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What is Lunesta (Eszopiclone)?

Lunesta is the brand name for eszopiclone, a prescription medication used to treat insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep problem characterized by persistent problems with falling asleep or staying asleep. Some controlled sleep laboratory and outpatient studies have found that eszopiclone improves sleep quality and reduces sleep latency. 

Lunesta may be used alone or with other medications. It affects the nervous system by altering certain brain chemicals like gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). 

If taken in the right doses, hypnotic agents like Lunesta will improve insomnia. However, it is unknown whether it is effective and safe in children.7

Lunesta’s side effects can also have deteriorating effects on cognitive performance. Potential adverse effects include: 

  • Rebound insomnia (worsening sleep levels compared to pretreatment)
  • Anterograde amnesia (a condition that impairs memory after an amnesia-inducing event)

Eszopiclone is meant to induce sleep faster and help people stay asleep longer. However, it is a powerful sedative with a high potential for misuse.

What are the Side Effects of Lunesta?

Lunesta is a prescription medication that cannot be purchased over the counter. However, people who are addicted to it buy it illegally. Using Lunesta without a prescription, or taking it in higher doses, is considered substance misuse

About 9% of American adults use sleeping pills or medications that help treat insomnia and other sleep issues.2 However, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the misuse of prescription psychotherapeutic drugs comes second (following marijuana) as the most prevalent drug use issue in the U.S.5

Misusing eszopiclone can result in unusual or unpleasant side effects. It can also cause an allergic reaction in some people. This is why it is necessary to seek medical advice before taking hypnotic drugs like Lunesta. 

Below are some commonly reported effects of eszopiclone:

Short-Term Effects

Short-term effects of Lunesta include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Runny nose
  • Chest pain
  • Heartburn
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness, dizziness, or difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Unpleasant taste in the mouth

Long-Term Effects

One long-term physical effect of using Eszopiclone is tolerance. When a user develops tolerance to a drug, they will have to take a higher dose to feel the same effects.

Other long-term side effects that may develop include:

  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Nystagmus (uncontrollable eye movements)
  • Loss of coordination and fine motor control
  • Sensitivity to light and dry eyes
  • Joint inflammation
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Mood swings
  • Rebound insomnia
  • Stomach cramps

Serious Side Effects 

Lunesta misuse or addiction can cause serious side effects, including:

  • Amnesia (memory loss)
  • Problems with cognitive function
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Liver and kidney damage 

Call your doctor if you experience any side effects while using eszopiclone. They can offer medical advice or additional treatment options.

Are the Side Effects of Lunesta Reversible?

Whether Lunesta’s side effects are reversible or not depends on the severity of the side effect(s). While short-term side effects may be easily reversible with treatments, long-term side effects may not be.

For example, it is easier to reverse side effects like drowsiness, runny nose, headache, and dry mouth. However, it is more difficult to reverse side effects such as amnesia, loss of coordination, and kidney or liver damage.

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Dangers & Risks of Taking Lunesta

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) upgraded the warning level for the prescription sleeping pills Sonata, Ambien, and Lunesta after there were reports of people injuring themselves, committing suicide, and drowning while sleepwalking after taking these drugs.1

Lunesta is usually prescribed in 2 or 3 mg tablets. However, the FDA lowered its recommended starting dose to 1 mg after people experienced severe physical and mental impairment that lasted up to 10 hours.3

Taking Lunesta, especially in high doses, can cause:

  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Addiction
  • Depression
  • Abnormal thoughts or behavior
  • Risk of overdose
  • Unintended side effects such as intense tiredness, difficulty breathing, anxiety, coma, and memory loss

Can You Overdose on Lunesta?

Yes, you can overdose on Lunesta. Because the drug is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, taking it in a high dose may cause extreme drowsiness, loss of consciousness, and slow or stopped breathing.

Lunesta overdose is fatal when mixed with alcohol or taken with other drugs that affect the central nervous system. A combination of such CNS stimulants can cause more severe or life-threatening symptoms.  

