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Treatment for Sleeping Pill Addiction

Treatment for sleeping pill addiction usually includes a tapered approach to detox, therapy to identify issues that led to the substance abuse and build coping skills, and ongoing aftercare, including support group participation and healthy lifestyle choices.

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How Do Sleeping Pills Work?

Sleeping pills primarily work by targeting the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical messenger to the brain that regulates the transmission of electrical signals between cells. The increased activation of this neurotransmitter results in the blocking of signals within the central nervous system and a decline in central nervous system activity, producing a calming and sedative effect. 

For individuals with insomnia, sleeping pills can be highly effective in helping them fall and stay asleep. However, sleeping pills can also be abused if they are taken in quantities or frequencies other than what has been prescribed. Once abuse begins, addiction can quickly follow, often signified by a person’s inability to stop such abuse.

Certain types of sleeping pills, such as benzodiazepines like Xanax or Ativan, are more likely to lead to addiction. Z-drugs like Ambien can be abused, but they are less likely to cause dependence

What Treatment Options Are Available for Sleeping Pill Addiction?

While sleeping pill addiction can lead to health risks like memory loss, respiratory problems, cardiovascular issues, and depression, evidence-based treatments can help you recover.  Here are some of the main treatment options for sleeping pill addiction:

Medical Detox

The need for medical detox will depend on the type of sleeping pills you’ve been abusing and the severity of your abuse. If you’ve been regularly taking benzodiazepines like Xanax, Ativan, or Restoril, medical detox is necessary. In most cases, medical detox is also necessary for those who have been abusing Z-drugs like Ambien (zolpidem).

Do not suddenly stop taking benzodiazepines without medical supervision. You will need to taper off these medications to avoid dangerous withdrawal symptoms. 

You may be switching to a long-acting benzodiazepine if you’ve been taking a short-acting one. Then, your doctor will slowly taper your dose of that medication until you are eventually not taking any. This process can take weeks to months depending on your average starting dose.

During medical detox, you will have medical and psychological support. This ensures your safety throughout the process, manages withdrawal symptoms and cravings, and reduces your risk of relapse.

Inpatient Rehab

If you’ve been abusing sleeping pills for a long time, have a severe addiction, or have co-occurring disorders, inpatient rehab may be the best choice for you. It can also be ideal if you simply need to take a break from other aspects of life to fully focus on your recovery. 

In an inpatient setting, you will wholly focus on your recovery, participating in therapy, self-care, workshops, support group meetings, and other supportive activities throughout the day. Since you’ll reside at the facility, opportunities for relapse are largely nonexistent. You’ll have medical and mental health support around the clock. 

Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient rehab can still involve intensive addiction treatment, but you will continue to reside at home, and you’ll visit the treatment facility for sessions during the day, often several times per week. If your home environment is not safe or supportive of recovery, you may opt to live in a sober living house during treatment. 


Individual therapy refers to a one-on-one psychotherapeutic and educational counseling intervention that takes place between a client and a licensed mental health professional or addiction specialist. Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used in addiction treatment to identify negative thought patterns that lead to substance abuse. 

Group therapy has numerous benefits, including these:

  • Offers a form of social support
  • Facilitates social learning through observation and modeling of the successful experiences of others
  • Enhances self-efficacy, or the realistic belief one has in their ability to achieve a specific task or objective, such as recovering from sleeping pill addiction
  • Enhances one’s intrinsic motivation for recovery through increasing their sense of relatedness to the group

Peer Support Groups

Peer support groups can be vital components of addiction treatment. While these groups aren’t a replacement for traditional therapy, they can be a beneficial support mechanism in recovery. In meetings, participants learn from the experiences of others and build important social connections.

For many, support group meetings form the basis of a new schedule in recovery. Many participants attend these meetings multiple times per week or even daily. There are both in-person and virtual meeting options.

Individualized Care

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment. Your treatment plan should be customized to fit your individual needs, including your history of sleeping pill abuse, any co-occurring mental health conditions, and the underlying factors that triggered the substance abuse. 

A Lifestyle That Supports Recovery

Life after rehabilitation can be difficult at first, as you adjust to a new normal. Many people who are addicted to sleeping pills started their abuse due to an underlying sleep disorder, so it’s important to address that issue in order to prevent relapse. 

Your treatment team will help you create a lifestyle that supports good sleep. They’ll likely recommend you practice good sleep hygiene that involves these steps:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule where you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Create a supportive sleep environment. Your bedroom should be cool, quiet, and dark.
  • Avoid the use of screens in the hour before bed. This includes computers, televisions, tablets, and phones.
  • Practice meditation or breathing exercises before bed to wind down your body and mind.
  • Develop a generally healthy lifestyle that is characterized by a balanced diet and regular physical activity, as this is conducive to healthy sleep. 

There are natural alternatives to sleeping pills that are not habit-forming. Two examples include Valerian root and melatonin. While they do not have as powerful a sedative effect as prescription sleeping pills, they will help to produce a calming effect that could eventually program your mind to fall asleep. Talk to your doctor before beginning any new supplement. 

The journey to sustained recovery after a sleeping pill addiction isn’t always easy. But with a solid treatment team behind you and ongoing support, you can maintain ongoing recovery and enjoy a healthier life.

Updated June 8, 2023
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