Zopiclone is a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic often prescribed to insomniacs by their doctors on the assumption that they're safer than other types of sleeping pills.
Unfortunately that's not the case and some experts are growing concerned that the so-called 'Z drugs' are being over-prescribed and that this has been taking place for too long.
Z drugs have the potential for addiction and come with a number of side effects including nausea, depression, dizziness, confusion and vomiting. Furthermore, some patients find they suffer from rebound insomnia when they try to come off these drugs.
In 2010, Z drugs accounted for 60% of all prescriptions for sleeping pills in the UK, despite the fact the National Institue for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends non-drug treatments wherever possible. The institute also recommends sleeping pills to be prescribed for periods of no more than two to four weeks - yet one in five prescriptions in 2006 was for eight weeks or longer.
Let's cut to the chase here. Z drugs shouldn't be prescribed as the first option when it comes to treating insomnia. Patients also need to be reviewed regularly - doctors shouldn't be routinely issuing repeat prescriptions.
The risk of addiction is real:
One woman was prescribed zopiclone in 1997 and is still taking the drug. She found the need to take ever-higher doses in order to fall asleep. She ended up taking eight 7.5mg tablets each night - seven times the recommended dose. Today, thanks to a new doctor, she is down to four tablets per night (still more than three times the recommended dose, but an improvement) but she still isn't able to come off the drug completely.
We need to stop turning to sleeping pills as a first option in the fight against insomnia and only prescribe them when other options have proven to be ineffective. Of course, this means that alternatives to sleeping pills (such as CBT) need to become widely available (and affordable).
Source: Daily Mail
Last updated: May 17, 2012