What is Lunesta and How Is It Abused?

lunesta (eszopiclone) addicts

Lunesta is a popular sleeping bill that doctors typically prescribe to treat insomnia.

Its generic name is eszopiclone, and it is a nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic, meaning that though it’s safer than a benzodiazepine, it can still be habit-forming. It works by binding to receptors in the brain to reduce overactive brain functions.

Lunesta leads to feelings of drowsiness and sedation and helps patients fall asleep faster and for longer. Results from a study published in Dartmouth Medicine found that participants who took Lunesta fell asleep 15 minutes faster than those who took the placebo, and they stayed asleep for 37 minutes longer.

Though Lunesta can be effective at treating insomnia, most people do not want to rely on a sleeping pill in order to fall asleep every night. The drug can also be abused, and addiction can form. If a loved one shows signs of addiction, it may be time to step in and offer help.

Signs of Lunesta Addiction

According to a 2013 report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 percent of US adults who are over the age of 20 use prescription sleeping pills on a monthly basis. In addition, the number of sleeping aid prescriptions tripled between 1998 and 2006 for adults between the ages of 18 and 24. If a loved one develops an addiction to prescription sleeping pills, it may not be immediately obvious at first; however, the signs will become apparent at some point at the dependence grows stronger. Signs of a dependence on Lunesta include:

  • Fearing life will not be the same without Lunesta
  • Feeling tired and drowsy during waking hours
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Experiencing hallucinations
  • Feeling irritable
  • Having muscle cramps
  • Having seizures
  • Experiencing high blood pressure
  • Experiencing sensitivity to the sun

In addition to the more obvious signs of depending on Lunesta, developing an addiction to sleeping aids can severely limit the body’s ability to fall asleep on its own, which affects life in inherently negative ways. No one wants to have to rely on sleeping aids for the rest of life. Thankfully, it is possible to stop taking Lunesta safely and relearn healthy sleeping habits.

According to a report originally published in Informed Health Online, the best way to treat a dependence on sleeping pills is to gradually reduce the dosage, or taper off the medication, with the guidance of medical professionals who are experienced in tapering schedules. In addition, psychotherapeutic and psychological support may increase the likelihood of eventually stopping the need to take sleeping pills altogether. Even with medical intervention though, individuals may still experience withdrawal symptoms as they taper off sleeping pills.

Lunesta Withdrawal Symptoms

Both the intensity and duration of withdrawal symptoms from Lunesta are going to vary depending on the extent of the addiction. Some people believe stopping Lunesta is similar to stopping benzodiazepines, since it works in a similar manner, and they are scared to quit because of the potential pain associated with withdrawal. Withdrawing from benzodiazepine tends to have more severe symptoms than withdrawing from sleeping aids. Lunesta has its own host of potential withdrawal symptoms that are often easier to overcome. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Abnormal dreams
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Hyperthesia, or excessive sensitivity of the skin
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Neurosis

According to a study regarding Lunesta withdrawal published in the National Library of Medicine, 1 percent of participants experienced anxiety after taking 3 mg of Lunesta for 44 nights and then stopping; 1.9 percent experienced abnormal dreams; 1 percent had hyperthesia; and 1 percent had neurosis.

Just as the duration and intensity of symptoms will vary among users, so too will the withdrawal timeline. Everyone experiences withdrawal differently, and in the statistics cited above, it is obvious that some people do not experience any symptoms at all from stopping Lunesta. Generally, people who took Lunesta for a relatively short time period and at a relatively low dose do not experience as intense a withdrawal process as those who took it for longer and in higher doses.

Though stopping Lunesta altogether might be appealing, it is important to remember that there is such a thing as protracted withdrawal, which consists of withdrawal symptoms extending beyond the normal detox period. For most people, withdrawal symptoms typically last for a few weeks. For some who have developed a severe dependence on the drug, symptoms can last for a few months. Those who taper off Lunesta with the help of a medical detox program may have fewer withdrawal symptoms and be less likely to experience protracted withdrawal.

Tapering off Lunesta

People who enter a recovery program for an addiction to Lunesta learn to combat the addiction with a two-pronged approach. First, they learn how to taper off the drug by gradually reducing the dosage to minimize the more severe withdrawal symptoms, and second, they attend therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, to learn about changes they can make moving forward so they don’t have to rely on sleeping pills any longer.

Because individuals do not know how their bodies will react while tapering off Lunesta, doing so with the help of medical professionals is highly recommended. In quality medical detox programs, doctors help individuals manage and minimize withdrawal symptoms through a regimen of therapy and replacement medication as needed.  According to a report originally published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, withdrawal symptoms may require hospitalization, and long-term treatment often requires regular counseling with the help of an experienced professional.

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There is no set tapering method that works for everyone. During treatment, a qualified team of healthcare providers will determine what is best for each individual client. That might mean reducing the dosage by 10 percent every week or by 50 percent every other day. Ultimately, it depends on both the individual and the extent of the dependence. During medical detox, which will occur naturally as the person tapers off the drug, the body will start to adjust to life without Lunesta. By not tapering off Lunesta slowly, people risk experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms and even hospitalization. They can minimize these risks by seeking treatment for their addiction and undergoing medical detox.

Facing an addiction head on can be scary, but it’s never too late to seek help. With the right support structure in place, an individual can overcome an addiction to Lunesta. In addition to breaking the addiction by tapering off the drug, a recovery program gives clients the tools they need to cope with life after Lunesta addiction, which means learning how to develop healthy sleeping habits the natural way. Some approaches are more effective than others, and the success of each approach is ultimately going to depend on the individual.

In general, exercise has proven to be a valid way to promote better sleeping habits. According to a study published in Mental Health and Physical Activity, people sleep significantly better and feel more alert throughout the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. Of course, it doesn’t mean it will be that simple for those who have developed a dependence on sleeping aids; however, it does mean there is hope in overcoming the addiction and leading a normal life again someday.