting healthy habits and creating a conducive sleep environment. Some key sleep hygiene practices include:

  • Consistent Sleep Schedule: Establish a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including weekends.

  • Sleep-Friendly Environment: Create a comfortable sleep environment by ensuring a cool, quiet, dark room with a supportive mattress and pillows.

  • Relaxation Techniques: Incorporating relaxation techniques before bed, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or listening to soothing music.

  • Limiting Stimulants: Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and electronic devices close to bedtime, as they can interfere with falling asleep.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Insomnia:

CBT is a widely recognized and evidence-based therapy specifically designed to treat insomnia. It focuses on identifying and modifying thoughts, behaviors, and habits contributing to sleep difficulties. CBT-I typically involves the following:

  • Sleep Restriction Therapy: Limiting time spent in bed to match the amount of sleep obtained, gradually increasing it as sleep improves.

  • Stimulus Control Therapy: Establishing a strong association between the bed and sleep by restricting activities in bed to sleep and intimacy only.

  • Relaxation Techniques: Learning and practicing relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation before bedtime.

  • Cognitive Restructuring: Identifying and challenging negative thoughts or beliefs about sleep to improve sleep-related anxiety.

Alternative Sleep Medications

If Lunesta is not suitable or desired, there are alternative sleep medications that healthcare providers may prescribe based on individual circumstances. These alternatives can include other sedative-hypnotics or medications with different mechanisms of action. Some commonly prescribed alternatives to Lunesta include:

  • Zolpidem (Ambien): A medication that works similarly to Lunesta, promoting sleep initiation and maintenance.

  • Trazodone: Trazodone is an antidepressant often used off-label to treat insomnia, particularly for individuals with concurrent depression or anxiety.

  • Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in the body and governs the sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin supplements are available over the counter and may help with sleep onset.

  • Herbal Supplements: Certain herbal supplements, such as valerian root or chamomile, are known for their potential calming effects and may aid sleep.

Lunesta Addiction Is Dangerous. The Edge Treatment Center Will Help

Lunesta can be an effective sleep aid when used as prescribed, but it can lead to addiction and other negative consequences when abused. If you or a loved one is struggling with Lunesta abuse, know that recovery is possible.

At The Edge Treatment Center, we offer comprehensive treatment for substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders. Our individualized approach to recovery helps individuals address the underlying causes of their addiction and develop healthy coping strategies. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options for Lunesta addiction. Recovery is just a phone call away.

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