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Many individuals who experience short or long term issues with insomnia turn to one of a diverse array of sleeping pills for relief; unfortunately, due to the addictive nature of many of these medications, these same individuals may end up developing a sleeping pill addiction over time. Much like prescription painkillers, there are numerous chemical compounds that can be used to induce sleep (often known by their brand names), and they each have their own unique properties and potential for addiction. Many of the compounds found in sleeping pills can lead to physical dependence (and addiction), but even those that don’t can cause the user to develop a psychological addiction to their use. Many of these drugs fall into the classification of benzodiazepines, while others could be described as “benzodiazepine-like” as they bind to the same GABA receptors in the body.

photo of a woman laying in bed awake and looking at an open bottle of sleeping pills

Benzodiazepine Sleeping Pills

Benzodiazepines are hypnotic, sedative and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) agents that are used for a variety of purposes. However, certain benzodiazepines are more sedating than others, enabling them to be used to induce sleep in individuals suffering from insomnia from any number of causes. Unfortunately, users of any benzodiazepine can develop a tolerance to them over time, causing them to need to keep increasing their dosage to achieve the same effect. This quality makes benzodiazepines a common route to sleeping pill addiction among those who use them over long periods of time. Although all benzodiazepines share this addictive potential, each one used as a sleep aid has its own unique qualities and dangers.

Specific Benzodiazepines Used as Sleep Aids

Brand Name: Pro-Som

Chemical Compound: estazolam

Estazolam is Indicated for the short-term management of insomnia and helps in falling asleep, preventing awakening during the night, and in preventing early awakening in the morning. Side-effects include dizziness, lethargy and poor balance and coordination. This medication can also impair the formation of memory.

photo of Prosom sleep aid

Brand Name: Rohypnol

Chemical Compound: flunitrazepam

Rohypnol is an intermediate-acting benzodiazepine that is prescribed for insomnia on a short-term basis. This drug is also used by some as a “club drug” and has also been referred to as a date rape drug. This medication can cause dependence, and its abuse can lead to withdrawal. Rohypnol can also cause excessive anxiety, talkativeness, disinhibition, loss of impulse control and has been associated with criminal behavior. Because of its potential for abuse and its use in criminal activity, Rohypnol has been removed from many world markets.

photo of Rohypnol sleep aid

Brand Name: Restoril

Chemical Compound: temazepam

Restoril is an intermediate-acting sleep aid and an active metabolite of diazepam that is approved for the short-term treatment of insomnia. Even though Restoril can decrease the number of nighttime awakenings, it disrupts the normal sleep pattern. Since it can cause euphoria, temazepam can be addictive, and the cessation of its use can lead to withdrawal. It can also cause drunkenness, sedation, poor coordination and memory impairment.

photo of Restoril sleep aid

Brand Name: Halcion

Chemical Compound: triazolam

Halcion is indicated for the short-term treatment of initial insomnia (the inability to fall asleep) but is not indicated for the treatment of frequent awakening or early awakening, because it has a short half-life. It can be used to treat jet lag, and its duration of action is less than 2 hours, so it has less of a hangover effect. The use of Halcion can cause disinhibition, so its use in public should be carefully considered. Its active ingredient, triazolam can lead to dependence and withdrawal.

photo of Halcion sleep aid

Brand Name: Dalmane

Chemical Compound: flurazepam

Prescribed for the short-term treatment of mild to moderate insomnia and because it is long acting, Dalmane is prescribed to those who have frequent awakenings and early morning awakening. This drug can be highly addictive and should only be taken prior to an expected full night of sleep. In fact, a hangover effect the next day is common. The long-term use of flurazepam can lead to dependence after tolerance develops, and once its use is stopped, a rebound insomnia may occur. Because of its long duration of action, Dalmane may cause problems with driving and the operation of machinery the day after its use.

photo of Dalmane sleep aid

Benzodiazepine-Like Sleeping Pills

Although the brand name drugs Ambien, Sonata, Lunesta and Imovane act on the same GABA receptors as benzodiazepines, they are not technically benzodiazepines. However, they can still induce a tolerance in users and have often led to sleeping pill addiction in individuals who use them for long periods of time. As with the benzodiazepine sleep aids previously described, each of these drugs has their own unique qualities, side effects, and potential for abuse and addiction.

Specific Benzodiazepine-Like Drugs Used as Sleep Aids

Brand Name: Ambien

Chemical Compound: zolpidem

Ambien is a benzodiazepine-like drug with a short onset of action and short half-life of approximately 2 or 3 hours. Ambien is effective in initiating sleep, but not in maintaining sleep because of its short half-life, unless it is prescribed in a sustained-release form. Ambien can also cause daytime drowsiness and comes in several generic forms as well. Complex sleep-related behaviors such as eating, driving, gambling and other bizarre and dangerous behaviors may occur when under the influence of Ambien. Ambien addiction has been reported in those who take excessive doses and take the medicine throughout the day.

photo of Ambien sleep aid

Brand Name: Sonata

Chemical Compound: zaleplon

The sedative-hypnotic Sonata is a non-benzodiazepine used for the treatment of insomnia. This medication is effective for helping one fall asleep, but not effective in helping one maintain sleep, because it has a very short half-life. Sonata causes less impairment the next day when compared with other sedative-hypnotics. Even though Sonata is thought to be less addictive than other non-benzodiazepines, addiction to Sonata is still possible, particularly after long-term use.

photo of Sonata sleep aid

Brand Name: Lunesta

Chemical Compound: eszopiclone

Lunesta is a non-benzodiazepine that is somewhat effective in the treatment of insomnia. However, this medication also causes a next-day hangover effect in some and can impair the ability to carry out normal life activities. Because of its potential for addiction, use of this medication is usually limited to short treatment periods of 1 to 2 weeks or less. If users take Lunesta and wake up before having 7-8 hours of sleep, they may have some memory loss and trouble safely doing any activity that requires alertness, such as driving or operating machinery.

photo of Lunesta sleep aid

Brand Name: Imovane

Chemical Compound: zopiclone

Because Imovane is a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic, it is only used for the initiation of sleep. Imovane can cause the development of tolerance to its effects, requiring higher doses over time to achieve the same effect. This tolerance-inducing quality over time contributes to Imovane’s potential to cause sleeping pill addiction among its users.

photo of Imovane sleep aid

Treating Insomnia Without Sleeping Pills

Sleeping pill addiction isn’t only fueled by the development of a tolerance to many of these medications over time, leading to ever-increasing dosages to achieve the same results. Sleeping pill addiction also has a psychological component. Regular sleep is such an important and necessary activity for all human beings that being unable to achieve it on a regular basis can be a terrifying experience. As each night of sleeplessness passes, it becomes harder and harder to function normally during one’s waking hours. This can have a tremendously negative impact on one’s health, employment, family relationships, and more.

This can make sleeping pills seem like the only way out of a death spiral for many. However, the sleeping pill addiction experts at BWR can help you to find other ways to treat your insomnia, without resorting to the addictive and potentially deadly trap of regular sleeping pill usage. Our staff has found that techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy, sleeping on a regular schedule, exercising regularly, avoiding caffeine and daytime naps, and keeping stress in check can give you a much safer and healthier way to get the sleep that we all need to function effectively.

photo of man lying in bed holding his head looking very tired from a lack of sleep

Get Help for Your Sleeping Pill Addiction Now

If you or a loved one has developed a sleeping pill addiction, you should call BWR at 800-683-4457 to get help immediately. BWR’s operators are available 24/7 to start you or your loved one on the road to recovery before it’s too late.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

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