In the U.S., millions of men and women of all ages are addicted to sleeping pills originally intended for short-term use only. In fact, anti-anxiety medications, pain pills and sleeping pills are the most addictive kinds of prescription medications.
According to a 2010 survey conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 2.5 million adolescents and adults take prescription medications for reasons unassociated with treating a disease. In fact, prescription drugs (including sleeping pills) are a close second to marijuana in the list of most-abused drugs in the U.S.
How Do Sleeping Pills Put You to Sleep?
Selective gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) sleeping pills are among the newest medications designed to induce sleep. GABA medications such as Sonata, Ambien and Lunesta work by targeting GABA receptors and increasing the amount of GABA in your brain. An inhibitory chemical capable of suppressing neurotransmitter activity, GABA reduces mental and physical excitement to help you feel drowsy and fall asleep.
Addiction is a complicated concept that continues to be studied and better understood. Part of the complication is that addiction takes place in the brain as part of a complex chemical messaging system. The brain, of course, is responsible for all thoughts and functions, so there is definitely a lot going on up there.
Our understanding of brain chemistry has seen major advances in recent years. Scientists are breaking down the compound functions of neurotransmitters, for example, and mapping the individual regions of the brain. Genetics are a major contributing component to brain function, and those are being broken down as well.
Getting specific in our understanding of the connection between addiction and genetics is moving us closer to more effective treatments, especially for those who seem to struggle the most with addiction. A better understanding of why some people are more prone to develop an addiction and find it much harder to avoid relapse in recovery will ultimately lead to reduced suffering.
Recovering addicts typically face a number of stressful situations upon leaving rehab. Some of the more common types of stress they must deal with as a sober person include strained family relationships, losing custody of their children, possibly spending time in jail for a past criminal charge and the general uncertainty of life without drugs.
While in rehab at 12 Keys, clients are taught a variety of stress management techniques to help them cope with life after recovery. In addition to practicing meditation, deep breathing exercises, visualization and using cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, recovering addicts may find these three tips for dealing with stress “on the outside” useful stress management activities:
Hiking and camping in the woods is a form of “earth-centered” ecotherapy 12 Keys recommends recovering clients participate in, either individually or with their support group peers.
Research into the palliative powers of nature has shown communing with nature offers wonderfully regenerative properties that alleviate depression, stress and anxiety.
If someone you love is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it can be very difficult to understand their condition. Even if you “get” that your loved one is living with a chronic disease, it is quite different from other ones like arthritis, diabetes, epilepsy or asthma. Those diseases don’t cause changes to the affected person’s mind. The results of this impact on the brain make it difficult for those affected to think rationally or even understand they need treatment.
Drug Abuse as a Brain Disorder
Research has shown that addiction is a brain disorder, and compulsive substance abuse is one of its characteristics. Each drug — including alcohol — produces a different type of effect for the user. Some of them are stimulants, which produce a sense of heightened awareness and more energy, while others make the user feel relaxed and sleepy.