Drugs to Avoid While Taking Lunesta

Lunesta has up to 51 major drug interactions, 278 moderate drug interactions, and two minor drug interactions.6 

Some of the drugs known to have severe interactions with Lunesta include:

  • Alfentanil
  • Buprenorphine
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Ketamine
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Sufentanil
  • Tramadol

Some other common drugs you shouldn’t take with Lunesta include:

  • Butalbital
  • Cannabis
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Diazepam
  • Opium
  • Doxylamine
  • Fluoxetine
  • Heroin
  • Mifepristone
  • Thalidomide

Also, do not mix Lunesta with alcohol or take it within one hour of consuming a heavy meal.

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Is Lunesta Addictive?

Lunesta is addictive, just like other common sedatives. It has a high tendency for misuse, especially if used on a long-term basis. However, compared to benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax, it has a lower risk for addiction.4

Some people are at greater risk of developing psychological or physical addiction to Lunesta, including:

  • Older adults
  • Those taking higher doses of Lunesta than recommended
  • People with a history of mental health problems or substance misuse

What are the Symptoms of Lunesta Addiction?

Symptoms of Lunesta addiction include:

  • Constant craving for the drug
  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Using the drug to get ‘high’
  • Continuous intake even after the prescription has expired
  • Mixing it with other drugs to increase the sedative effects
  • Increasing drug dosage without the doctor’s knowledge
  • Always putting off quitting the drug

Treatment Options for Lunesta Addiction

Physicians typically treat Lunesta addiction using a holistic approach. Most times, people who suffer from sleep disorders like insomnia have unresolved issues such as family problems, trauma, or anxiety. 

A holistic treatment approach involves treating the underlying issues that made them addicted to sleeping pills.

Treatment options for Lunesta addiction include:

  • Inpatient rehab: long-term programs that help patients address behavioral problems associated with their addiction and uncover the root causes of their problem. An inpatient rehab program requires patients to live at the facility full-time, participate in alternative therapies, and follow a structured daily schedule.
  • Outpatient rehab: patients live outside the rehab facility but are still expected to participate in therapy and group support sessions part-time. 
  • Sober living houses/programs: a term used to describe recovery homes that help people maintain sobriety. These group homes offer services such as peer support, random drug testing, recovery programs, and employment/education assistance.
  • Aftercare programs: offer continued support for rehab alumni as they transition into a life of sobriety. 

Lunesta Detox & Withdrawal Timeline 

Generally, withdrawal from hypnotics may heighten anxiety and worsen insomnia.8 Lunesta withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person. The severity of symptoms depends on the dosage and duration of time the person took the drug. 

Lunesta withdrawal symptoms include nausea, vomiting, tremors, stomach cramps, irritability, mood swings, insomnia, and extreme sleepiness. 

The first week of withdrawal is usually a challenging time as the patient will be experiencing acute withdrawal symptoms. Most of the symptoms experienced are re-emergence of the symptoms the drug is meant to treat (rebound symptoms). 

Without a strong support system during this phase, the patient may relapse and go back to using the drug to get relief from the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Most of the acute withdrawal symptoms usually stop in the second week. However, the patient may still experience lingering symptoms like cravings, fatigue, mood swings, sadness, anger, and sleep disruptions. 

Most treatment clinics offer detoxification programs that include dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and medical detoxification. 

The healthcare professionals involved will first need to taper the patient off the drug, after which other addiction treatment services will be administered. In the case of Lunesta addiction or misuse, call your doctor for medical advice and treatment.

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Resources

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Blanchard, Sam. “Prescription Sleeping Pills Must Now Carry Prominent Sleepwalking Warnings.MailOnline, 3 May 2019 Ducharme, Jamie. “Are Sleeping Pills Safe? Here’s What Research Says.TIME, 7 May 2019. FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA Warns of Next-Day Impairment with Sleep Aid Lunesta (Eszopiclone) and Lowers Recommended Dose.The US Food and Drug Administration, 15 January 2016. Hesse, Meghan. “Lunesta Addiction.” The Beach Palm Institute. Hughes, Arthur et al. “Prescription Drug Use and Misuse in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.SAMHSA, September 2015. Lunesta (Eszopiclone) Interactions.” Drugs.com. Lunesta.” RxList. 19 May 2020. Malhotra, Raman and Avidan, Alon. “Neurology.” Clinical Men’s Health, Chapter 13, W.B. Saunders, (2008): 220-242. Doi: 10.1016/B978-141603000-3.10013-9.

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