Almost half of Americans in the United States complain about poor sleep or struggle with insomnia. Many adults in the United States take sleeping pills in order to alleviate this problem. Most sleeping pills are “sedative hypnotics,” which assist in inducing and maintaining sleep. Some are more addictive than others, but if taken in large enough quantities can lead to an overdose.
Read on to learn about types of sleeping pills, side effects of Ambien, the possibility of overdose and dangers of sleeping pills, sleeping pill overdose symptoms, sleeping pill and mental health, ambien addiction treatment, and more.
Sedative hypnotics increase drowsiness, are used to treat anxiety and have the potential to be addictive. Examples include:
Other newer forms of sedative hypnotics reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and are less likely to be habit-forming. Examples include:
Barbiturates are another class of sedative hypnotics that depress the Central Nervous System (CNS) and cause sedation. These are most commonly used during major surgery as an anesthesia.
Sleeping pills can produce a number of side effects. These can include:
- Unusual dreams
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Stomach pain
Some individuals may be allergic to sleep medication and may experience nausea, itching, rash, shortness of breath, blurred vision and chest pain. Sleeping pills can also cause parasomnias, which are behaviors an individual has no control over (sleepwalking, sleep eating, and making phone calls). During parasomnia, the individual is asleep and is unaware of what they are doing.
Doses as low as 70 mg can result in damage to the body or brain (the starting dosage typically falls between 5-10 mg). While it is possible to overdose on Ambien, it takes very high amounts of the drug to cause serious damage. When dosages reach 400-600 mg, an overdose will occur. Experts estimate that doses around 2,000 mg are lethal.
Sleeping pills work by slowing down bodily functions, relaxing the muscles, and chemically lulling the body to sleep. Medications like Ambien are prescribed for short periods of time, so it is typically difficult to obtain a large amount of it. Most sleeping pills that are potent enough to overdose on are only available in hospital settings, but there is a chance someone could obtain enough illegally if they take medication that is prescribed to someone else.
Dangers of Mixing Ambien and Alcohol
Overdoses often occur when sleeping pills are combined with alcohol because both are depressants. This combination increases the risk of respiratory depression or hypoventilation. This means that these drugs cause normal bodily functions, like breathing to slow down so much that the user is unable to take in enough oxygen or release enough carbon dioxide which can lead to death. Individuals may combine medication, like Ambien, with alcohol to produce a high that results in hallucinations or a tranquilizing effect.
The combination of these substances enhances the effects of both and can be deadly when mixed. In addition to depressing bodily functions, individuals are more likely to engage in dangerous activities, such as sleep driving, while under the influence.
An overdose would essentially shut down the entire body, including the nervous, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems. Immediate sleeping pill overdose symptoms include:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Difficulty answering questions or recalling information
- Extreme confusion
- Abnormal breathing
If a sleeping pill overdose is not treated in a timely manner, the individual risks falling into a coma and/or serious brain damage.
The most serious long-term side effects of a sleeping pill overdose include:
- Memory loss
- Paranoid delusions
- Development of psychological disorders
- Face paralysis
- Little to no control over bodily functions.
Since overdose creates a tranquilizing effect, it can lead to a painless death. Statistically speaking, sleeping pills are one of the most popular choices for suicide attempts for this reason.
This is a major contributing factor to the recent changes in the potency of sleep medications. While the newest generation of sleeping pills has been purposefully designed to be safer, with high consumption, it is still possible to cause significant damage to the mind and body. If someone is using sleeping pills recreationally, they are likely dealing with a dual diagnosis and would greatly benefit from seeking treatment for their mental health in addition to their addiction.
If an individual has suffered an overdose from sleeping pills like Ambien, they will need medical treatment. Physicians may give the individual an overdose antidote such as Flumazenil in order to contradict the sedation effects of the sleeping pills. Additionally, medical staff may pump the stomach to remove the drug from the individual’s system.
Once vitals have been stabilized and the individual’s physical health is satisfactory, it is crucial to seek dual diagnosis addiction treatment. Any abuse of prescription drugs indicates the need for treatment, especially if an overdose occurs. However, addiction treatment without a dual diagnosis component will only temporarily bandage the larger mental health issues at play and relapse will be more likely to occur.
Click the button below to learn more about prescription drug addiction treatment and what to look for in a treatment center if you know someone who might be abusing sleeping pills like Ambien.