Key takeaways:

  • Lunesta is intended for short-term use as overexposure can lead to a tolerance to the effects of the drug forming
  • Taking Lunesta in conjunction with other substances, such as CNS depressants like alcohol, can lead to potentially dangerous drowsiness
  • Abusing Lunesta can lead to rebound insomnia when the drug is no longer used

Eszopiclone, also known by the brand name Lunesta, is a potent sleeping aid commonly used to treat insomnia. The drug is highly regulated owing to its potential for abuse and addiction.

Understanding Lunesta (Eszopiclone)

Eszopiclone, commonly referred to by the brand name Lunesta, is a sedative-hypnotic medication available under prescription to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders. Lunesta belongs to a non-benzodiazepine drug class often referred to as Z drugs, prescription sleep aids, or sleeping pills. The drug works by binding to receptors in the brain to slow hyperactive brain function, inducing powerful sedation and tiredness. 

The drug comes in different strengths; 1, 2, and 3 mg and usually comes in white or blue pills. People who abuse the drug will often grind pills into a fine powder and snort it. Lunesta is highly regulated as it holds a strong potential for abuse and is intended for short-term use by people suffering from severe insomnia. The CDC estimates that between 50 and  70 million Americans suffer from a form of sleep disorder, making z drugs such as Lunesta incredibly popular. [3]

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Lunesta side effects

Many people who are prescribed Lunesta for the treatment of insomnia become reliant on it. The Z drug creates calming effects and neutralizes brain function, allowing the user to have long periods of deep, uninterrupted sleep. Many who start taking the drug to help with insomnia will begin to abuse the drug as they are unable to get a regular night's sleep without it, as opposed to seeking euphoric effects. This can mean taking Lunesta for longer than the prescribed periods, in higher doses, and ingesting in methods outside the recommended intake (e.g. crushing pills and snorting them) which is a strong warning sign of abuse. 

There are many short-term side effects from taking Lunesta, some of which are relatively mild and others that can have serious health risks. For example, taking Lunesta in conjunction with CNS depressants such as alcohol can cause the user to not become fully awake the next day. This can feel like an extreme hangover or can cause the individual to have sleep-related hallucinations, both of which can be extremely dangerous if the person has to drive or operate heavy machinery. Other short-term side effects of Lunesta include:[1]

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Memory/concentration impairment
  • Headache
  • Nausea/stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth/unpleasant taste
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Heightened nervousness
  • Memory loss

These side-effects are relatively rare, occurring in fewer than 2% of the population. [1] However, the risk of feeling the side effects of Lunesta is greatly increased if the drug is abused, especially alongside other substances such as opioid painkillers or alcohol. This also greatly increases the risk of fatal Lunesta overdose. Lunesta overdose can put the person abusing the substance at risk of accidental injury as it causes extreme drowsiness and the potential to pass out, as well as slowing respiratory rates and potentially inducing coma. [2]

Addiction to Lunesta

Lunesta is often only prescribed on a short-term basis to treat those suffering from extreme sleep disorders such as insomnia. Anyone who takes Lunesta without prescription, in larger than recommended doses, recreationally (in conjunction with other substances, for example), or for longer than prescribed is considered to be abusing the drug. 

Long-term Lunesta abuse can lead to a person becoming addicted to the substance. They will often require more of the substance to feel its effects or to feel normal. This is called physical dependence and the negative consequences that arise from dependence can lead to addiction

Someone who is addicted to Lunesta may display the following negative symptoms:

  • Lying about sleep conditions in order to get a stronger dose
  • “Doctor shopping” when prescriptions run out
  • Using the drug despite wanting to quit
  • Giving up responsibilities in order to take the drug
  • Cravings when not using
  • Combing with other substances in order to boost a high
  • Feeling withdrawal symptoms when use stops abruptly

The withdrawal symptoms felt when Lunesta abuse ceases suddenly can be extremely uncomfortable, both physically and psychologically, causing many to be unable to stop taking the drug without tapering off.

Lunesta withdrawal symptoms

The severity of Lunesta withdrawal symptoms varies from person to person depending on several factors:

  • Length of time spent abusing Lunesta
  • The dose the drug was taken in
  • If they have tapered use or stopped “cold turkey”
  • If the drug was abused with other substances
  • If there is a history of mental illness or co-occurring disorder

Common symptoms of Lunesta withdrawal include:

  • Nausea/vomiting
  • irritability/mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Rebound symptoms (rebound insomnia) 

Rebound symptoms from Lunesta are often intense versions of the medical issue that the drug was originally prescribed for. This is usually an increased state of insomnia, which can lead to anxiety and panic attacks as well as drowsiness and fatigue. In rare cases, it has also been reported that seizures may occur if Lunesta abuse stops suddenly. 

In order to ensure withdrawal symptoms from Lunesta are handled safely and in a comfortable environment, it is recommended that people with a Lunesta addiction taper off the drug in a medically supervised detox.

Lunesta detox

Quitting Lunesta cold turkey, especially after long periods of abuse, can cause severe withdrawal symptoms that can cause many to be unable to stop using. For those suffering from Lunesta addiction, it is recommended that they seek professional advice from a doctor or addiction specialist before attempting to quit.

In most cases, doctors will advise a medically assisted detox in either an outpatient or inpatient rehab center to remove the drug from the patient's system. Medical detox programs offer trained professionals who will regularly set up a course of treatment to wean users of Lunesta, a process called tapering. This can be done from home with regular visits to an outpatient clinic for check-ups or in the comfort of an inpatient facility where those detoxing can be comfortable in an environment free from temptation and with round-the-clock care. 

During detox, patients will often be prescribed a course of therapy or counseling for the purpose of identifying and treating any co-occurring disorders, helping to locate the source of behaviors that lead to addiction, and developing an ongoing treatment plan for long-term recovery.  

Lunesta addiction treatment

Many people become addicted to sleeping pills like Lunesta, often through no fault or intention of their own. Trying to stop taking Lunesta once a dependence or addiction has formed can be extremely difficult and uncomfortable, often causing people to relapse. 

That is why seeking treatment at an inpatient or outpatient rehab facility offers the best chances of making a full recovery from Lunesta addiction. these facilities offer a safe space to detox from Lunesta safely, as well as many forms of behavioral therapy that can help identify the emotional triggers that lead to substance abuse and help manage triggers. Contact a treatment provider in your area to get help with Lunesta addiction today and get a better quality of life.