Are Sleeping Pills Safe, Addictive?

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Insomnia and restless sleep are some of the most commonly reported afflictions in the early stages of recovery. This is especially true for alcoholics and heroin addicts, and I suppose it would be worse if you preferred a combination of the two. When an addict starts to deny their body the substance it is dependent on, the neurological system needs time to get back to a healthy, functioning level.

Insomnia & Recovery

Insomnia and restless sleep syndrome can last for over three months in some recovering patients. They feel tired all day, then anxious and awake at night. It is tempting to take a prescription sleep aid during this time, since such medication is meant for high stress situations. In the recovering addict’s case it is important to avoid prescription medication, such as Ambien, because it can be habit forming – with adverse and sometimes disturbing side effects. For this reason a soothing combination of regular exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy and herbal remedies are better for patients in recovery.

Prescription Sleep Aids

Some of the most commonly prescribed sleep medications include Eszopiclone (Lunesta), Ramelteon (Rozerem), Triazolam (Halcion), Zaleplon (Sonata), Temazepam (Restoril), Doxepin (Silenor), Estazolam and Zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar). The majority of them can be habit forming and should not be taken with alcohol or other medications.

The most commonly prescribed sleep aid is Ambien, which is in a special class of drugs called hypnotics. Also known as Zolpidem, the drug works by mimicking a neurochemical called GABA that makes you feel drowsy. Rare side effects include sleep walking, sleep eating, sleep sex and even sleep driving. Some people take it recreationally because it makes you uninhibited, but that’s because you often black out.

The risk of side effects is heightened when you combine Ambien with alcohol. There have been cases where people take Ambien, and then wake up in a jail cell because they started driving and unknowingly got into a car accident. It’s also been reported that some people eat cigarette butts or whole eggs on Zolpidem.

Addiction & Sleeping Pills

Most sleeping pills are considered habit forming but not physically addictive. A recovering addict should focus on natural alternatives rather than rerouting the problem with sleep medication. Eventually regular sleep will return, and that is an enormous turning point in the recovery process.

One of the best ways to get back on track is with regular exercise and meditation. Even doctors recommend herbal teas such as chamomile and peppermint. It is a good idea to keep a regular schedule and reserve the bedroom for sleep only. Therapy and anti-depressants can help as well.


If you or someone you know is abusing sleeping pills, such as Ambien, learn more about addiction treatment and recovery options. Call 1-888-319-2606 Who Answers? and speak to a recovery advisor today.

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