Sleeping Pill Addiction Treatment

Sleeping pills seem harmless enough. You can get them over-the-counter and they can help you get to sleep quicker and stay asleep longer. Sounds like a win-win right? Well, while on the surface sleeping pills sound great, there are ingredients in them that can lead to heavy dependency and even addiction.

In 2013, nearly 9 million Americans regularly used sleeping pills to help them sleep at night. This just goes to show how dependent on sleeping pills Americans have become. Unfortunately, with dependence on sleeping pills comes sleeping pill abuse and the negative health conditions that come along with that. In fact, in 2011, there were 30,149 emergency room visits due to non-medical use of the sleeping pill Ambien, and in 2012, 21% of those abusing sleeping pills had thoughts of suicide-related to their drug use.  

What Causes The Need for Sleeping Pills?

Many people start using sleeping pills because the stresses of life have caused them to develop insomnia. Insomnia is a disease that’s associated with having problems falling and staying asleep. 

Insomnia is also a common symptom of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Thus, many people start taking sleeping pills to help them manage their depression and anxiety symptoms. 


For those that don’t realize that they suffer from mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety and are thus, not also receiving treatment for their mental health, taking sleeping pills is a slippery slope to a never-ending cycle of drug abuse. This cycle of sleeping pill abuse combined with a mental illness like depression or anxiety can then lead to suicide or emergency health situations. 

How Does This Cause a Sleeping Pill Addiction?

People often start abusing sleeping pills unknowingly by taking more than what is prescribed or told for them to take in hopes that it will cure their insomnia quicker. Other people unknowingly abuse sleeping pills by taking them for a longer period of time than they’re supposed to because they are suffering from insomnia for a longer period of time than expected. People often suffer from illnesses such as insomnia longer than expected because they aren’t treating the core underlying issues of their conditions. 

Regardless, once people start to chronically abuse sleeping pills, they often develop sleeping pill addictions. Once this happens, professional rehab is necessary to overcome their addictions. For those that simultaneously suffer from a sleeping pill addiction and a co-occurring mental illness like depression or anxiety, dual diagnosis, or co-occurring, treatment is necessary.  

Signs That Your Sleeping Pill Use is Turning Into an Addiction

There are numerous signs that your sleeping pill use is turning into an addiction that you may need treatment for. For example, if you’ve tried to stop using sleeping pills but can’t, then you’re probably addicted to your sleeping pills. 

You’re also likely addicted to sleeping pills if you crave them regularly. Once a sleeping pill addiction gets bad, you may even start seeing multiple doctors and pharmacies to obtain multiple sleeping pill prescriptions. 

Sleeping pill addiction may also cause you to experience negative consequences such as frequent memory loss. Sleeping pill addicts sometimes become so desperate to upkeep their addictions that they’re willing to go through severe negative life consequences to do so. 

What Is A Sleeping Pill?

Sleeping pills are considered sedatives and fall under the category of a sedative-hypnotic. Other pills that fall in this category include barbiturates and benzodiazepines such as Xanax. Unlike other drugs in this category, sleeping pills are non-benzodiazepine hypnotics. They are commonly known as “z-drugs” since they induce sleep.

The most common sleeping pills found on the market are:

  • Ambien
  • Lunesta
  • Sonata

Sleeping pills are made differently than pills like Xanax. Still, they react to the brain similarly. Like benzos or barbiturates, sleeping pills bind to the same GABA receptors which can lead to dependency and addiction.

How Exactly Do Sleeping Pills Work?

As we mentioned above, sleeping pills fall under the same category of pills such as Xanax and Valium. Sleeping pills depress the central nervous system and calm the brain down enough to be able to go to sleep. 


Sleeping pills, whether they’re over-the-counter or prescription-strength, tend to be short-acting though. This means that your brain will begin to grow a dependency on the substance to be able to go to sleep quickly. Certain prescription sleep aids, such as Ambien and Lunesta, are touted to be fast-acting and non-habit forming. Even those aids can result in dependency and addiction over time though.

Additionally, prescription sleep aids have been shown to be abused more often than over-the-counter pills. In fact, prescription sleep aids, such as Ambien, have the potential to cause individuals to experience a “high.” This “high” particularly occurs when people take sleeping pills and then force themselves to stay awake.

