Is Lunesta Addictive?

Do the benefits outweigh the risks? That is the age-old question that must be answered before one receives treatment for a sleep disorder. Are you one of the 70 million Americans who suffers from one of these disorders annually? 

If you are, your doctor likely has offered you prescription medications such as Lunesta as an option to combat the issue. The problem is that people oblige in using these medications without any clear warnings about the possible outcomes. It’s easy to understand why those who use Lunesta or any sedative-hypnotics begin in the first place.

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For some, going to sleep is more like a chore than a reward. Tossing and turning all night only to get out of bed feeling worse than the night before is not ideal. When someone feels this way and is expected to carry on the rigors of a career, it adds that much more pressure. An inability to sleep can cause illness, a lower sex drive, car accidents, memory loss, heart disease, and diabetes. 

All of these are major issues that can contribute to living an unhappy and less productive life. That is why the importance of sleep is continually highlighted, and this is why drugs such as Lunesta were created.

Initially, barbiturates and benzodiazepines were brought into the spotlight to treat symptoms related to insomnia, but over time, it became apparent how addictive the drugs are. A more promising solution was necessary to restore sleep to the growing number of those dealing with insomnia or sleep-related disorders. 

While Lunesta is technically less addictive than the drugs that preceded it, has a perception of being safe, but that comes with its own set of issues. This, in turn, causes people to abuse the drug because of the misinformation about it.

This is not the case, and Lunesta is by no stretch of the imagination safe. Significant dangers can be traced back to its use, and it can become an issue, even when it’s taken as prescribed. 

Specific dangers such as memory loss, depression, and organ damage can result from Lunesta abuse. Although it carries less of a risk of addiction, the potential is still there if used regularly for just a few weeks.

lunesta addiction


Although Lunesta is branded as a sedative-hypnotic, it affects the brain very similarly as a benzodiazepine or even a barbiturate. It does this by increasing the levels of a neurotransmitter known as gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a natural chemical in our brains that blocks and inhibits the nerve signals responsible for stress, anxiety, and fear. GABA works by maintaining the feelings of calmness.

Lunesta imitates the neurotransmitters by binding to the brain’s GABA receptors. It then activates them to create an overproduction of GABA. 

The difference between how Lunesta and other drugs work is that benzos, for example, bind with all GABA receptors, whereas Lunesta targets the areas that are responsible for inducing sleep.

Over time, however, GABA receptors become less sensitive and have trouble creating the chemical naturally. This will, in turn, make Lunesta less effective because of the tolerance built up and start something called rebound insomnia. This is when the initial symptoms you were treating return more prominently.


Substance use disorders are often difficult to point out in the early stages. This is especially true with drugs that doctors prescribe. The medications serve a purpose and allow us to retrieve the life we were desperately needing. So how does one determine when the line between relief and addiction has been crossed? Knowing the signs and symptoms can address some concerns.

If you’re using the drug, it can be difficult to determine if using Lunesta has turned into a full-blown addiction. It is often too late for some to recognize that this has become a problem, and in that case, it will be more difficult to treat.

Someone who has engaged in long-term use of the drug will exhibit outward symptoms that can point to Lunesta abuse. 

It will show itself with many side effects, which can include:

  • Ongoing sinus problems and cold-like symptoms
  • Rebound insomnia
  • Regular bouts of confusion
  • Sleepwalking
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Noticeable increase in aggressive behavior

Once abuse moves forward into Lunesta addiction, all control will be lost when it comes to using. This means someone abusing Lunesta will begin taking it compulsively and make using the drug their primary goal. They will do this at all costs, even sacrificing relationships or responsibilities like school or work.

At this point, a person will start to display behaviors consistent with a substance use disorder. These signs include:

  • Taking Lunesta more often, longer, or in larger doses
  • Taking Lunesta in unintended ways
  • Using Lunesta without a prescription
  • Increased tolerance to the effects of Lunesta
  • “Doctor shopping”
  • Hiding Lunesta use or lying about it
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Feeling unable to function normally without it
  • Failing to stop using Lunesta even after trying

If anyone you know, including yourself, has exhibited signs of Lunesta abuse or addiction, it may be time to discuss the option of professional addiction treatment. Addiction is a chronic disease that, if left untreated, can be fatal. Fortunately, it is a disease that can be treated with the right therapies, addiction services, and support.


Along with Lunesta, Ambien is one of the most prescribed insomnia medications in the country. Both work to slow down brain activity so that a user can sleep. Both medications are also intended for short-term use. 

