Insomnia is a common yet understated problem that affects millions of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of American adults don’t get seven hours of sleep each night. Many Americans live fast-paced lives, and they treat high-quality sleep like a luxury they can’t afford.
But sleep isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle.
Lack of sleep can affect your cognitive ability, motor functions, and mental performance. Not getting enough sleep has also been linked to chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, obesity, and depression.
To combat the problems associated with sleep disorders, doctors prescribe psychoactive sleep-aids and hypnotic drugs. Since the 1960s, a class of drugs called benzodiazepines (or benzos) has been used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Since Benzos have a lower chance of causing dangerous drug overdoses, they soon replaced barbiturates, which were once used to treat common sleep disorders.
Estazolam is a benzo that’s commonly used for its sedative and hypnotic effects.
Estazolam is used to treat insomnia and help people get the recommended amount of sleep each night. Though it’s an effective sleep aid, it can also have some serious adverse effects, such as chemical dependence, addiction, and dangerous withdrawal. Dependence can start developing after more than a month of consistent use, so doctors typically only prescribe the drug in the short term.
If you’ve been prescribed estazolam, it’s important to learn to recognize the symptoms of addiction. By catching a substance use disorder early, you can avoid some of the most dangerous consequences of addiction.
Estazolam is part of a wider category of drugs called central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which include barbiturates, benzos, and alcohol. Depressants work by limiting excitability in the nervous system and causing a sedated feeling.
By increasing the levels of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), your brain can regulate feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear by inhibiting the nerve impulses that carry these feelings to the brain. Estazolam mimics this natural GABA flow, so it binds with receptors in the brain, activates them over and over, and creates an excess flood of GABA.
In high doses, estazolam can cause intoxication that’s similar to alcohol. Specifically, it can cause a loss of motor functions, heavy sedation, a loss of inhibitions, slurred speech, and lowered cognitive functioning. Like barbiturates and alcohol, benzos have a high liability of addiction that can cause chemical dependency if they’re overused or taken for too long.
Estazolam addiction can be a dangerous, chronic disease, but it usually comes with a few warning signs. Even though addiction can rapidly evolve, it usually occurs after some symptoms have emerged. Like other benzos, estazolam use can develop into substance abuse after several consecutive weeks.
The first sign that you’re developing a problem is the feeling that your tolerance is growing. If you feel like your normal dose is becoming less effective, your brain could be adapting to the opioid, so it could be counteracting the original effects. If you start experiencing tolerance after using it as prescribed, speak to your doctor about cutting back or switching medications.
If you keep using the drug after developing a tolerance, you may develop a chemical dependence, especially if you increase your dosage to compensate for the tolerance. Chemical dependence refers to your brain integrating the foreign chemical into its normal brain functioning.
If you stop using estazolam after developing a chemical dependence on it, you’ll start experiencing withdrawal symptoms, which can be uncomfortable and even life-threatening. These symptoms include:
A safe medical detox can help treat or avoid these complications, and it can greatly improve your prognosis. Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug use, despite negative consequences. For instance, if you keep using estazolam after getting fired or receiving a DUI, you probably have an addiction.
Estazolam addiction can be difficult and dangerous to go through alone. But with the right addiction treatment services, you can safely and effectively achieve sobriety.
Because estazolam withdrawal symptoms can be potentially life-threatening, it’s important to start professional detoxification. When you first enter treatment, you’ll go through an assessment process. People seeking treatment for benzo addictions often need a medical detox program to avoid dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures and delirium tremens.
Medical detox includes up to 7 days of round-the-clock treatment. Through medical detox, your condition will be monitored to avoid medical complications, and your symptoms will be eased as much as possible. If necessary, you’ll be treated with medications that will help wean you off estazolam.
After detox, you can progress to the next level of addiction treatment that’s appropriate for your needs. If you still have high-level medical or psychological needs, you may be placed in an inpatient program that includes medical monitoring or clinically managed treatment. Inpatient programs include 24/7 care, and they may include residential facilitation.
If you’re able to live on your own, you may go to an intensive outpatient program (IOP). An IOP program can have up to 12 hours of services per day. If you only have low-level needs, you may be placed in an outpatient program that involves up to nine hours of treatment per day.
Is your loved one struggling with estazolam abuse or addiction? Are you? If so, it’s important for you to treat it with the seriousness it requires and get help before it’s too late.
American Psychiatric Association. (n.d.). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5). from https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm
CDC. (2018, February 22). Sleep and Sleep Disorders. from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 15). Benzodiazepines and Opioids. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, August 09). Overdose Death Rates. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
Thomas, R. E. (1998, April). Benzodiazepine use and motor vehicle accidents. Systematic review of reported association. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612731/