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Over-the-Counter Sleeping Pills: Side Effects, Addiction, Withdrawal, & Treatment
Millions of Americans report having trouble sleeping. For many, this means struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep. For others, it means waking up frequently during the night or feeling exhausted after getting just a few hours of sleep.
If you’re one of those who experience difficulty sleeping, you may be tempted to reach for an over-the-counter sleeping pill as a way to get some relief. But are these pills safe? And are they effective? Let’s take a closer look at over-the-counter sleeping pills and their potential risks.
What Are Over-the-Counter Sleeping Pills?
Over-the-counter sleeping pills are medications that can be accessed easily and usually don’t require a prescription. They’re typically antihistamines, which means they block histamine receptors and can make you feel drowsy.
These drugs are known by several brands and street names. Some of the known brands for these drugs include Nighttime Sleep Aid, Unisom, Benadryl, Nytol, and Sominex. Meanwhile, in the streets, they are commonly known by the following names: Zombie pills, Planks, Sleepers, Candy pills, and Totem poles.
Several types of these drugs are available in the market and each with some unique actions. For instance, Diphenhydramine is used to treat watery eyes, skin itchiness, and sneezing while inducing drowsiness.
Doxylamine is another common brand that is used to treat difficulty in sleeping and allergies in the upper respiratory tract. Meanwhile, some natural resources such as Valerian and Melatonin are used to treat sleeping disorders.
What Do Over-the-Counter Sleeping Pills Look Like?
In terms of physical form, they are available in tablet, capsule, or spray-type canisters in the market. They come in various color combinations.
Similar to prescription drugs, these types also have pill identifiers that contain the strength and brand name of the drug.
What Are Over-the-Counter Sleeping Pills Used For?
In general, these medications are used to help patients with sleeping disorders get a better and easier means of sleeping.
Over-the-counter (OTC) sleeping pills are used to treat less severe sleep disorders that don’t require a prescription. OTC sleeping pills usually have fewer side effects than prescription medications, making them a good choice for people who are looking for an occasional sleep aid.
In most cases, OTC sleeping pills are safe and effective when used as directed. However, it’s always important to talk to your doctor before taking any medication, even an OTC product.
How Do Over-the-Counter Sleeping Pills Work?
These medications contain antihistamines as the active ingredient which binds in the histamine receptor site of the brain. The binding of this active ingredient hinders the attachment of the histamine chemicals to the receptor area. Consequently, this action induces the drowsing effect which helps patients fall asleep.
Furthermore, some of these medications have a mixture of Acetaminophen or pain reliever which also stimulates the relaxation of muscles. This combination makes a good sleeping formula for people suffering from insomnia.
How Long Before You Can Feel the Effects of Over-the-Counter Sleeping Pills?
It varies depending on the individual and the type of sleeping pill. Generally, over-the-counter pills take 20 minutes to an hour to kick in. This recommendation is based on the notion that it takes about this long for your bloodstream to absorb most medications.
If you’re still having trouble sleeping after a few nights, it’s worth talking to your doctor. They may be able to prescribe something more powerful or offer other advice on how to get a good night’s sleep.
How Long Do Over-the-Counter Sleeping Pills Stay In Your System?
These substances can be detected in the blood and urine for about one to seven days. In saliva, these substances can still be detected up to three days after the last time they were taken.
But in hair follicles, residues can still be detected up to three months from the last time of ingestion.
What are the Short and Long-term Effects of Over-the-Counter Sleeping Pills?
Like any other drugs, these types also have their respective short and long-term side effects. Some of its short-term effects include lack of body coordination, irregular bowel movement, lightheadedness, being easily irritated, and slow brain alertness.
Whereas, its long-term effects include slow degradation of memory retention, unpleasant dreams, heart complications, respiratory failure, paralysis, and death.
Are Over-the-Counter Sleeping Pills Addictive?
Unlike the illicit substances heroin and cocaine, these medications have a lower addictive potential and are classified as Schedule IV controlled substances by the Drug Enforcement Agency.
However, this does not mean these medications are not dangerous. It is dangerous because these medications have a quick tolerance build-up. The majority of individuals who are taking it have trouble telling whether their tolerance has increased.
Many people tend to abuse these medications due to their high accessibility. Self-medication is also a common practice for many people, which could lead to tolerance. Consequently, serious health consequences can be felt once these drugs are abused.
What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms?
Slow or abrupt abstinence from taking these drugs can result in certain withdrawal symptoms. Some common withdrawal symptoms include tremors, anxiety, uncontrolled sweating, and depression.
What Causes Prescription Sleeping Pill Overdose? Signs of an Overdose
Early detection of an overdose is important to administer treatment methods in the early stage of addiction.
One can tell if a person has overdosed on these drugs by seeing the following symptoms: very slow responses, extreme sleepiness during the daytime, stomach cramps, intense sadness, slower breathing, and always feeling tired.
What Should You Do If Someone Is Overdosing?
If you think someone has overdosed on these drugs, it is important to seek emergency medical assistance right away.
Stay with the person and check their vital signs. If a person is not breathing, perform CPR if you are trained.
How Do You Treat Over-the-Counter Sleeping Pill Addiction? Detox & Treatment
Treatment for addiction to these drugs usually starts with detoxification. This process can last for a few days to weeks depending on the individual’s level of addiction.
Medical professionals will closely monitor the person during this time to ensure their safety and comfort. After detox, the individual will undergo counseling and therapy to address the underlying causes of their addiction.
Final Thoughts: Addressing Over-the-Counter Sleeping Pill Abuse and Addiction
Addiction is a difficult disease and can happen to anyone. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, it is important to seek professional help.
There are many resources and treatment options available if you are struggling with sleeping pill addiction.