Table of Contents
Lunesta Addiction, Abuse, and Symptoms

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. The Basics

This guide explains the effects, trends, and dangers of Lunesta use, as well as an unbiased analysis of the medicinal and behavioral treatment methods for Lunesta addiction based on current research and publicly available statistics.

Primary Lunesta Dangers

  • Addictiveness: Although Lunesta is chemically distinct from benzodiazepines, commonly called benzos, it functions similarly to these substances, and the effects are also similar. It is considered a Schedule IV controlled substance, meaning it has a low potential for abuse and dependence. This risk may be increased if it’s consistently misused more frequently than it should be or in higher-than-normal doses, which often happens with long-term use.
  • Risk of overdose: It is possible to overdose on Lunesta, and the risk is greatest for those people who exceed the recommended dosages listed on their prescriptions, and for those who abuse Lunesta for fun or to avoid withdrawal. Because it slows down brain activity, taking too much causes extreme sleepiness, confusion, irrational thoughts, irregular breathing, and coma. While there is no documented case of a person dying from an overdose on Lunesta alone, when a person takes Lunesta with another substance, such as alcohol or another medication that specifically affects the central nervous system, these events can potentially cause a fatal overdose. According to the FDA, hypnotic drugs, such as Lunesta, which are used as sleep aids, have been connected to 20 reported deaths and 46 nonfatal but serious injuries.
  • Unintended side effects: Lunesta’s use can lead to difficulty breathing, intense tiredness, losing consciousness, falling into a coma, anxiety, memory loss, or suicidal thoughts.
  • Legal risks: Lunesta is a Schedule IV (4) controlled substance under the DEA’s Controlled Substances Act. This means it has a “low potential for abuse relative to other drugs or other substances in Schedule III.” It is illegal to possess Lunesta without a prescription, and legal consequences vary by location. Penalties might include a fine or jail time, depending on local laws.

Lunesta Background Information

Derived FromLunesta is a laboratory-made prescription drug.
Ways UsedIngested orally, or snorted when abused
Scientific NameEszopiclone
Slang/Street Names for Lunesta and Sleep MedicationsA-, Rophies, Mexican Valium, Forget-me Pill, Rope, R2, Roofinol, Zombie Pills
How Long in Bodily SystemHalf-life is estimated to be six hours, on average. For most, Lunesta is out of the body’s system completely in 24-48 hours. It doesn’t tend to accumulate in the body as other drugs do. It takes effect quickly, and peak blood level concentrations happen within 45 minutes to an hour.
Punitive Legal Measures: Using/PossessionLunesta is a Schedule IV drug, and it is illegal to possess without a prescription. Possession of Lunesta without a prescription, or beyond what’s prescribed, is a misdemeanor subject to penalties that commonly amount to $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail for the first offense, with penalties rising for each subsequent offense.
Punitive Legal Measures: Selling/DistributingConsequences for selling or distributing Lunesta carry more punitive penalties than simple possession. If convicted, first-time offenders could face up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
DEA Drug RatingSchedule IV

II. Signs of Abuse

Behavioral Symptoms of Lunesta Usage and Abuse

How Lunesta affects the brain

Although Lunesta is not classified as a benzodiazepine drug, it affects the brain in a very similar way. Just like benzodiazepine drugs (commonly called benzos), such as Xanax, Lunesta works with GABA receptors in the brain.

GABA stands for gamma-Aminobutyric acid, and it’s the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in a human’s central nervous system. It helps make a person feel calm and reduces natural excitability feelings. Lunesta helps amplify GABA’s effects, which is why a person feels extremely relaxed when taking it. Lunesta binds to the brain’s GABA receptors, calms the person down, and allows them to fall asleep easily.

Behavioral signs of Lunesta usage and abuse

Some people eventually build up a tolerance for Lunesta, meaning they need higher and higher doses for it to be effective at helping them sleep. This is often the first sign of Lunesta abuse.

Another sign of abuse is when people fight the urge to sleep in order to experience the drug’s euphoric and hallucinogenic effects.

Although the risk of becoming addicted to Lunesta is relatively low, people who develop tolerances for it are at risk for abuse if they continue to take higher-than-prescribed doses.

In one study of abuse liability conducted among individuals with a known history of benzodiazepine abuse, Lunesta at doses of 6mg and 12mg produced euphoric effects similar to those produced by Valium. In this study, when individuals took Lunesta in doses two or more times higher than the recommended dose, an increase of both amnesia and hallucinations were present.

Physical Symptoms of Lunesta Abuse

How Lunesta affects the body

Lunesta acts as a depressant in the central nervous system, slowing breathing and heart rates. The outward effects of Lunesta are similar to alcohol intoxication and include slurred speech, impaired memory and body coordination, and feeling lightheaded or dizzy. Other serious effects may include daytime sedation, cognitive impairment, and increased risk of falling or getting into an automobile accident as a result of being drowsy or falling asleep at the wheel.

Early physical effects of Lunesta

When Lunesta is taken, its effects are quickly felt. It’s meant to be taken by mouth right before bed, and a person should have at least seven to eight hours of available sleep time after taking it. It can produce a multitude of short-term physical and psychological effects.

This table illustrates the possible short-term physical effects associated with Lunesta.
Short-Term Physical Symptoms
Initial (direct effects of drug, 30-60 min.)Lowered heart rate
Lowered breathing rate
Feeling extremely drowsy
Dizziness
Dry mouth
Coordination problems
Lingering (within an hour of taking the drug)Sleepiness
Post-Use (several hours to days after use)Daytime fatigue

Severe and long-term side effects of Lunesta

Lunesta is intended to be a short-term solution for insomnia or to address other sleeping problems. A person taking it is usually also exploring other ways to correct sleeping problems, either through therapy, counseling, or other lifestyle changes.

