Can Insomnia Medications Treat Addiction?

A new study by researchers at Rutgers University finds that medications for insomnia could help in the treatment of addiction. A treatment plan may include medical, pharmaceutical, and behavioral health components.

Can Insomnia Medications Treat Addiction?

Medications that are prescribed for sleep problems, or insomnia, may help aid people who are on the road to recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Rutgers Brain Health Institute found through a review that draws on more than 10 years of scientific publications that sleep aids that regulate orexin levels may also help to reduce drug and alcohol cravings.

Orexin is a stimulating hormone that researchers believe plays a role in compulsive substance use, as well as alcohol and drug cravings. 

The overproduction of orexin, researchers say, is common among those with addiction and can drive continuous use of addictive substances such as opioids, alcohol, and cocaine.

Orexin And Insomnia Medications

Several drugs prescribed for difficulty sleeping are described as “anti-orexin” medications. 

These medications help manage or reduce orexin levels to prevent insomnia and promote healthy sleep patterns for those who have an overproduction of this stimulating hormone.

As of May 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three sedative-hypnotics, known as orexin receptor antagonists, for the treatment of insomnia.

These include: 

  • suvorexant (Belsomra)
  • lemborexant (Dayvigo)
  • daridorexant (Quviviq)

This is just one class of sedative-hypnotics, or medications prescribed to help promote sleep.

Other medications commonly prescribed for insomnia include benzodiazepines, ‘z’ drugs, histamine receptor antagonists, and melatonin agonists.

What Is The Connection Between Insomnia And Addiction?

Insomnia is considered a risk factor for a variety of health conditions, including mood disorders, depression, hypertension, and substance use disorders, such as alcoholism (alcohol use disorder).

Addiction can also have effects on sleep, and thereby cause insomnia in those who regularly misuse drugs. Some insomnia medications can also become drugs of misuse.

Effects Of Addiction On Sleep

Drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and addiction are known to cause poor quality of sleep, due in large part to how substances can affect certain chemicals in the brain.

Chronic addiction is a risk factor for:

  • short-term sleep disturbance
  • sleep deprivation
  • disruption to circadian rhythm
  • decreased sleep latency (particularly with alcohol abuse)
  • suppressed REM (rapid eye movement) sleep
  • chronic insomnia

Substance abuse can affect your ability to fall asleep, how long you stay asleep, as well as the quality of sleep you have, which can have implications for both physical and mental health.

Factors That Can Affect The Impact Of Substance Use On Sleep

Substance abuse has a known connection to trouble sleeping, but there are still a number of factors that can influence the overall impact of that on your sleeping habits and sleep cycle. 

These factors include:

  • type of drug (e.g. stimulants, depressants, marijuana)
  • the severity of substance abuse
  • duration of substance abuse
  • history of sleep troubles
  • use of other medications or illicit drugs

Sleeping Pill Abuse And Addiction

While there’s some hope among researchers that certain sleep aids could help treat addiction, it’s also true that there are sleep medications that can themselves be addictive or be misused.

In some cases, sleep aids may be misused as a form of self-medicating. This is sometimes seen with alcohol use, as well as the use of common sleep aids. 

Examples of sleep aids with addiction potential include:

  • Ambien (zolpidem)
  • Sonata (zaleplon)
  • Edluar (zolpidem)
  • Lunesta (eszopiclone)
  • benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax)
  • barbiturates

Some over-the-counter sleep aids can also cause physical dependence and tolerance with chronic use. This can cause withdrawal symptoms, including relapse to insomnia, when stopped abruptly.

Drug And Alcohol Withdrawal And Insomnia

Difficulty sleeping is a common symptom of drug withdrawal that can persist into early recovery, depending on the severity and duration of your substance use disorder. 

Common sleep-related symptoms during withdrawal include:

  • difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • poor sleep quality
  • nightmares
  • strange dreams
  • sleep apnea
  • unusual sleepiness
  • fatigue

Can Anti-Orexin Insomnia Medications Treat Addiction?

The new study by researchers at Rutgers University shows the potential benefits of using anti-orexin sleep aids to help reduce alcohol and drug cravings. 

This can be especially crucial for the detoxification process (when cravings for drugs can be strong) and in early recovery, according to the study’s authors. 

More research still needs to be completed in order to evaluate the safety and efficacy of sleep medicine as a potential treatment for alcohol and drug addiction.

What Is The Best Treatment For Insomnia And Addiction?

Insomnia and drug addiction are common co-occurring disorders. 

The best treatment program for both conditions is an evidence-based addiction treatment program that begins with detoxification (detox) in order to safely withdraw from drugs of abuse.

A dual diagnosis treatment program will address both the substance use disorder and any underlying mental health issues a person may have. 

While insomnia may still occur for some time into addiction recovery, treatment professionals can help you identify ways to get better sleep and recover from the side effects of drug use.

Treatments for addiction and sleep disorders might include:

  • medically-supervised detox
  • non-addictive and natural sleep aids
  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • medication-assisted treatment (MAT) using methadone or buprenorphine
  • general healthcare services
  • lifestyle changes (e.g. eating a well-balanced diet)
  • medication for co-occurring mental health concerns (e.g. antidepressants)

Find Substance Abuse Treatment Today

If you are looking for treatment for yourself or a loved one with substance use disorder, look no further. Our admissions specialists at are here to help.

Call our helpline today to learn more about available addiction treatment options, or to find the best treatment center for addiction near you.

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