Some individuals who have taken Ambien before have even described experiencing feelings of euphoria after taking it and staying awake. This euphoric feeling only leads people to start abusing sleeping pills.

What Are Some of the Side Effects of Taking Sleeping Pills?

Sleeping pills have some common side effects on top of dependency and addiction. Some common side effects of taking sleeping pills include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Heartburn
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Muscle tenderness
  • Body shaking and tremors
  • Nightmares or unusual dreams

In addition, prolonged sleep aid use can result in an extreme side effect known as parasomnia. Parasomnia is essentially extreme sleepwalking. 

People with parasomnia can do things like eat, talk on the phone, and even have sex while still asleep. Just like when sleepwalking, people with parasomnia are completely unaware of the behaviors that they’re participating in.

What Happens If I Mix Sleeping Pills With Other Substances?

It’s absolutely imperative that you don’t mix sleeping pills with alcohol or any other type of substance. You should especially not mix sleeping pills with other sedatives. Examples of other sedative-based substances include opioids and benzos. 

Mixing sedative-based substances together can lead to very dangerous drops in a person’s respiration. A significant drop in respiration can lead to significant health issues such as severe brain damage, coma, or even death. Brain damage can result in issues such as memory loss, behavioral abnormalities, and cognitive dysfunction. 

Can Abusing Sleeping Pills Result in Other Substance Abuse?

Prolonged sleeping pill use can result in dependency and addiction. It can also cause abuse and addiction to other substances. A common example of this is sleep pill dependency and Adderall abuse.

Sleeping pills help people get to sleep and stay to sleep. As a result, people that take sleep aids might wake up feeling groggier or more fatigued than normal. This is especially true when those who take sleep aids wake up before the sleep aids have fully worn off. 

When that happens, people might turn to Adderall or another type of stimulant to counter their grogginess. This could lead to an addiction to stimulants as well as sleep aids.   

What Are the Treatment Options When Dealing With Sleep Aid Addiction?

Not receiving treatment for your sleep aid dependency is dangerous. It could cause you to develop severe health complications and other substance addictions. That’s why getting treatment for any sort of sleep aid addiction is crucial. 

The first step in the sleeping aid addiction treatment process is to go through detox. Detox will rid your body of the sleep aid and any other harmful substances that your body has grown dependent on. 

Due to the nature of the entire detox process, detoxing should be done under constant medical supervision. It can be completed at a hospital, dedicated detox facility, or a treatment center that also offers detox services. North Jersey Recovery Center offers detox services at its treatment center.

Once detox treatment has been completed, it’s time to enter either outpatient or inpatient treatment. Your treatment professional or doctor will determine which form of treatment is best suited for you based on a variety of factors such as how extreme the addiction is and what obligations you have in your daily life. 

During treatment, you’ll attend a variety of therapy sessions. These therapy sessions will help you determine the factors that lead you to your addiction. You’ll also learn how to live with those issues without turning to sleep aids and other illicit substances. 

Are You Suffering from Sleeping Pill Addiction?

While sleep aids might seem harmless enough, they can be incredibly dangerous. Not only can they lead to dependency and addiction, but they can also lead to addiction to other substances. All of this can lead to major health complications if not addressed and treated the right away. 

If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction to sleeping pills or has developed an addiction to another substance as a result of sleep aids, you must receive treatment. It’s crucial for your overall health and well-being. 

North Jersey Recovery Center Can Help You Overcome Your Addiction

At North Jersey Recovery Center, we understand everything that struggling individuals go through and how it can lead to a sleep aid addiction. That’s why we offer a specialized treatment program that’s just for those working to recover from addiction. 

We here at North Jersey Recovery Center also offer prescription drug addiction treatment for those that need it. Thus, those with an addiction to prescription sleep aids can attend rehab here. 

To learn more about North Jersey Recovery and the different addiction treatment and therapy services that we offer, contact us today! Our team is more than willing to answer any questions that you may have. 

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Laura-Riley-Cropped-Profile-150x150Medical Reviewer

Laura comes to NJRC with 23 years of vast clinical experience in hospital, residential, outpatient, and community outreach settings where she has worked, supervised clinical teams, and volunteered. She has provided substance abuse and mental health counseling, clinical coordination, and advocacy to individuals, families and groups, and specializes in co-occurring disorders for both adults and adolescents.