Drug Treatment of Insomnia – Do the Risks Outweigh the Advantages?

The more recent generation of sleeplessness mediations, zaleplon (Sonata), zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and zopiclone (Imovane), or “Z” drugs, act on particular subsets of the GABA receptor. They’re usually called “non-benzodiazepine” drugs, but that the name is deceptive, simply because they bind to the same GABA-benzodiazepine receptor complex in the brain that the benzodiazepines and alcohol bind to. The difference is they bind to an alternative portion of the exact same receptor complex. They are promoted as having less dependence and fewer negative effects than the old generation of benzodiazepine medicines, and some claim these drugs have less potential for misuse than the benzodiazepines.
Nevertheless, systematic studies never have revealed them to be far better or safe than the benzodiazepines, although they cost several times more. As an example, pooling of data from three trials with a total of 96 patients revealed no difference between benzodiazepines and zopiclone for time to fall asleep, although benzodiazepine treated patients slept 23 minutes more. There have been no differences between benzodiazepines and zopiclone in important side effects (adverse events). No difference involving the distinct Z drugs for safety or effectiveness continues to be confirmed. General unwanted effects for several of the meds contain memory impairment, drowsiness, headache, dizziness, nausea, and nervousness. There isn’t any evidence to date that the threat of dependence on the Z drugs is any less than for earlier types of sleeplessness medicines such as the benzodiazepines.

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