Lunesta (Eszopiclone) is a popular sleeping pill or “Z drug” that is prescribed primarily to treat insomnia. It is medically classified as a “nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic,” which makes it less powerful and safer than a benzodiazepine. Most people have come to know Lunesta as a drug from a commercial featuring a glowing butterfly that flies around and helps people fall asleep.
This drug is one of the most highly prescribed sedative hypnotic medications in the entire United States. As more people develop insomnia as a result of inability to manage environmental stressors, more people turn to “Z drugs” like Lunesta as a quick fix. Despite this drug’s approval, some studies have gone as far as to question its overall effectiveness compared to a placebo.
It is possible that taking this drug for a long term can lead to becoming dependent on its effects for functioning. In other words, people become reliant on the effects of the drug to fall asleep, and will eventually require greater doses to get the same initial effect. Although Lunesta may work great for treating insomnia, most people don’t want to take a sleeping pill for life. In the event that you want to withdraw from Lunesta, it is important to understand the process.
Factors that influence Lunesta withdrawal
When withdrawing from any “Z drug” there are going to be factors that influence withdrawal. These include things like: how long you took the drug, your current dosage, how quickly you tapered, as well as other individual factors such as physiology.
1. Time Span
How long did you take Lunesta? Those who have taken it for a long term (i.e. years) are going to have a tougher time withdrawing compared to those who have taken it for a shorter duration (i.e. weeks). In general, the longer you take a sleeping pill, the greater the likelihood that your body has become dependent on its effects. If you have developed dependency, the withdrawal is thought to be more severe.
2. Dosage (1 mg, 2 mg, 3 mg)
In general, the higher the dosage of the drug you take, the tougher time you will likely have coping with the discontinuation symptoms. Those who take just 1 mg will probably have an easier time adjusting to functioning without the drug compared to those who took 3 mg. Some people may be taking more than 3 mg. The old dosage formats used to be double until the FDA discovered significant impairments in alertness while driving the following morning.
3. Cold Turkey vs. Tapering
How did you quit Lunesta? Although the withdrawals are not going to be as severe as benzodiazepines, it is still recommended to conduct a gradual taper off of this drug. By gradually tapering, you are allowing your brain to slowly adjust to functioning without the drug. Some individuals will be able to handle quitting cold turkey just fine, but others will have significantly more difficulties.
In order to play it safe, it is recommended to gradually reduce your current dose over time. If you think you have been on this drug at a high dose for a long term, you may want to taper your dose by just 10% every month – this should help minimize withdrawal. If you want to taper at a quicker rate, you can see how you feel by decreasing at a quicker rate.
4. Individual Factors
There are other individual factors that can play a role in determining what you experience during withdrawal. These include things like: diet and exercise habits, social support, environmental stress, whether you practice relaxation techniques, and more. If you are taking other drugs, understand that these could also affect your sleep and/or ability to withdraw from Lunesta. People who practice relaxation techniques and reduce their environmental stress should have an easier time going through withdrawal as well as overcoming their insomnia naturally.
Lunesta Withdrawal Symptoms: List of Possibilities
Those who took Lunesta may believe that since the drug is similar to benzodiazepines, that many of the same withdrawal symptoms will be prevalent. However, most people that understand the science behind these drugs realize that benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms tend to be significantly more severe than those from sleeping pills.
Despite the fact that there may be similar symptoms when withdrawing from benzodiazepines, Lunesta withdrawal should be significantly easier. In other words, you should notice a quicker recovery and less intense symptoms compared to if you quit a benzo. Below are a list of possible symptoms that you may experience when withdrawing from Lunesta.
- Abdominal cramping: If you notice that your abs start to cramp up after you quit Lunesta, just know that this is from the withdrawal. Abdominal cramping was reported as a withdrawal symptom in those who quit cold turkey and/or from a high dose.
- Anxiety: Some people will report increases in their anxiety when quitting Lunesta. Since this drug acts on GABA similarly to benzodiazepines, quitting the medication can result in increased anxiety. The increase in anxiety is usually temporary and should gradually subside over time.
- Crazy dreams: You may notice changes in your dreams when you withdraw from this drug. Since your sleep cycle may become chaotic, changes to the amount and quality of sleep you get can affect your dreams. Some individuals notice vivid dreams, crazy dreams, or nightmares when they withdraw from this medication.
- Depression: In some cases, people actually notice feelings of depression when they stop taking Lunesta. This is usually more common among those who had taken it over an extended period at a high dose. The depression from withdrawal should gradually improve as your brain functioning returns to normal.
