Sleeping Pill Addiction Treatment and Rehab
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Last Updated - 12/29/22View our editorial policy
- Sleeping pills, even when used as directed, can cause dependency to develop
- A sleeping pill overdose is generally treated with medical detox to return the body to its original condition
- Many sleeping pills should be tapered because they reduce brain excitability and, in extreme cases, abrupt cessation could lead to brain hyperexcitability and seizures
- Sometimes sleeping pill addiction develops when people abuse sleeping pills attempting to self-manage a co-occurring mental health disorder, like anxiety.
Sleeping pills can be habit forming. Overcoming addiction to sleeping pills can be challenging, but it is possible.
Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription pills are associated with dependency and addiction issues. OTC pills are generally considered to have the lowest associated risk, but psychological dependence is commonly reported.
There are several classes of prescription sleeping pills, with the “z-drugs” (zolpidem [Ambien], zaleplon [Sonata] and eszopiclone [Lunesta]) often being considered safer than benzodiazepines or barbiturates, which are less frequently prescribed for sleeping disorders. Unfortunately, z-drugs are strongly associated with a substantial risk of dependency, even after short term use as directed.
Addiction and Dependence Treatment Options
Sleeping pill dependency and addiction can be difficult to overcome, but it is not impossible. People with serious sleeping pill addictions often have the best results by undergoing a medically supervised detox, followed by a stay in a residential treatment facility. Outpatient care and aftercare will continue to provide support for clients when they pursue recovery from sleeping pill addiction.
The treatment for an overdose of sleeping pills is generally medical detox. Medical detox is closely monitored by medical professionals who can provide pharmacological intervention if necessary. Most sleeping pills have short half-lives, so the detox period is generally relatively short. However, because sleeping pills have an inhibitory effect on the central nervous system, overdoses can be dangerous, even lethal, especially when they are taken with other drugs or alcohol. Most sleeping pills should not be quit cold turkey. One of the goals of medical detox is to develop a safe detox regime that maximizes successful outcomes.
Recovering from sleeping pill addiction can be challenging. Many people find that a short stay in a residential treatment facility allows them the chance to regain a normal sleep-wake cycle without the stress of avoiding triggers and setbacks. Residential rehab also provides clients with 24/7 access to medical professionals and emotional support.
Once residential care is completed, many clients participate in outpatient rehab for several weeks or months. Outpatient rehab can take many forms, ranging from daily programs to weekly therapy sessions. The goal of outpatient care is to offer clients a support structure that will assist them as they move out of 24/7 care.
Many substance use disorders, including sleeping pill dependence, mask underlying mental health disorders. Sleeping pills have powerful anti-anxiety properties, and some of the less commonly prescribed sleeping pills have antidepressant properties. It should be noted that z-drugs and benzodiazepines are associated with increased depression and should never be taken by people who have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder.
Aftercare and Sober Living
Recovery from addiction is generally considered a life-long process that requires constant maintenance. Many rehab facilities provide long-term aftercare programs that provide support and assistance to clients in recovery. Aftercare can include individual or group therapy sessions, education, peer support, case management, and setback prevention therapy. Another key benefit of aftercare is the opportunity to find new activities to replace old habits and develop new social networks that can offer lifelong support.
Most prescription sleeping pills should be tapered (weaned off) rather than quit cold turkey. Benzodiazepines can be dangerous to quit abruptly, although z-drugs and some other OTC and prescription insomnia drugs have similar risks. Because many of these drugs effectively dampen brain excitability, abrupt cessation can cause a rapid and substantial increase in excitability. In extreme cases, this brain activity can lead to seizures.
How Long Does Rehab Take?
The rehab process varies by person and depends on factors like the duration and amount of substance use. Detox and acute withdrawal from sleeping pill addiction generally precede a residential stay, which can take days or weeks. Outpatient care generally ranges from lasting weeks to months. Aftercare is often considered a lifelong pursuit.
What Does Rehab for Sleeping Pill Abuse Cost?
Rehab costs vary and depend on the quality of care, access to amenities, and the presence of a multidisciplinary staff. A 30-day stay in a residential facility can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and a 30-day outpatient treatment plan often costs several thousand dollars. If medical intervention is required, costs go up. Many rehab facilities also require admission fees.
Does Insurance Cover Rehab?
Many insurance programs (including Medicaid in most states) will help reduce the cost of rehab.
- Government Assistance Programs: Medicaid and Medicare have given thousands of people access to rehab that they otherwise could not afford. Some states also offer grants and scholarships to people who cannot pay out of pocket.
- Sliding Fee Programs: Several public and private rehab programs have sliding fee scales based on the client’s income.
- Private Pay Programs: Some facilities work with clients directly to establish a personalized payment program that can fit the client’s financial situation.
Choosing a Rehab Center for Sleeping Pill Abuse
Several factors are important when choosing a rehab facility:
- Location: Facilities that allow clients to avoid drug influences is a crucial aspect of recovery. It may be best to find a facility that is not close to home.
- Cost: Rehab costs vary and are not necessarily indicative of the quality of care. Some insurance programs (including Medicaid) may help to offset the cost of rehab.
- Methods of Treatment Provided: Multidisciplinary centers that can offer medical care and psychological support are frequently associated with the best outcomes.
- Success Rate: Be wary of programs that report 100% success rates. Many programs offer endorsements from satisfied clients.
- Duration of Treatment: The shortest programs may not be the best. Look for a program that will provide personalized treatment programs with a rationale for their estimated treatment duration.
- Staff to Patient Ratio: Low staff to patient ratios often provide the best care for clients.
- Accreditation: Most quality rehab programs are accredited by either The Joint Commission (jointcommission.org) or CARF International (carf.org). This accreditation guarantees a certain standard of care.
What to Expect When You go to Rehab
Prior to beginning any treatment processes, a client will likely undergo a thorough evaluation that will ask about medical history, prior and current drug use and goals for recovery. It is important to be honest and candid during the evaluation. Recovery is challenging. However, overcoming the challenges and accepting the past while planning for a better future is an integral part of successful recovery.
What Happens After Rehab?
Most people in recovery consider their drug rehab to be a lifelong pursuit. Following residential or intensive outpatient programs, it is important to be proactive about continuing to participate in therapy and aftercare programs. Especially in the early days of life after rehab, it is imperative to avoid triggers.
How Rehab Improves Recovery
Recovering from sleeping pill addiction poses unique challenges that a quality rehab program has experience managing. For example, many sleeping pills should not be quit cold turkey, but a person may not know how to properly taper their medication. In this case, a rehab facility can help the individual taper their drug use safely.
Multidisciplinary programs offer support for physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms and can make a very uncomfortable process somewhat easier. They will also evaluate whether a dual diagnosis is appropriate and, if it is, they can tailor a plan to address the individual components underlying propensity towards addiction. In addition, aftercare programs have been shown to substantially improve long term outcomes.
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Gunja, Naren. “The Clinical and Forensic Toxicology of Z-drugs.” The Journal of Medical Toxicology, June 2013. Accessed July 31, 2019.
Dodds, Tyler. “Prescribed Benzodiazepines and Suicide Risk: A Review of the Literature.” The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders, 2017. Accessed July 30, 2019.
Proctor, Ashley; Bianchi, Matt. “Clinical Pharmacology in Sleep Medicine.” ISRN Pharmacology, November 2012. Accessed July 31, 2019.
Food and Drug Administration. “Taking Z-drugs for Insomnia? Know the Risks.” April 30, 2019. Accessed August 5, 2019.