Those who struggle with insomnia disorder have a hard time falling asleep at night, staying asleep for the duration of the night, or both. It is an issue for many in the United States and the disorder can cause a host of related problems that come with risks of their own.
The National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) reports that about 10 percent of Americans over the age of 18 struggle with insomnia disorder. The risks are not small. They can include:
- Higher rates of accidents
- Increased rates of depression
- Increased rates of other mental health disorders
- Higher medical costs associated with the disorder
Many who live with a sleep disorder like insomnia will resort to drug and alcohol abuse to attempt to remedy the problem themselves or turn to a physician in order to attain ongoing access to addictive prescription medications to help them sleep. In both instances, drug and alcohol use can often turn into abuse or even addiction; when that happens, immediate intervention and treatment is necessary, not just for the substance abuse issue but the insomnia disorder as well.
Signs of Insomnia Disorder
When sleep difficulties continue for a long period of time, it can indicate an insomnia disorder that requires treatment. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, signs include:
- Sleeping for only brief intervals
- Lying awake for hours after going bed
- Remaining awake or awakening frequently throughout the night
- Waking too early
- Waking and not feeling rested
Substance Abuse and Sleep Disorders
Drug and alcohol abuse and sleep disorders like insomnia are very often connected. In some cases, the abuse of alcohol and other drugs, especially stimulants like cocaine or crystal meth, can cause insomnia. In other cases, addictive sleep-inducing medications, like Ambien, or sedating substances, like alcohol or benzodiazepines, are abused by patients in an effort to overcome an insomnia disorder.
Additionally, mental health problems may be issues that contribute to the development of insomnia. According to the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, these can include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
The risk of substance abuse and dependence may be higher in those who struggle with insomnia due to these disorders as patients attempt to medicate the symptoms associated with them in addition to the insomnia.
Addiction to Sleeping Pills
No matter what the cause, those who struggle with an insomnia disorder may ultimately develop a dependence upon any medication prescribed to them that aids in falling asleep or staying asleep. Though most of these medications are only designed to be used for a couple of weeks, many patients take them longer, developing a tolerance that requires them to take more and more of the pills in order to experience their effects.
Dependence upon medications like these – especially zolpidem, or Ambien, one of the most commonly prescribed sleep aid drugs – can cause a host of unwanted side effects as well. Some patients report periods of partial arousal during the night that they don’t remember characterized by performing activities that can include driving, making and eating food, moving furniture, and having sex.
Dual Diagnosis Rehab: Insomnia Disorder and Substance Abuse
When both a sleep disorder and a drug or alcohol abuse or addiction are in evidence, Dual Diagnosis treatment that aggressively treats both disorders is recommended. Contact us at the phone number listed above and learn more about treatment for co-occurring disorders today.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton