Lunesta is the name brand of the drug eszopiclone, which is what’s known as a sedative-hypnotic. Lunesta was created to help treat the symptoms of insomnia and other sleep disorders without the addictive dangers of benzodiazepines like Xanax and Klonopin.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 10 million people in the U.S. use prescription sleep aids like Lunesta, which is marketed a safe prescription medication that can be used without worrying about any potential of abuse and addiction.
Unfortunately, this perception of Lunesta as a “safe” drug instead tends to make people more likely to abuse it under the false impression that doing so carries no serious health consequences.
This is not the case, however, as there are significant dangers associated with Lunesta abuse, including memory loss, depression, and organ damage. It is also more than possible to become addicted to Lunesta, sometimes within just a couple weeks of regular abuse.
Even though Lunesta is a nonbenzodiazepine sedative, it still works in a very similar way, increasing the levels of a neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a chemical naturally produced in the body that blocks and inhibits the nerve signals that cause anxiety, stress, and fear to help maintain feelings of calm.
Lunesta mimics these neurotransmitters and binds with the brain’s GABA receptors, activating them and creating an overproduction of GABA. The major difference between this and benzodiazepines is that while benzos bind with any and all GABA receptors, Lunesta specifically targets the one responsible for inducing sleep.
The problem is that, as someone continues to use Lunesta, their GABA receptors will become less sensitive and, therefore, not create as much GABA, making Lunesta less effective due to a built up tolerance and resulting in rebound insomnia.
While it might seem like the signs of substance abuse and addiction should be obvious, recognizing Lunesta abuse and even addiction can actually be fairly difficult if you don’t know to look for them, especially if someone has a Lunesta prescription.
This is partially due to the lack of awareness of the dangers associated with Lunesta misuse and abuse, which both makes people more likely to misuse it and less likely to recognize when it starts to escalate to dependency and addiction.
Even if you are the one abusing Lunesta, you might not realize that you have passed the turning point between abuse and addiction until its adverse effects on your life have become too significant to go unnoticed.
However, when someone has been engaging in regular, long-term Lunesta abuse, it will manifest in the form of many common side effects. Signs to watch out for that point to abuse of and a growing dependence on Lunesta include:
As someone progresses from abuse to addiction, they will lose control over their Lunesta use and begin taking it compulsively, prioritizing obtaining and using Lunesta over maintaining relationships and keeping up with important responsibilities like work or school.
As Lunesta asserts its control over a person’s life, it will manifest in the aforementioned behaviors as well as other abnormal actions typically associated with a substance use disorder.
If you have seen these behaviors in a family member or friend, or if you have been experiencing them yourself, do not underestimate the potential dangers. Seek out professional addiction services as soon as you can to avoid overdosing or any other potential health consequences.
As with essentially any addictive substance, Lunesta addiction treatment should begin with a supervised medical detox to rid the drug from the body and achieve physical and mental stabilization.
The withdrawal symptoms associated with Lunesta are usually fairly mild, especially in comparison to more potent sedatives like benzodiazepines or barbiturates. Because of this, a Lunesta detox can typically be carried out on an outpatient basis.
However, this does not mean detox should be attempted alone without at least some level of medical intervention. Lunesta is still a depressant and could potentially present complications such as hallucinations, suicidal behavior, uncontrolled vomiting, and, in rare cases, seizures.
After detox and the withdrawal period are finished, the next step is to move on to a recovery program that provides continuing care and leads attendees to address the underlying issues and behaviors at the root of someone’s Lunesta addiction.
Whether treatment is done while living onsite in inpatient care or at home in an outpatient program, what matters is following through with it.
There are many different treatments and therapies a clinician can use during Lunesta addiction treatment, and an individual’s treatment plan is usually customized to most effectively meet their needs. This might include medication-assisted treatment, group therapy, stress management, holistic therapy, or dual diagnosis treatment, depending on the client.
Admittedly, when compared to many other drugs, from benzodiazepines to opioids, Lunesta is, for the most part, not nearly as dangerous. But “not as dangerous” does not mean it is safe.
In fact, even just using Lunesta as prescribed can leave someone vulnerable to several dangerous side effects, one of the most common of which is sleepwalking.
However, walking is just one of the unconscious activities someone taking Lunesta might engage in. There also have been numerous cases of people:
Upon waking, people usually have no recollection of having done these things, with people who engaged in sleep driving getting pulled over and waking up with no idea where they are or what’s going on.
Apart from these unconscious activities, heavy, long-term Lunesta abuse can cause severe damage to the lungs, kidneys, and liver, which can become permanent even after someone has stopped abusing the drug.
Kripke, D. F. (2016, May). Hypnotic Drug Risks. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4890308/
Stoppler, M. C., M.D. (2018, April 18). Common Side Effects of Lunesta (Eszopiclone). from https://www.rxlist.com/lunesta-side-effects-drug-center.htm
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017, November). Consumer Updates – Combating Misuse and Abuse of Prescription Drugs. from https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm220112.htm
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2016, February). FDA Drug Safety Communication: Lunesta. f from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drugsafety/ucm397260.htm