Lunesta is a drug made to help combat the symptoms of insomnia that afflicts millions of people in the United States. It is what’s known as a sedative-hypnotic, and it is typically marketed as the safer alternative to more addictive prescription medications like benzodiazepines.
Unfortunately, because of this association with being a “safe” drug, people are more likely to abuse Lunesta with the assumption that there will be no serious consequences in doing so. In fact, a staggering 21 million people in the U.S. have reported abusing Lunesta or other prescription sedatives at least once in their lives.
There are very real dangers associated with Lunesta dependence, which can form in just a couple of weeks of misuse, including memory loss, depression, organ damage, and more.
Lunesta is not a benzodiazepine, but it works in a similar fashion, binding to what are known as GABA receptors to induce feelings of sedation and relaxation. Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter used to help regulate feelings of stress, fear, and anxiety in your central nervous system by blocking and inhibiting nerve signals responsible for causing those feelings.
Lunesta activates the GABA receptors into overproduction to create a spike in the brain’s GABA levels. The difference between Lunesta and a benzo such as Xanax or Ativan is that while benzos will bind themselves to any and all GABA receptors, Lunesta specifically targets receptors associated with inducing sleep.
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Many people are not aware of the potential risks and dangers associated with Lunesta abuse, which is why so many are more likely to misuse it as opposed to prescription medications that seem more obviously dangerous, like Xanax or other benzodiazepines.
Because of this, it can be difficult to spot signs of Lunesta addiction until it has progressed to the point where it has taken over someone’s life. Even if you are the one who is abusing Lunesta, you may not realize the problem until it has negatively affected your life in ways that are too apparent to miss.
When added together, the side effects of long-term Lunesta abuse may clearly point to a growing addiction, but, when taken on their own, it can be harder to spot. If you are suspicious that a friend or family member is becoming dependent on Lunesta or that maybe you are, some of the long-term effects of abuse to keep an eye out for include:
In addition to the side effects produced by chronic abuse of Lunesta, someone who has become addicted to a substance will generally start to show abnormal behaviors brought on by the fact that Lunesta now controls their life.
Things like personal relationships, responsibilities like work or school, and previously enjoyed hobbies are no longer priorities as getting and using Lunesta will have become the most important thing and the driving force behind their actions.
As someone grows increasingly addicted to Lunesta, behaviors that typically become more noticeable include:
If you are experiencing some of these behaviors and signs or have observed them in someone you care about, the next step is to enter a professional addiction treatment center. Doing so can help the addicted person avoid the serious health consequences that can result from long-term Lunesta abuse.
The first step in not only Lunesta addiction treatment but also any effective addiction treatment is medical detoxification that is conducted under the supervision of health care professionals. Lunesta’s withdrawal symptoms are less severe than those produced by benzodiazepines.
This means that, depending on the state of your overall health as well as factors such as whether or not you have been engaging in polysubstance abuse, you should be able to safely detox on an outpatient basis.
However, Lunesta is still a depressant, and you should not attempt to detox on your own without any medical intervention, as this can leave you open to not only relapse but also potential health risks due to symptoms like insomnia, hallucinations, frequent vomiting, suicidal behavior, and seizures.
While seizures are a rarer symptom, it is always better to be on the safe side and have an experienced medical team on your side to keep you safe and stable. Such a team can also help to manage complications like seizures or other atypical symptoms that may manifest during the drug withdrawal period.
Once you have successfully detoxed from Lunesta and are sober, the next phase of Lunesta addiction treatment is to continue ongoing recovery treatment, either on an outpatient basis or in a residential inpatient treatment facility.
Detox will get you sober, but it does not address the issues and behaviors that led to your Lunesta addiction in the first place.
An addiction rehabilitation program is essential to manage these behaviors and avoid relapse.
Typically, individuals who enter treatment will each have an addiction treatment plan that has been customized to most effectively meet their needs. Recovery plans usually involve at least some of the following treatment modalities, including behavioral therapy, stress management, addiction education, and more.
Lunesta may not seem as dangerous as other drugs and, comparatively speaking, it isn’t. But that’s not the same thing as saying that Lunesta is safe. One of the most common side effects of Lunesta is not only sleepwalking but also potentially taking part in a whole range of activities while unconscious, including:
When people wake up, they usually have absolutely no recollection of doing these things. Perhaps most worrying is how often people will engage in sleep driving, only to get pulled over and realize they have no idea where they are or what’s going on.
Long-term side effects of heavy Lunesta abuse can also include liver, kidney, and lung damage, which can be permanent and persist even after someone has stopped using Lunesta.
People using Lunesta also will frequently engage in polysubstance abuse, mixing it with depressants like alcohol or benzos, putting themselves at an increased risk of overdose due to respiratory failure, or stopped breathing, which can lead to coma, organ shutdown, and death.
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While Lunesta has a lower risk of dependency than sedatives like benzodiazepines, it can still be plenty dangerous if misused, so if you or someone you care about is battling a Lunesta addiction, don’t wait to take action and seek out help.
At Pathway to Hope, we help find the treatment program that will best accommodate your needs or those of your loved one, providing support and guidance throughout your recovery program and beyond. Our admissions specialists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you navigate the treatment onboarding process, get your insurance verified, and address any questions or concerns that you might have.