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Sleep Aid Dependency
If you take a look at your local drugstore’s shelf you can’t help but notice the ever-increasing real estate provided to showcase the many over-the-counter sleep aids. Not long ago, only one label, Unisom, sat alone on the shelf adjacent to the analgesics. No longer alone, Unisom is now flanked on either side, above and below, with a multitude of sleep aids. Since manufacturers simply respond to the demands of the marketplace, it seems America has a problem with sleep quality.
While useful for occasional sleep issues, these medications, which contain diphenhydramine often in addition to pain relievers, are now being used and abused on a daily basis. Although the packaging promises the pills are not physically addictive, they forget to mention the proclivity for people to develop a psychological addiction to these sleep aids. After using them for a lengthy period of time, the person becomes psychologically dependent, believing they will be unable to fall asleep without the medication. There are literally dozens of sleep aids on the over-the-counter medication market.
Side Effects of Sleeping Pill Addiction
As is often the case with OTC medications, people tend to assume they are totally safe. This can lead to over using a product, which can result in adverse effects. With sleep aids, there are several side effects that should be noted. These side effects include:
- Impair driving the next day
- Concentration problems
- Memory problems
- Worsen urinary problems in older men
Serious Health Risks Associated with Sleeping Pill Addiction
In addition to the side effects of these OTC sleep aids, there is new research that links the active ingredient in them (diphenhydramine) to an increased risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The study, out of the University of Washington School of Pharmacy, tracked 3,500 adults over the age of 65 for seven years. Of them, 800 developed dementia. When their drug history, both prescription and OTC, was reviewed, the researchers discovered that people who used these sleep aids were more inclined to develop dementia. In addition, when comparing history of use, those who used the sleep aids for three years or more were at a 54% higher risk of dementia than someone taking them for only three months.
How to Treat Sleeping Pill Addiction
The word addiction refers to a compulsive behavior that is repeated, even with the knowledge of negative consequences. Another hallmark of addiction is tolerance to the substance, nudging the individual to using higher doses to get the same effect. The OTC sleep aids may not be physically addictive, so detox is not necessary, but they can be extremely psychologically addictive.
For someone who has relied on sleeping pills for months, even years, it is likely they are afraid to even attempt to go to bed at night without taking this medication. They have developed a psychological dependency, believing it is the only way they can get to sleep.
Treating this type of addiction is most effective using a two-pronged approach. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is very effective in helping clients identify their irrational thoughts (i.e., can’t sleep without the medication) and the resulting dysfunctional behavior (taking the medication every single night for a long period of time, regardless of health risks).
CBT then guides the client toward replacing the maladaptive thought and behaviors with new ones that provoke changes. The shift might look something like this: I assume I cannot sleep without the medication, and maybe I won’t. But tonight I am going to change my habits and encourage sleep in other ways. I will take a warm bath before bed. I will avoid caffeinated beverages after 2:00 pm. I will not eat after 7:00 pm. I will spray lavender essential oil on my pillowcase. I will sip some chamomile tea an hour before bed. I will leave my cell phone on the other side of the room or in a drawer.
This provides both the cognitive (thinking) and behavioral changes that can be coached by a CBT therapist, as well as introducing various sleep-inducing habits to acquire to help promote sleepiness.
Getting Help for Sleeping Pill Dependency
The Treatment Specialist will connect you to a treatment center that will guide individuals in need of addiction or mental health treatment to a high quality treatment program. A Treatment Specialist will assess the needs of the individual seeking help provide an initial confidential telephone assessment. In addition, the specialists can also research your insurance benefits and conduct a free insurance review so the individual will understand their coverage up front. For more information about how to get help for a sleep aid addiction, contact a Treatment Specialist today at (866) 644-7911.