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Lunesta Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

What Is Lunesta?

Its main purpose is to treat individuals who suffer from insomnia by helping to induce sleep. Lunesta is the brand name of eszopiclone. Classified as a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic, the drug still carries many of the risks that benzodiazepines do, including addiction.

How Addiction Forms

Tolerance does form with Lunesta, even when it is taken as prescribed. When used regularly, the body becomes accustomed to the dose it is given. Eventually, that dose won’t be enough to induce sleep, and it will need to be increased.

Generally, most who are prescribed Lunesta are started on the lowest dose of 1 mg each night; however, the highest recommended dose is just 3 mg. Thus, there isn’t far for people to progress with dosages until they have hit the recommended safety limit. Since they have trained their bodies to respond to higher doses each time the drug’s efficacy wears off, they may continue to up their dosage even beyond 3 mg, and this is where a lot of trouble can present.

Why Do People Abuse It?

Many who abuse this drug are interested in one thing, and it’s not getting high: They need sleep. Psychology Today reports 30 percent of females use a sleep aid every week.

A lot of people who abuse Lunesta also abuse prescription benzodiazepines. The drugs works similarly to that class while not belonging to it. It has sedative qualities that make it perfect for individuals whose bodies just won’t rest. Sometimes, it’s an overactive mind that replays worries of upcoming events, and other times, there may be no particular reason someone tosses and turns all night, but they just can’t sleep.

Others abuse it simply to get high. It has been known to produce a euphoric effect when taken in large doses. In addition, this effect is often increased by the simultaneous abuse of other drugs.

Some people end up taking Lunesta to combat the insomnia that other substances are causing. Sometimes they think the substance is helping to induce sleep when it really may be the cause of insomnia. Alcohol is commonly known to negatively affect sleep. Still, Medscape notes 28 percent of people who suffer from insomnia report having used alcohol to self-medicate and induce sleep at some point in time. Some people will even abuse other sleep aids on top of Lunesta, which can seriously heighten the risk of negative outcomes.

Consequences of Use

Lunesta abuse brings with it many side effects that aren’t so pleasurable. As a sedative, the drug works by relaxing the body to induce sleep. Thus, it has this relaxant effect on the entire body as a whole, including the mind, lungs, and so on. When it is abused, the extent to which it sedates the body can become harmful. Often, overdose occurs, and the individual may fall into a coma or stop breathing. It only takes a few minutes for damage to occur to internal organs without adequate oxygen supply.

In many cases, overdoses of Lunesta are intentional attempts at suicide. One study notes out of 15,213 people who reported experienced side effects from using Lunesta, 71 died as a result of intentional suicide with no accounting for how many actually attempted it. However, many die as a result of accidental overdoses, too. Flumazenil – a GABAA receptor antagonist – is usually given to people who overdose on Lunesta to counteract its effects, but it is only a plausible course of action if Lunesta was the only substance being abused.


The brain controls every impulse and chemical response within the body. Therefore, anything that impacts neurological functioning impacts everything else, too. For instance, when a drug like Lunesta sedates the mind, it also slows down the responses the brain has to other parts of the body. For this reason, reaction time is slowed.

The intestines may control digestion, but the brain has a great deal of control over how quickly and effectively they operate. The lungs might do the work of breathing, but the brain controls their operation. The sedative effects of Lunesta can and do often cause respiratory distress in those who abuse it. In many cases, the individual stops breathing altogether.

The Possibility of Addiction

There are signs to look for when trying to determine if someone has taken use of Lunesta too far. The following signs and symptoms are strong indicators that Lunesta abuse or dependence is present:

  • Greater difficulty sleeping without help from the drug
  • Weight fluctuations
  • The presence of tolerance
  • Inability to stop using or cut back
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Bouts of hiccups
  • Panic attacks
  • Using to avoid withdrawal
  • Irritable mood
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Preoccupation with using
  • Avoiding social activities and time with peers or family to use instead
  • Sweating
  • Muscular pain

Many people are surprised to find that addiction to Lunesta is even possible. They assume that if something is approved for regular use, it must be inherently safe. Likewise, many people are naturally inclined to trust that pharmaceutical companies have their best interests at heart, but this isn’t always the case.

The pharmaceutical industry is a profitable one. Doctors are left to be the middle men in charge of making sure no harm comes to anyone whom they prescribe the drug to, but physicians aren’t aware of what goes on behind closed doors either. While a doctor might be tipped off if someone requests a refill sooner than needed, most who abuse the drug don’t so this. Instead, they opt for doctor shopping. As many as 56 percent of people seeking care from physicians in America may engage in this practice, an Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience publication reports.

Addiction to Lunesta is entirely possible and happens quite frequently.

This drug is often promoted as being nonaddictive, but that’s far from the truth,

and many who have needed addiction treatment because of it can attest to that. After prolonged use or abuse of the prescription drug, people find themselves unable to sleep without it. The lack of good rest itself can cause a host of symptoms, especially behavioral and mood changes that make life quite uncomfortable.

Most of the time, relying on people to confess substance abuse habits or ask for help isn’t the best path to take in getting them treatment. Even when confronted, many will not admit that they have a problem. In fact, a lot of people truly don’t believe that they do. In 2014, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported 6.3 million people needed treatment for the abuse of an illicit drug and didn’t receive it; among them, 5.9 million didn’t think they needed help.

Changes in a Loved One

If someone who uses Lunesta is suddenly sleeping more than usual or can’t ever seem to sleep without large doses of the drug, dependency is likely. A lack of good rest may cause people to act of out character, and irritability is a common complaint. People might be fighting a lot with their loved ones and acting in very defensive ways. Recurrent hangover-like behaviors, such as headaches and nausea, when they aren’t using are also typical signs of Lunesta abuse and addiction.