Individuals who chronically abuse Lunesta or use it long-term may build up a tolerance to the effects the drug provides, and usually take higher-than-prescribed or more frequent doses in order to feel its effects.

In rare cases, Lunesta can have serious side effects, some of which involve people performing activities they later have no memory of. While some may be relatively harmless, such as shopping for items online, others can be dangerous, such as leaving their home while sleepwalking, attempting to drive, and preparing meals.

Other serious side effects associated with long-term use of Lunesta include behavioral changes, such as depression and mood swings, suicidal thoughts, confusion, aggressive behavior, and anxiety.

This table illustrates the possible long-term physical effects associated with Lunesta.
Long-term Physical Symptoms
CasualDry mouth
Unpleasant taste on the tongue
Drowsiness, difficulty waking up in the morning
Headache
Dizziness
Cold-like symptoms, such as a cough or runny nose
Chronic (Including all of the above effects for casual use)Anxiety
Abnormal thoughts or behavior, such as aggression, confusion, hallucinations, severe depression, or suicidal thoughts
Memory loss
Sleepwalking activities
WithdrawalNausea
Vomiting
Stomach cramps
Nervousness, anxiety, mood swings, or irritability
Shakiness or tremors
Rebound insomnia

Further Resources

Both the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offer in-depth information on both the symptoms and treatment of prescription CNS depressant addiction.

III. Lunesta Usage

Poor sleep patterns in people across the world have contributed to Lunesta's popularity

Insomnia has become somewhat of a global epidemic. One international study, which examined the prevalence of sleep problems in primarily low-income, international settings in Asia and Africa, found that several countries report poor-quality sleep among their residents, with the highest numbers being among females: 31.3% of women in South Africa, 12.7% of women in Tanzania, 10.8% of Kenyan women, 37.6% of Vietnamese women, and 43.9% of women in Bangladesh.

In the United States, 35.2% of adults in 2014 said they get less than seven hours of sleep a night, which contributes to the large number of Lunesta prescriptions given out to patients. In 2017, it was the 214th most prescribed drug in the United States, as it was prescribed approximately 2.4 million times.

Prescription Sedative Use Throughout the World

HighestSecondThird
Regions with the Highest Number of Prescription Sedative UsersAfricaAsia and AustraliaWestern and Central Europe

Lunesta Usage Demographics in the U.S.

According to a SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) survey, published in 2016, an estimated 497,000 people aged 12 years or older were misusing sedatives similar to Lunesta in 2016, which equates to about 0.2% of the total population. An estimated 23,000 adolescents were misusers of sedatives in 2016, which is 0.1% of the total adolescent population in the U.S. At the time of the survey, an estimated 50,000 young adults aged 18-25 misused sedatives within the past month, or about 0.1% of young adults.

Demographics of Prescription Usage of Tranquilizers (Drugs Similar to Lunesta)
Past Year (2019)Lifetime
8th grade (14-15 yo)2.00%3.50%
10th grade (15-16 yo)3.90%6.00%
12th grade (17-18 yo)3.90%6.60%

IV. How to Find Help

Insomnia is a common problem among Americans, and its effects can be debilitating. Long, sleepless nights lying awake lead into exhausting, excessively tiring days and trouble fulfilling personal and professional obligations. For many people, prescription sleep aids, such as Lunesta, bring relief because they allow them to get a full night’s rest.

However, developing a long-term habit can be dangerous because eventually, many people develop a dependency on Lunesta’s effects, and eventually may even build up a tolerance to its effects, requiring higher and higher doses to be effective. With these higher doses and long-term use, complications can arise that may be either uncomfortable or dangerous.

Ceasing to use Lunesta can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, such as recurring insomnia and anxiety, nausea and vomiting, sweating, strange dreams, and tremors. When Lunesta addiction is treated as part of a multifaceted program that addresses not only the addiction itself but also underlying concerns related to sleep disturbances. This method can help prevent relapse and provide the individual with much-needed social and medical support. To learn more about this process, read our Lunesta rehabilitation guide, which provides a comprehensive resource for starting this process.

Staging an Intervention

If you have a loved one who’s struggling with addiction, staging an intervention is often the first necessary step towards sobriety, but it’s important to be strategic and loving in your approach. Even the most well-meaning of interventions can have a negative effect if they aren’t handled correctly.

5 Tips for Staging an Intervention

1. Don’t Do It Alone. A professional interventionist is always the most qualified to guide a successful intervention. Also, rely on non-addict family and friends – especially those who have a close relationship with you or the addict.
2. Research Ahead of Time. It’s best to do plenty of research ahead of time to gather insight on the addiction and how it affects the addict. Also, be prepared with local resources for getting help.
3. Write Out Your Statement. During the actual intervention, emotions will likely be running high, so it’s best to have a statement of how the person’s addiction has impacted you and your relationship with him or her. These statements should be honest, yet written from a place of love – no personal attacks.
4. Offer Help. It’s important for everyone attending the intervention to offer tangible help and support as the person works through detox and rehabilitation.
5. Set Boundaries. If the person refuses to seek help and take the next steps outlined, it’s important that they understand that everyone present will end codependent and enabling behaviors.

V. Sources