Lunesta is a commonly prescribed medication for sleep disorders like insomnia. The medication has a powerful sedative effect, and it is only legally available in the United States via prescription because of its potential for abuse.
Abuse refers to any use of a medication in a manner other than what is listed on the prescription, such as using more of the medication or consuming it more often than prescribed.
What Is Lunesta?
Lunesta is the brand name for the drug eszopiclone, which is a sedative that is primarily used to treat insomnia.
Like many other common prescription sleeping pills, Lunesta works by activating the neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a chemical messenger in the brain that regulates the transmission of electrical signals between cells. Activating this neurotransmitter blocks certain electrical impulses and slows down central nervous system activity. The result is a sedative effect that helps many people fall and stay asleep.
Lunesta is predominantly used for insomnia. It is often only prescribed for acute alleviation of symptoms and in small doses because of its potential for abuse and addiction. Unlike other z-drugs, however, Lunesta is not restricted to short-term use, but most doctors recommend against becoming too reliant on the medication. Instead, sleep hygiene steps are recommended as the primary course of action to ensure better sleep.
Who Abuses Lunesta?
Theoretically, anyone can abuse Lunesta. A common cause of Lunesta abuse is tolerance that develops from an initial prescription. Because of Lunesta´s powerful sedative effect, many people who otherwise have difficulty falling and staying asleep become dependent on the drug.
Tolerance occurs when more of a drug is needed in order to achieve a desired effect. Dependence refers to the adaptation the brain and body make in response to the presence of a foreign substance.
Over time, tolerance can lead to abuse of the medication. There are no known studies documenting sociodemographic characteristics that can profile individuals most likely to abuse Lunesta, but some of these factors may play a role:
- Nearing the end of a Lunesta prescription or recently running out of a prescription
- Having struggled with substance abuse or addiction in the past
- Having a family history of addiction
- Experiencing a high amount of stress
- Having recently run out of a prescription from another sleep aid or anxiolytic
What Are the Causes of Lunesta Addiction?
Addiction results from tolerance and dependence, in which Lunesta must be abused in order to achieve a desired effect.
An addiction occurs when the body has become physically dependent on the presence of the active ingredient in Lunesta in order to fall and remain asleep, and the person feels a compulsion to abuse the medication even if they want to stop. With addiction, the continued substance abuse is having negative effects on life, but the person continues use.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Lunesta Addiction?
Signs refer to observable evidence in an individual of the presence of a particular health condition, while symptoms refer to the subjective experience of having that condition. The following may be signs of an addiction to Lunesta:
- Taking Lunesta in larger quantities or for a longer period of time than what has been prescribed
- Unsuccessfully attempting to quit taking Lunesta or reduce the amount taken
- Exhibiting an excessive preoccupation with obtaining Lunesta
- Disruptions at home, work, or school as a result of the effects of Lunesta or efforts to obtain the medication
- Exhibiting withdrawal symptoms when attempting to discontinue Lunesta use
Additionally, the following symptoms and side effects may result from Lunesta addiction:
- Disrupted sleep behaviors, such as sleepwalking and sleep-driving
- Gastrointestinal disturbance
- Contradictory effects, such as nervousness and anxiety
How Does Lunesta Impact the Mind & Body?
Lunesta has a sedative effect by reducing central nervous system activity. This allows users to fall asleep more easily and remain asleep while the drug is in the body.
This reduction in central nervous system activity helps both the mind and body feel more relaxed. People often abuse the medication to achieve this desired effect of sedation and relaxation.
Withdrawal occurs as the body strives to achieve homeostasis following the removal or reduction of a substance to which it has become physiologically dependent. The following symptoms of withdrawal may occur for someone with an addiction to Lunesta:
- Memory loss
- Excessive perspiration
- Vomiting and nausea
- Chronic fatigue
- Spasms in the muscles
- Shakiness and tremors
Can You Overdose on Lunesta?
Yes, it is possible to overdose on Lunesta. An overdose refers to an overconsumption of a drug to the point that severe adverse health effects occur, such as convulsions or coma.
It is possible to overdose on Lunesta alone, but the risk of an overdose increases when other medications or substances are used in conjunction. Substances that are dangerous in combination with Lunesta include the following:
- Over-the-counter pain medications
The following symptoms may occur if you have overdosed on Lunesta:
- Impaired coordination and balance
- Reduced responsiveness
- Loss of consciousness
- Respiratory impairment
If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, contact 911 immediately.
Treatment Options for Lunesta Addiction
If you have overdosed on Lunesta, you will likely receive medical detoxification and at least 24 hours of inpatient care. Medical detox is a medically supervised removal of a foreign and toxic substance from the body and may involve techniques like pumping the stomach and the administration of charcoal to remove excessive amounts of the drug. In some cases, supportive care and monitoring may be given while the drug naturally processes out of the body.
If you have an addiction to Lunesta, therapy is recommended. You may be referred to individual or group counseling.
Individual counseling commonly involves psychotherapy and psychoeducation, such as the use of cognitive behavioral therapy to cope with triggers of addiction more effectively. Group counseling can be highly effective for providing social support and encouragement. Peer support groups help people to find support and encouragement in their recovery journey.
A comprehensive approach to addiction treatment works best as you work to rebuild your life in recovery. This better ensures you build a strong foundation so you will be able to resist temptations to abuse Lunesta again in the future.
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- Prevalence of and Factors Associated with Acute Withdrawal Symptoms After 24 Weeks of Eszopiclone Treatment in Patients with Chronic Insomnia: A Prospective, Interventional Study. (April 2021). BMC Psychiatry.
- The Z-Drugs Zolpidem, Zaleplon, and Eszopiclone Have Varying Actions on Human GABAA Receptors Containing y1, y2, and y3 Subunits. (November 2020). Frontiers in Neuroscience.
- Eszopiclone for Insomnia. (October 2018). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
- FDA Adds Boxed Warning for Risk of Serious Injuries Caused by Sleepwalking With Certain Prescription Insomnia Medicines. (April 2019). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.