Lunesta (eszopiclone) is a nonbenzodiazepine sedative similar to other ‘z-drugs’ like Ambien (zolpidem) and Sonata (zaleplon). Due to its sedating effects, Lunesta is primarily used to treat insomnia. Unlike other z-drugs, Lunesta is not restricted to short-term use, although it can cause tolerance and dependence after using it for more than a few months.
Prescription sleep aids like Lunesta have a moderate potential for abuse, and may be misused for their ability to produce euphoric effects in high doses. Taking excessive doses of Lunesta may cause hallucinations, overdose, or dependence with chronic use.
Combining Lunesta with alcohol or other drugs can increase the risk of dangerous side effects, including overdose. If you or someone you know is abusing Lunesta for sleep or its euphoric effects, don’t wait to seek help.
How Does Lunesta Work?
Lunesta is a sedative-hypnotic capable of treating insomnia by boosting GABA, a neurochemical that slows activity in the brain. This can cause drowsiness, making it easier for people to fall and stay asleep.
Lunesta is a fast-acting drug that is rapidly-absorbed in the body. This results in quick effects within an hour after taking it. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends planning to go to sleep directly after taking the drug and expecting to stay asleep for at least seven to eight hours.
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Lunesta is prescribed in one, two, and three-milligram (mg) tablets for oral use only. The current recommended dose for people starting on Lunesta is one milligram.
The original recommended dose was two milligrams. However, this was lowered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014 due to reports of people experiencing severe mental and physical impairment lasting up to 11 hours after taking the drug.
Short-Term Side Effects Of Lunesta
Lunesa is marketed as an effective sleep aid capable of helping people with insomnia reach deep sleep. Within an hour after taking Lunesta, side effects of drowsiness, dizziness, and lightheadedness may occur.
Other short-term side effects of Lunesta may include:
- chest pain
- daytime drowsiness
- nausea and vomiting
- dry mouth
- unusual dreams
- irregular menstrual cycles
- enlarged breasts (for males)
- decreased desire for sex
Dangers Of Lunesta Abuse
The FDA has issued additional safety warnings in recent years concerning potential side effects of z-drugs like Lunesta. According to FDA, taking more than a 1 mg dose of Lunesta can increase the risk for mental and physical impairment the following day.
This can impact a person’s ability to drive a car and other activities that require mental alertness. High doses of Lunesta may also cause confusion, increased depression, hallucinations, and bizarre behavior.
Some reports of driving cars and engaging in other activities while not fully awake (i.e. sleepwalking or ‘sleep-driving’) have also been reported after taking Lunesta. People who sleepwalk under the influence of Lunesta may or may not remember their experience the next day.
Can You Overdose On Lunesta?
Yes. Lunesta is a drug that depresses the central nervous system (CNS), which consists of the brain and spinal cord. Very high doses of a CNS depressant may cause slow or stopped breathing, extreme drowsiness, or loss of consciousness.
Overdosing on Lunesta is rarely fatal unless taken in combination with alcohol or other drugs that affect the CNS system. This can lead to more severe and life-threatening symptoms.
Central nervous system (CNS) drugs that can be dangerous to take with Lunesta include:
- other z-drugs (Ambien and Sonata)
- over-the-counter pain relievers (e.g. acetaminophen)
- and more
Taking Lunesta in any way other than prescribed can also increase the risk for overdose. This includes crushing and snorting pills, which is more common among those who abuse the drug.
Lunesta can worsen depression or suicidal thoughts in some people with a history of depression. People with a history of depression or suicide attempts are at greater risk for suicide when taking Lunesta. This can make a person more likely to overdose.
Long-Term Side Effects Of Lunesta Abuse
Abusing Lunesta over time can cause the body to become dependent on the drug. Although this is less common in people who take the drug as prescribed, abuse of the drug can impact how the body responds to its prolonged presence in your system.
Long-term effects of Lunesta abuse may include:
- worsened sleeping patterns (rebound insomnia)
- worsened depression
- suicidal thoughts
- joint pain or swelling
- kidney or liver damage
- aggressive behavior
Many of these effects can be reversed with treatment, although some conditions may require more time or be less responsive to treatment. Factors that can affect this include how long someone has been abusing Lunesta, in what amount, and the type of treatment they seek.
If you are worried that you or someone you know is abusing Lunesta, understanding the signs can be important to getting them the help they need.
Common signs of Lunesta abuse can include:
- taking Lunesta for any reason other than prescribed
- taking higher doses
- continuing to take it despite negative side effects
- crushing and snorting pills
- mixing Lunesta with other substances, such as alcohol
Is Lunesta Addictive?
Lunesta has a high potential for abuse, much like other common sedatives. Compared to benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax, Valium, Klonopin), Lunesta has a lower risk for addiction.
Certain people, however, can be at greater risk for developing a physical or psychological addiction to Lunesta.
- people of older age
- people with a previous history of substance abuse or mental health problems
- those taking doses higher than prescribed
People who take Lunesta are often using the drug to help them sleep. When a person becomes dependent on a drug to help them sleep, they may develop a psychological attachment to the drug, becoming reliant on the sensation of calmness it provides.
Excessive doses of Lunesta can also cause euphoric effects – i.e. a drug high. This can be addictive for people with a previous history of substance abuse.
Lunesta Dependence And Withdrawal
Long-term use or abuse of Lunesta may cause physical dependence on the drug, which can trigger withdrawal effects with reduced or stopped use.
Withdrawal is most common among people who have taken moderate to high doses for more than a few months. These can begin very shortly after trying to stop or lessen the dosage someone is taking.
Symptoms of withdrawal that can occur among those who take Lunesta include:
- unusual dreams
- upset stomach
Bearing these symptoms alone can be uncomfortable and can sometimes result in returning to patterns of drug abuse. If you or someone you know is unable to stop taking Lunesta or is having difficulty dealing with withdrawal symptoms, Vertava Health can help.
Getting Help For Lunesta Abuse And Addiction
Millions of people in the United States are prescribed sleeping aids like Lunesta to help them improve their sleep. People with a history of drug or alcohol abuse, however, can be more vulnerable to abusing Lunesta for its powerful effects of drowsiness and euphoria in high doses.
The most common types of treatment for people who struggle with prescription sleep aid abuse are detox services and counseling. These can help someone safely stop using Lunesta and explore the underlying reasons for why a person may have developed their problem.
Vertava Health offers various treatment services at locations across the country to help people overcome the physical, emotional, and psychological effects of drug abuse. This includes detox services, outpatient counseling, and inpatient rehab programs.
For more information about the harmful effects of Lunesta abuse and treatment options, contact us today.