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Benzodiazepines are hypnotic, sedative and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) agents that are used for a variety of purposes. Certain benzodiazepines are more sedating than others and because of their onset of action and half-life are used primarily for the induction of sleep. Although they are meant to be prescribed for short-term use, or only as needed, unfortunately, they are frequently abused and can result in sleep aid addiction.

When used for prolonged periods, the benzos that are used for sleep induction can lead to tolerance, so that some individuals will end up using high doses. Even though this type of benzodiazepine is meant to be taken prior to sleep, some take these benzos throughout the day to “zone out” and forget about their problems.

When used this way, the cessation of use can lead to benzodiazepine withdrawal which should be treated in an inpatient detox center. In fact, some addicts mix these sleep aids with alcohol or other sedatives, which makes their use dangerous for these individuals.

The benzodiazepines that are commonly prescribed as sleep aids are:

Pro-Som (estazolam)

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.

Rohypnol – flunitrazepam

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 a withdrawal syndrome. Rohypnol can also cause excessive anxiety, talkativeness, disinhibition, loss of impulse control and has been associated with criminal behavior. Rohypnol has been removed from many world markets.

Restoril (temazepam)

An intermediate-acting sleep aid, and an active metabolite of diazepam and 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 cause drunkenness, sedation, poor coordination and memory impairment.

Halcion (triazolam)

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. Triazolam can lead to dependence and withdrawal.

Dalmane (flurazepam)

Prescribed for the short-term treatment of mild to moderate insomnia and because it is long acting, is prescribed for 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.

The benzodiazepines that are used for the treatment of insomnia are not indicated for chronic use; rather, these benzos are indicated for short-term or PRN use only. The above benzos are not indicated for the treatment of anxiety, because they are strongly sedative in nature.

The detox from these hypnotics is like that of other benzodiazepines and can be accomplished in an inpatient drug detox with medical oversight.


Ambien, Sonata, Lunesta and Imovane are drugs that act on the same receptor (GABA) as do benzodiazepines, but are not considered to be true benzodiazepines and are prescribed for insomnia. Because they are additive and tolerance and dependence can develop, they are controlled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and their use must be carefully supervised.

Ambien (zolpidem)

A benzodiazepine-like drug with a short onset of action and short half-life that approximates 2 or 3 hours. Ambien is effective in initiating sleep, but is not effect in maintaining sleep because of its short half-life, unless it is prescribed in a sustained-release form. Ambien can cause daytime drowsiness. Several generic forms of zolpidem are commercially available. Complex sleep-related behaviors such as eating, driving, 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. An inpatient drug detox or residential treatment center is appropriate for those who become addicted.

Sonata (zaleplon)

This sedative-hypnotic is a nonbenzodiazepine and is 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 may be less addictive than other nonbenzodiazepines, addiction has been reported. Sedative withdrawal necessitating treatment for benzo addiction has occurred.

Lunesta (eszopiclone)

A nonbenzodiazepine that is somewhat effective in the treatment of insomnia. This medication causes a next-day hangover effect in some and can impair the ability to carry out normal life activities. When one can’t stop taking eszopiclone and takes it during non-sleep hours, an addiction may have occurred. A Lunesta addiction can be treated in a qualified drug and alcohol treatment center.

Imovane (zopiclone)

Because Imovane is a nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic, it is only used for the initiation of sleep. Imovane can cause the development of tolerance to its effects and higher doses may be needed over time. Clear indicators of addiction have been demonstrated. In fact, an Imovane addiction probably requires treatment in an inpatient drug detox. Even though long-term use is not recommended, some use this drug for prolonged periods and can’t stop taking the medication when they try. Professional support and other treatments for insomnia can be effective.

As has been stated above, even though one begins to use a benzodiazepine or nonbenzodiazepine for sleep initiation or maintenance or to prevent early morning awakening, a benzo addiction can occur. Since benzo addiction can cause the inability to function in normal life activities, cause overdose, and lead to general non-productivity, inpatient drug treatment is oftentimes recommended for those who find themselves in a battle against benzos.

If you are interested in learning more about benzo addiction or benzo detox, our Addiction Specialists are here to answer your questions and can be reached at 800-683-4457.


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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