- Dizziness: Sometimes when you stop taking Lunesta you may notice dizziness. This is more of a problem among long-term users or for individuals that quit cold turkey from a high dose. Feeling dizzy is a common withdrawal reaction to many medications. In time, the dizziness should go away.
- Fatigue: You may feel more sluggish than usual when you initially stop this drug. Part of the increase in fatigue could be due to the fact that your sleep quality has temporarily worsened. Most people experience insomnia and poor sleep when they first quit the drug, which can lead to daytime fatigue.
- Headaches: The GABA stimulation from Lunesta can be very relaxing and sometimes helps with physical tension. If your sleep quality suffers when you initially stop this drug, it could lead to more headaches. Additionally headaches are a common withdrawal symptom from most psychotropic medications.
- Insomnia: The most commonly reported withdrawal symptom is rebound insomnia. Your initial insomnia may not only come back, but it may be significantly more severe than it was when you began Lunesta. The insomnia increase is a result of the drug affecting GABA receptors, making them reliant on the drug to fall asleep. During withdrawal, it may take some time for your GABA functioning to readjust and rebound insomnia to subside.
- Memory problems: Although “Z drugs” like Lunesta are not associated with long term memory deficits like benzodiazepines, temporary memory impairment could surface during withdrawal. You may have difficulty remembering certain things and/or feel a little less sharp.
- Mood swings: Some individuals notice changes in mood when initially stopping this drug. Usually the changes revolve around increases in anxiety and in some cases depression. If you feel like you’re in a worse mood or have become increasingly sensitive, it could be linked to withdrawal.
- Nausea: Those who withdraw very quickly could notice an increase in nausea. It is thought that the nausea during withdrawal is what can lead some to experience vomiting. Tapering slowly should help reduce nausea during withdrawal.
- Shaking: Another withdrawal symptom is that of physically shaking or exhibiting tremors. Although this is usually not severe, in many cases people will wondering why they are “shaky.” As you continue through withdrawal, the shakes should gradually lessen.
- Sleep difficulties: As a natural consequence of quitting Lunesta, you will likely experience sleep difficulties for awhile. These are normal to experience as your brain attempts to regain a normal sleep pattern without the influence of a sleeping pill. With that said, if you don’t attempt to address the insomnia with natural options (i.e. relaxation, exercise, etc.) you may end up in the same situation that lead you to start Lunesta.
- Sweating: People that have developed a dependency to this drug may notice that they sweat when discontinuing. The sweating can be a natural reaction from the body attempting to function without the Lunesta. As your physiology readjusts itself, the sweating will naturally get subside.
- Tiredness: You may feel more tired than usual when first discontinuing. The increase in tiredness could be related to getting a poorer night’s sleep. As your sleep continues to improve and GABA function returns to normal, your energy levels should return.
- Vomiting: In extreme cases of withdrawal, there have been reports of vomiting upon discontinuation. If you experience vomiting, it could mean that you tapered too quickly from a high dose. Although it will likely not last more than a few days, you could taper more slowly to ease this symptom.
How long do Lunesta withdrawal symptoms last?
It is important to realize that everyone will have a different duration of withdrawal from Lunesta. People who took the drug for a short term at a low dose may not experience much of a withdrawal or may not notice any symptoms. However, people who took this drug for years at a relatively high dose and/or developed dependency may have pretty intense withdrawals.
Those who quit cold turkey from a high dose may have protracted symptoms, while those who conducted a slow taper may have minimal symptoms. During withdrawal, the most important thing you can do for yourself is learn how to overcome your insomnia naturally. Perhaps the easiest way to cope with a withdrawal is to practice relaxation to reduce arousal and get some physical exercise during the day.
If you combine physical exercise with a naturally relaxing activity like yoga or meditation, you will likely recover at a quicker rate than someone who puts forth no effort to cope with their insomnia. For the majority of people, withdrawal symptoms shouldn’t last more than a few weeks. In more severe withdrawal cases, symptoms could persist for months, but even for these individuals, things will eventually get better.
I took Zopiclone for a long time, I guess appr. 10 years? The highest dose was one tablet each evening, 7.5mg. Later I tapered it down to a half tablet, then to a quarter tablet and then zero. I reinstated several times, but now I decided I am quitting for good.
So now I am almost two weeks off. My sleep is not good at the moment. I wake up quite early, and during the day I feel that my sleep was too thin, but it is acceptable. I also go swimming during the day, which makes me feel better. This time I want to be strong and accept what comes along the road.