For many Americans, the act of simply getting a good night’s sleep is about as elusive as a lovable inlaw or a perfectly cooked steak. According to estimates, around 50 to 70 million people have trouble falling and staying asleep.
Experts liken this sleep deprivation crisis to a public health issue, resulting in a widespread effect of diminished productivity at work and school, increased susceptibility to accident and injury, and the emergence of an array of preventable health conditions. A lack of sleep can heighten your risk of incurring these ruinous health conditions: heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.
That’s why so many people turn to prescription sleep medications like Sonata for relief. In fact, Americans spent $1.4 billion in 2017 on prescription sleep aids, which include Sonata and other nonbenzodiazepine medications like Ambien and Lunesta.
While Sonata, Ambien, and Lunesta may not be as potent or dangerous as benzodiazepines like Restoril and ProSom, they can still trigger dependence and addiction, particularly when they are taken for a longer than intended period or abused recreationally for their sedative effects.
Such use can put users at risk for Sonata addiction, along with a number of harmful side effects and overdose symptoms.
Sonata is the brand name for zaleplon. It belongs to a family of medications called “Z-drugs,” along with Ambien and Lunesta. They are formulated to treat insomnia, which occurs for people when they have difficulty falling and staying asleep. These medications are considered as safer alternatives to benzodiazepines because they have less severe side effects and are not as habit-forming.
However, Sonata and other Z-drugs work a lot like benzos. They activate GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) receptors in the brain, which ultimately slows down the central nervous system (CNS). This action induces a calming sedation in a user, making a restful night’s sleep more possible.
Yet, there are dangers around Sonata, Lunesta, and Ambien. In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a black box warning for these drugs over their ability to induce “complex sleep behaviors” in users. The FDA found that users under the influence of Z-drugs engaged in activities they would not normally do while they were sleeping such as sleepwalking, sleep-driving, or literally shooting themselves in order to commit suicide, among other life-threatening endeavors.
On top of those dangers, are the threats of Sonata dependence and addiction, and the numerous negative effects associated with its misuse. What’s more, when Sonata is taken with alcohol or other painkillers, its ability to inflict permanent damage and death heightens considerably.
With prescription and illicit drugs alike, the road to dependence and addiction begins with tolerance. Tolerance to Sonata occurs when you begin taking more of it to experience the same effect an earlier, smaller dose yielded.
Users can become dependent on prescription insomnia medications because they see them as their only means of getting a restful night’s sleep. When this dependence occurs, a user will experience bodily disturbances once the Sonata leaves their system. Disturbances or withdrawal symptoms can occur if you abruptly stop taking Sonata.
Common withdrawal symptoms associated with the drug include:
Though rare, users can experience severe symptoms like seizures, hallucinations, and delirium, this is especially true if you abuse Sonata recreationally and take high doses of it.
If you start to experience any withdrawal symptoms after you have missed a dose or stopped using, you should consult your doctor. Your physician can help you safely taper your use of Sonata if you fear you have become dependent.
If you or a loved one experiences seizures, extreme disorientation, or catatonia, which are severe effects associated with Sonata, it is vital that you seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Like benzodiazepines, Sonata can induce addiction. You will know that addiction is in bloom when you or a loved one begins to exhibit compulsive behaviors in seeking out Sonata.
The Mayo Clinicoutlines a set of behaviors and symptoms that characterize substance addiction, which includes:
Sonata addiction can also generate a host of health conditions, including:
Are you or a loved one experiencing any of the symptoms, effects, or behaviors mentioned above? If so, it is critical that you consider professional addiction treatment. Identifying and addressing the signs of Sonata addiction can help you avoid life-threatening outcomes.
Z-drugs like Sonata do not pose the same risk of addiction as benzodiazepines. However, it is still habit-forming and can be quite dangerous when it is abused recreationally. Additionally, attempts to quit on your own can result in experiencing an array of unpleasant symptoms and effects.
Those dangers are why professional treatment is necessary. A treatment program provides medical detox where the drug can be safely removed from your body, and associated withdrawal symptoms are treated and alleviated. A medical team comprised of physicians, nurses, and other personnel provides 24-hour care to ensure a safe and comfortable detox process.
Once the Sonata is cleared from your body through a tapering process, you can enroll in a treatment program that provides therapy and counseling aimed to address the root causes of your addiction.
Clients can be recommended for a residential or outpatient treatment program depending on the severity of their addiction. A residential program is reserved for severe cases of addiction; it provides clients comprehensive, full-time care where they live onsite at the treatment facility.
If a clinician determines that you have a sufficient support system and your addiction is mild, they could recommend an outpatient treatment program. An outpatient program will provide access to therapy and care on a part-time basis. Plus, you will be able to live independently while undergoing treatment, and you won’t have to put your life on pause.
The objective of both treatment approaches is ultimately the same: to treat and heal your whole being so you can realize lasting recovery.
Sonata may be formulated to be safer than a benzodiazepine, but that does not mean it isn’t dangerous in its own right. When taken in high doses, Sonata can produce life-threatening overdose symptoms. That risk increases when it is abused with alcohol or other depressant medications.
According to MedlinePlus.gov, common overdose symptoms of Sonata can include:
Users of Sonata have reported engaging in activities while on the medication, yet have no recollection of what they did or what occurred. Those reported activities, which can be life-endangering, have included:
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Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (n.d.). Boxed Warning for risk of serious injuries caused by sleepwalking. from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-adds-boxed-warning-risk-serious-injuries-caused-sleepwalking-certain-prescription-insomnia
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