Some people will begin to engage in behaviors that aren’t typical of their personality style, too. For example, a family member who is usually very punctual, reliable, and dedicated at work might start calling in sick more, sleeping in, and slacking at work. A normally cautious or timid friend may start engaging in reckless behaviors like driving under the influence. NBC News reports individuals who use sleep aids, even in a safe manner, are at a 25 percent to threefold increased risk of being in an automobile accident while driving.

People who abuse Lunesta may grow sluggish and stop practicing good grooming. They may skimp on haircuts and regular bathing. They might not change their clothes every day and could even stop brushing their teeth. Often, the lethargy and general lack of care that set in when addiction forms can be quite extreme to those observing the person.


During withdrawal from Lunesta, sweating, throwing up, cramping, extreme insomnia, and trembling are all common side effects. Those individuals who have been abusing Lunesta for a longer period of time will generally have a more turbulent experience during withdrawal. Likewise, the larger the dosage, the harder withdrawal usually is.

Bouncing Back

The process of picking a treatment program should be approached with care. There is no one-size-fits-all option in the addiction rehab world. What worked for a friend, cousin, or coworker may not work for someone else. It is imperative that individuals take their own circumstances into account when deciding upon a facility and a course of action for their rehab experience.

Severity of Addiction

Treatment circumstances are highly dependent upon a person’s individual substance abuse problems, too. For instance, those who have been immersed in a world of addiction for years are more likely to need more intensive treatment, such as inpatient care or long-term rehabilitation.

The abuse of certain substances also warrants different treatment approaches. If someone is abusing benzodiazepines or prescription opiates on top of Lunesta, the person will need to address those problems, too. Regarding polydrug abuse, it’s most common that those who abuse Lunesta will also abuse alcohol. The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs reported on a study of 4,580 undergraduate students and noted 107 of them abused both alcohol and sleep aids.

Mental Wellness

During intake, a quality treatment center will screen incoming clients for a myriad of mental health disorders that could be contributing to substance abuse behaviors. Sometimes, mental health symptoms are the reason people abuse drugs like Lunesta. For example, someone who suffers from bipolar disorder may experience recurrent bouts of mania that make sleeping nearly impossible. The person might abuse Lunesta in order to get some sleep.

In some cases, people are completely unaware that they are even living with a mental health disorder. PR Newswire reports that 61 percent of people who battle both serious psychiatric disorders and substance abuse problems who failed to seek treatment didn’t think they needed any form of help. It can be traumatizing for many to learn that the feelings and behaviors they have been enduring are the result of an undiagnosed mental illness. Many aren’t willing to accept the diagnosis. Unfortunately, in these cases, the likelihood of continued substance abuse or relapse post-treatment is higher.

Co-occurring treatment of a mental health disorder means further medication may be needed. Many who abuse Lunesta suffer lasting effects from the drug that can impair the body’s natural sleep rhythm. As such, these people can’t fall asleep or stay asleep without the help of a sleep aid. Detoxing from Lunesta doesn’t mean they can’t be prescribed another medication that is less addictive though. The use of other medications is assessed on an individual basis.

A Time for Healing

The first step to treating an addiction to Lunesta is medical detox. When it comes to the potent sleep aid, tapering is generally the best course of action. Trying to quit taking even a small dose of Lunesta with the cold-turkey method will usually result in a much more severe reaction to withdrawal. The harder the detox experience is, the more likely someone is to leave treatment early. Only around half of all clients admitted to detox stay and complete treatment, SAMHSA reports. Completion of treatment is the number one goal upon entrance to rehab.

After detox, continued therapy and participation in support groups can assist individuals in staying on the right path. People who abuse sleep aids often have difficultly readjusting to life without them, specifically at bedtime. Therapy that is geared toward positive changes in behavior, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, can help these individuals to learn new bedtime routines that make sleeping a little easier. Sometimes herbal remedies, such as Valerian root or melatonin, may be helpful.

Many treatment programs also offer clients the opportunity to learn more natural ways of dealing with insomnia that don’t require popping a pill, like meditation. The centuries-old practice can indeed help to induce sleep by way of relaxing the person. In addition, meditation is thought to improve the overall quality of sleep, too.

Mindfulness and Acceptance in Behavioral Medicine: Current Theory and Practice states the results of one study in which 42 percent of a sample group of young people (the percentage that finished the program) with a history of insomnia and substance abuse problems reported interventions that included mindfulness meditation practices improved their ability to fall asleep faster, increased the length of time they slept, decreased the number of times they awoke during a period of sleep, and reduced the frequency with which they napped during the daytime


Some treatment centers have their own funding programs that offer payment assistance to clients who are in severe need of treatment without the means to pay for it. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration accounts for 37.3 percent of those who needed treatment but didn’t get it from 2010 to 2013 facing this predicament.

Insurance policies are accepted by most major treatment centers now. While insurance plans are unlikely to pay for the entire cost of treatment, the majority of the burden is lifted from the client. Some states offer grants to individuals who can express a need for treatment and financial assistance. In addition, certain facilities also offer sliding scale payment plans that allow individuals to pay predetermined amounts for treatment based on how much the facility deems they can reasonably afford.


Many clients are worried about where to attend treatment because there are few options near where they live. In these cases, inpatient care may be appropriate as an accommodating measure, but many who abuse Lunesta can manage their addiction issues on an outpatient basis. The location of a treatment center is surely important for those who must continue to work or care for children at home, but the quality of a treatment center and the programs offered are the primary factors to keep in mind when making the choice of where to get help.

About The Contributor
Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff, American Addiction Centers
The editorial staff of Greenhouse Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More