Where they differ is that Ambien is prescribed in stronger doses. While immediate release Lunesta is available in 1 milligram (mg), 2 mg and 3 mg doses, immediate-release Ambien comes in 5 and 10 mg doses. Also, Ambien is available in an extended-release format in 6.25 and 12.5 mg doses, according to Healthline.  

However, Lunesta is a longer-acting medication, with a half-life of six hours versus Ambien’s half-life, which is two to three hours. 

When it comes to their ability to produce addiction, both are designated as Schedule IV controlled substances by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which means they have a low potential for abuse and a low risk of dependence when compared to Schedule II drugs like ketamine or Tylenol with codeine. 

Yet, addiction is still very possible with either drug.


Since Lunesta works in the part of the brain that involves GABA, the treatment must be more intensive. This is because it falls under the category of depressant drugs, and depressants such as alcohol or benzodiazepines pose severe consequences during the withdrawal phase. 

While other drugs like opioids may be uncomfortable, they are not dangerous because they affect a different part of the brain. For this reason, medical detoxification is necessary when treating Lunesta addiction.

The detox process will clear any and all foreign substances from the client’s body while achieving a balance for the body and mind alike. 

During this time, the client will be monitored 24 hours a day for up to a week, depending on the severity of their addiction. In some cases, the client could participate in an outpatient detox, but this will all be determined by an addiction specialist. Detox is also when the client is assessed, and a course of action in their addiction treatment is determined based on that assessment.

All care requires a customized and unique approach, and because of this, all lengths of stay and requirements will vary from one client to another. Once the team finds the client stable enough to move onto the next stage of treatment, there are many options on where they could be placed. 

During the assessment, a dual diagnosis may be determined, which will alter where they are placed. Either way, it’s necessary to move into the next level of care. The longer the client remains in treatment, the higher the chances of success they will have long-term.

There are different options, such as residential treatment, intensive outpatient, and outpatient services. While they all differ in what they require, the treatments still offer the same types of therapies. The types of therapies a client could attend include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy

These all provide their own benefits and will allow the client to delve deep into the root of their addiction. Therapy will also allow the client to learn their triggers and the tools to work through them. It is a rigorous process to change behaviors that plagued someone for many years, but what matters is following through. The continued attendance of therapy and treatment is the best relapse prevention.

How Dangerous Is Lunesta?

Lunesta is a mild prescription sleep aid when compared to other depressants used to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders. Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are more likely to lead to dangerous side effects than Lunesta. However, in high enough doses, and in specific situations, Lunesta can cause dangerous symptoms. As a central nervous system depressant, it works in a way that’s similar to other sleep aids and alcohol. It slows down your nervous system in a way that facilitates relaxation, hypnosis, and a release of anxieties. 

However, it can also slow down other important functions when you take enough of it at once. In high doses, depressants like Lunesta can start to slow down some functions of the autonomic nervous system like your breathing and heart rate. 

On its own, Lunesta isn’t likely to cause accidental fatal overdoses. Some cases have been reported where people have taken as much as 90 times the recommended dose and recovered. However, high doses can cause an impairment of consciousness, loss of motor control, and coma. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that fatal Lunesta overdoses are typically associated with polydrug use, where Lunesta is mixed with other depressants or opioids. 

If Lunesta is mixed with opioids, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, or alcohol, it can cause the drugs to potentiate each other. That means the drugs combine to cause more intense effects. In cases of fatal overdose involving Lunesta, central nervous system depression can lead to respiratory depression. That causes your breathing to slow or stop, leading to brain damage, coma, or death.

If you become chemically dependent on Lunesta, you might experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms if you quit abruptly. Like other central nervous system depressants, Lunesta can cause tremors, anxiety, panic, seizures, confusion, and hallucinations during withdrawal. In some cases, depressant withdrawals are fatal. Life-threatening withdrawals are more likely if you were dependent on a high dose and then quit cold turkey. 

Lunesta Abuse Statistics

  • More than 2 million prescriptions for Lunesta were written in 2015 in the U.S.
  • A 2016 study found that regular users of sleep aids and hypnotics, including Lunesta, are about 15% more likely to die at night due to respiratory suppression.
  • In a study done by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), roughly 21 million people in the U.S. reported that they abused prescription sleep aids like Lunesta at least once.

How can you end addiction? Get a call from our experts and find out!

How can you end addiction? Get a call from our experts and find out!