Also known as idiopathic hypersomnia, primary hypersomnia disorder is defined by hypoarousal, or a state of being less awake and alert and experiencing lesser cognitive and motor function as well as emotional capacity. In simpler terms, those who are living with primary hypersomnia disorder are often very sleepy and experience longer episodes of non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep as compared to the general public.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders specifies that primary hypersomnia is characterized by excessive sleepiness but is not narcolepsy or another sleep disorder. Those who struggle with disorder often wake so often during the night despite spending long periods of time in nocturnal sleep that they experience “sleep drunkenness” when they get up the next day.
Many patients find it so difficult to wake up and feel alert in the morning that they take stimulant drugs in the hopes of giving themselves a boost. Drugs like crystal meth, cocaine and prescription stimulants that provide this effect may be utilized by patients to help them overcome the grogginess that stops them from functioning. Unfortunately, this does nothing to address the primary hypersomnia disorder and can ultimately cause a drug addiction that can be fatal.
Classifications of Primary Hypersomnia Disorder
Primary hypersomnia disorder is either monosymptomatic or polysymptomatic, according to a report published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The monosymptomatic variety is defined only by recurrent awakening throughout the night. The polysymptomatic version is characterized by long periods of sleep at night followed by “sleep drunkenness” the next morning.
The report suggests that the three different subgroups of primary hypersomnia may include:
- Subgroup I: A family history of the disorder or mental illness and symptoms of a dysfunctional autonomic nervous system
- Subgroup II: A viral infection characterized by neurologic symptoms followed by symptoms of chronic fatigue and long nocturnal sleep
- Subgroup III: No family history or viral infection
Dual Diagnosis: Struggling with Two Disorders at Once
According to a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, patients diagnosed with primary hypersomnia disorder very often struggle with co-occurring substance abuse disorders. In some cases, this can mean a mental health disorder like depression. In others, it can mean drug and alcohol abuse or addiction.
When primary hypersomnia disorder is diagnosed, even if a patient has not turned to stimulant street drugs to manage the issue on their own, they may be prescribed addictive stimulants to treat the drug, including:
- Modafinil (e.g., Provigil)
- Methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin, Daytrana, Concerta)
- Dextroamphetamine (e.g., Procentra, Dexedrine Spansules)
- Dextroamphetamine and amphetamine combination drugs (e.g., Adderall XR)
The possible development of a drug dependence is always an issue when these medications are used. All have high abuse potential and, when combined with other drugs and alcohol, especially, can result in a number of problems including:
- Overdose and medical emergency
- Accidents while under the influence
- Chronic health problems
- Legal problems when behaviors associated with being under the influence or getting more drugs are illegal
- Financial issues and/or problems at school or work
Treatment for All Disorders
When primary hypersomnia disorder exists in concert with drug abuse and addiction, Dual Diagnosis rehab is recommended. At these comprehensive treatment programs, patients can address both disorders at the same time effectively and reduce the risk of relapse.
Contact us at the phone number listed above now to learn more about your or your loved one’s options in Dual Diagnosis treatment.
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