Sleeping Disorders and Substance Abuse
Have you ever told yourself, emphatically, at 2 am, that if you fall asleep right this instant you’ll get four hours of sleep? Have you ever repeated that logic an hour later — convinced that you can fall into a brief state of unconsciousness and sleep for those much-needed three hours. Perhaps, you have no problem falling asleep, but find that you are waking constantly throughout the night and awaking in the morning tired, sore and desperate for just a few hours of sleep. Insomnia is a medical condition that affects millions of Americans each year. It can change how we see the world around us. It can make us irritable and unproductive. Sometimes, we might suffer for a short period of time. Sometimes, the condition becomes chronic.
Types of Sleeping Disorders
Another very common sleep disorder is sleep apnea. There are two types of sleep apnea. The first type is due to an obstruction in the airway. The second type occurs in the brain when the signals to breathe are disrupted. In most cases, an individual who stops breathing while they sleep will begin breathing again within a few seconds. In order for the body to recover, the sleep pattern moves from a deeper sleep to a lighter sleep. Because of this constant sleep disruption, the individual may feel tired or out of sorts the following day.
Narcolepsy is a condition that is actually related not to one’s ability to fall asleep or stay asleep, but to the central nervous system and the inability of the brain to effectively control when a person falls asleep and when they wake. An individual suffering from narcolepsy can fall asleep while driving a car, having a conversation, or even during an intense game of basketball. While there is no cure for narcolepsy, there are drug treatments available that can decrease sleep episodes as well as help an individual feel more awake during the day. Unfortunately, the drugs used for the treatment of this condition, because they are amphetamines, carry a high risk for misuse, abuse and addiction.
According to a publication released by the US National Library of Medicine, sleepwalking can occur in both adults and children. It is also possible to sleepwalk during various stages of sleep. For instance, most people will sleepwalk during periods of sleep that do not include rapid eye movement. At other times, sleepwalking may occur during REM sleep, a condition known as REM behavior disorder. Generally speaking, there is no treatment for sleepwalking. According to the experts, tranquilizers have been helpful in reducing the episodes, but there is no cure.
Treatment Risks for Sleeping Disorders
Both insomnia and narcolepsy include treatments that may involve prescription medication with a risk of abuse or addiction. In order to understand the risks involved in taking these types of drugs for sleeping disorders, it is important to understand how the tolerance and addiction problem can occur. The first stage of any addiction disorder is the development of tolerance. When we tolerate something, we get used to it. If you live in a house or apartment near an airport, for instance, the sound of the airplanes may be distracting and irritating at first. It is possible that over time you become used to the sound. When visitors to your home comment on how annoying the sound is, you may discover that it doesn’t bother you anymore. You have learned to tolerate the distraction.
Your body can operate in much the same way. When an individual takes a prescription medication for the first time – particularly a medication that has certain types of euphoric effects – they may notice those effects quite readily. After a few days, the effects are not nearly as noticeable or strong and they can return to their normal activities. The reason that some warning labels suggest you not take part in dangerous activities, such as driving a car or operating heavy machinery, until you understand fully how the medication affects you personally is that your body needs time to adjust to the medication. In many cases, when an individual follows their doctor’s directions very carefully, the medication continues to work and the individual receives the benefits. There are other instances, however, when an individual thinks that because they cannot feel the euphoric effects any longer, the medication is no longer working, and they will increase their dose without consulting with a physician.
When an individual chooses to disregard the instructions that came with their prescription, they are engaging in drug abuse. This might mean they have increased their dosage because they feel they need more of the drug in order for it to work properly. Another form of prescription drug abuse is taking doses too closely together. An example might be when an individual takes their sleeping medication at bedtime, but they’re still awake hours later. Rather than calling their doctor the following day, some individuals will simply take a second dose of their medication. Both of these solutions to medication issues can lead to an increased tolerance to the drugs in question. As the tolerance increases, so does the risk of drug addiction.
Addiction is a chronic brain disease that is marked by certain behaviors or physical symptoms as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual published by the psychiatric community to ensure consistent diagnosis of mental illnesses.
A few of the symptoms include:
- Withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug
- An inability to control how much of the drug is being consumed or for how long
- An intense desire or need to obtain the drug, use the drug, as well as spending time recovering from the effects of the drug
- Placing more importance on use of the drug than on other aspects of one’s life, including social engagements, family commitments or vocational activities
- An inability to stop using prescription drugs even though one is aware they are having a detrimental effect on health and other aspects of life
When an individual has developed an addiction, it can be very difficult to stop taking the drugs their body craves. It is often not a situation where willpower can make a difference. It is also impossible to determine who will develop an addiction once they’ve been exposed to prescription drugs. This is why it is crucially important when taking prescription medications to follow the instructions explicitly and to discuss any changes in effectiveness or your behaviors with your doctor as quickly as possible.
Insomnia Treatments Without the Use of Prescription Drugs
If you’re currently suffering from a serious sleep disorder, such as insomnia, the thought of no longer being able to take your medication because you have also developed a tolerance or addiction through the abuse or misuse of your drugs may be hard to imagine. You may have a legitimate concern as to whether you’ll have to give up a good night’s sleep for the sake of your overall health. The good news is that there are treatments available that do not include the use of prescription drugs.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are a number of behavioral therapies as well as complementary and alternative techniques to medication. Specifically, stimulus control therapy refers to the deliberate creation of an environment that is conducive to sleep. Cognitive therapy is a means through which an individual can change their personal attitudes and thought patterns concerning sleep. Finally, a structured time or schedule that limits the amount of time an individual is physically in bed has been shown to be effective. Other techniques might include controlled relaxation, yoga, and other complementary or alternative methods to create a physical and mental state that can help an individual sleep.
Getting Treatment for Drug Addiction and Substance Abuse
If you or someone that you love has noticed a trend that involves a disregard for the proper and safe use of your prescription medications, it is never too early to receive the help you need.
The most important factors in an effective treatment program include:
- Treatment that is of sufficient length to meet the individual’s needs.
- Behavioral therapies and counseling that can increase coping skills and decision-making criteria in an effort to reduce drug abuse.
- Treatment programs that address all of an individual’s needs, such as legal responsibilities, family obligation, work-related matters and other health conditions.
- Simultaneous treatment for co-occurring disorders, including sleep disorders, that may be present.
- Follow-up treatment and plans of action to deal with any relapses that may occur once the immediate treatment program has been completed.
At The Orchid, we understand that beginning a recovery treatment can be a frightening and overwhelming time in a woman’s life. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through it alone. We are here, with the experience, dedication and compassion necessary to help you heal. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction that is compounded by a sleeping disorder, please do not hesitate to contact us right away.