What Are the Risks of Taking Too Many Sleeping Pills?

taking too many sleeping pills

What Are The Dangers of Taking Too Many Sleeping Pills

For someone who has a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, taking a sleeping pill may seem like a lifesaver. This class of drugs, called hypnotics or hypnotic sedatives, is designed to bring on sleepiness in mere minutes. The problem is that tolerance to the effects of the drug can increase. This may cause you to start taking too many sleeping pills to get the desired result.

While those tiny pills may seem harmless, taking sleeping pills can have many risks. They are addictive, which is one problem, and they also may lead to injuries and even accidental overdose. For these reasons, it is advised that sleeping pills be used for only a short-term solution.

About Sleeping Pills

Back in the 1950s, when someone had insomnia they were prescribed barbiturates to help them sleep. It wasn’t long before the dangers of barbiturates were known, especially the risk of accidental overdose.

Doctors switched patients to the safe drugs in the benzo class, however, benzos are also highly addictive. Next up was the hypnotic class of drugs, including Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata, Flomax, and Restoril. Some of these contain benzos in the formula.

Hypnotics work by enhancing the GABA activity in the brain, which causes drowsiness. While hailed at first as the safest option to date, soon reports of problems with these drugs began to emerge. Mostly, the issues with hypnotics pertained to accidental injuries and odd behaviors while on the medication.

Dangers of Taking Too Many Sleeping Pills

There are several risks associated with sleeping pills. These things can occur whether you take the prescribed dosing or taking too many sleeping pills at one time. The risks include:

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  • Falls and injuries. The effects of the sleeping pill can come on very quickly. You may take the pill and then get up to do something and lose your balance. With the drug causing slower reaction times, you may take a bad fall. There have been many reports of broken bones and head injuries due to sleeping pills.
  • Erratic behaviors. Reports of sleepwalking, sleep-eating, and even sleep-driving have been reported.
  • Memory problems. When taken for long periods, sleeping pills can cause memory impairment. These drugs are also thought to cause dementia.
  • Dependency and/or Addiction. When taken long-term, hypnotic-sedative drugs, such as Restoril, Halcion, and Doral can cause dependency. Both the hypnotic and hypnotic-sedative drugs can cause addiction.
  • Overdose. Taking too many sleeping pills at once can cause an overdose, and may be fatal. Some of these events are accidental, while others are intentional suicide attempts. Also, an overdose can occur if the sleeping pill is taken while drinking alcohol.

Mixing Sleeping Pills and Alcohol

Taking sleeping pills and drinking alcohol can be very dangerous. The depressive effects of both substances can lead to respiratory distress and even death. While both substances pose risks to the kidneys, liver, and cardio-respiratory system, mixing sleeping pills and alcohol may cause:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Slurring words.
  • Short-term memory impairment.
  • Slowed heart rate.
  • Slowed respiratory rate.
  • Reduced blood pressure.
  • Lethargy
  • Cognitive problems and impaired judgment.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Loss of coordination, increasing the risk of falls or injuries.
  • Engaging in high-risk situations, such as driving under the influence of both drugs.
  • Engaging in odd behaviors, such as sleepwalking or eating.
  • Hallucinations

Signs of Sleeping Pill Dependency or Addiction

When you get in a habit of popping a sleeping pill every night, it can become a psychological addiction. You begin to believe you cannot sleep without the aid of a sleeping pill.

Sleeping pills that contain benzos can cause dependency. This happens when you try to stop taking the drug and experience severe withdrawal symptoms. This prompts you to take a sleeping pill to stop the withdrawal. These are some signs of sleeping pill dependency or addiction:

  • You feel drowsy the next day.
  • You take sleeping pills during the day.
  • You start doctor shopping to get more prescriptions for the drug.
  • You abuse the drug, such as inhaling the drug or combining it with other substances.
  • You feel a compulsive need to acquire sleeping pills.
  • Tolerance builds and you end up taking higher doses than what is prescribed.
  • Have trouble concentrating.
  • Have memory problems.
  • You find yourself stealing sleeping pills from family or friends
  • You want to cut back or quit taking sleeping pills but can’t.
  • You feel anxiety when your sleeping pills run out.
  • You experience mounting negative consequences, such as accidents, weight gain, or a DUI arrest.
  • When the effects of the sleeping pill wear off you experience withdrawal symptoms.

How to Safely Quit Taking Sleeping Pills

If you have developed a sleeping pill addiction and want to quit, you will benefit from enrolling in an addiction recovery program. The first step is to fully detox from the pills. In detox, the doctor will schedule a tapering program to slowly wean you off the pills. Some of the withdrawal symptoms you may have during detox include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Nervousness, agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Hand tremors
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Stomach cramping
  • Dizziness

Once you finish the detox phase, the next step is treatment. This is the systematic process of learning how not to succumb to the drugs in the future. It takes therapy and time to make these changes in your habits so you can stay off the sleeping pills. Treatment includes:

  • Psychotherapy. You will work with a therapist to learn new thoughts and behavior patterns to help you pause before reaching for sleeping pills. Common therapies used include CBT and DBT.
  • Group therapy. Small groups discuss topics pertaining to breaking addictive behavior patterns and other dysfunctions that interfere with abstinence. Group sessions encourage open and supportive communication, which can be a valuable source of peer support.
  • Psychosocial skills. You will learn new coping strategies to help you avoid relapsing back to taking sleeping pills. In class, you will learn emotion regulation and conflict resolution that helps reduce stressful thoughts at bedtime.
  • Holistic therapy. To be able to relax at night so you can fall asleep, you will learn some holistic methods. These are activities that help reduce respiratory and heart rate so you can calm down and sleep. They include meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and deep breathing.

Elevation Behavioral Health Provides Help for Sleeping Pill Addiction

Elevation Behavioral Health is a residential treatment program for mental health and dual diagnosis care. If you find yourself taking too many sleeping pills and are worried about your safety, please call our team today at (888) 561-0868.