Sleeping pills belong to any category or class of drugs that has sleep inducing or anesthetic properties such as hypnotics, benzodiazepines and barbiturates. These various categories contribute to sedation in some way. Chemical substances that can accomplish this must be able to depress or reduce activity in the central nervous system (CNS). Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are primary examples of CNS depressants or “downers”because their chemical composition work to slow down neurotransmitters which are chemicals in the brain that facilitate communication between brain cells. Decreased brain activity result in physical relaxation, mental calmness and the ability to fall asleep.

Barbiturates Sleep Aids:

  • Nembutal (phenobarbital) is a central nervous system depressant that has been classified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a Schedule IV controlled substance. Drugs in this category have accepted medical use, a low potential for abuse as well as a low to moderate risk for dependence.
  • Amytal Sodium (amobarbital sodium) is a sedative with hypnotic properties. It is a Schedule II controlled substance which meets the criteria of accepted use in the treatment of sleep disorder and other conditions. The drug has the potential for abuse and severe physical and psychological dependence with stiff penalties punishable under federal law for violations of governing regulations.
  • Butisol (butabarbital sodium) approved by the FDA for sleep initiation is a Schedule III controlled substance. This drug also has the potential for abuse and may cause low to moderate physical dependence and high psychological dependence.
  • Seconal (secobarbital sodium) has approval from the FDA for treatment of short term insomnia. As a Schedule II controlled substance this barbiturate has a high potential for abuse and severe physical or psychological dependence. This is a prescription only medication whose manufacture, distribution, possession, sale and use are strictly regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Violations of these guidelines carry severe penalties that are punishable under Federal law.

Side effects of barbiturate sleep aids include but are not limited to feeling dizzy, headaches, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

Common Benzodiazepines Sleep Aids

  • Halcion is a sedative hypnotic medication whose use has been steadily declining as newer drugs come on the market. It is a Schedule IV controlled substance, defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as having some medicinal benefit and moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.
  • Restoril has been approved by the FDA to treat the symptoms of insomnia caused by unbalanced chemicals in the brain that disrupt sleep patterns. It meet the criteria of a Schedule IV controlled substance.

In addition to the possibility of forming an addiction, common effects that have been reported with Benzodiazepines sleep medications include daytime drowsiness, headaches, loss of coordination, forgetfulness, lack of concentration, depression, changes in menstrual cycles, numbness and tingling in hands and feet.

Hypnotic Sedatives (Non-Benzodiazepine)

Z-drugs is the modern terminology for a group of Non-benzodiazepine hypnotic sedatives such as Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata. These drugs impact the brain in a similar way as benzodiazepines to induce sleep. Researchers credit these drugs for being more effective as a treatment for insomnia and other sleep disorders because they are less addictive.

  • Ambien is just one name for Zolpidem that has been approved by the FDA for treatment of short term insomnia. This is a schedule IV drug with a low to moderate potential for addiction, if taken for an extended period of time, Ambien can become addictive.
  • Lunesta is the brand name for the Eszopiclone. It has been approved for the treatment of people with trouble falling and staying asleep. It is a Schedule IV drug which means that it has a low abuse potential. Although scientist agree that Lunesta is less effective than other insomnia treatments the low limited dependence potential makes it less likely to be abused.
  • Sonata (Zaleplon) is a Schedule IV controlled substance that has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of insomnia. This drug mimics a benzodiazepine drug in its side effects primarily while the drug is in use. Like Lunesta, this drug can be habit forming if used habitually or abused.

Common side effects of Hypnotic sedatives may include but is not limited to daytime drowsiness, and agitation, temporary loss of memory, confusion, hallucinations, decreased motor coordination and impaired judgment.


Sleep medication dependence can have the same devastating effects as any other form of addiction. Detoxification coupled with cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational therapy and other evidence-based treatment remedies are essential elements in the treatment of sleeping pill addiction. It is not uncommon for people with sleep medication addiction to have other underlying issues that caused the sleep deprivation in the first place. As such, a thorough evaluation to identify any co-occurring disorder that may require dual diagnosis treatment is an important aspect of the rehabilitation process.

If you or a loved one is at risk of sleeping pill addiction, we can help. Call our Drug Rehab Treatment Centers at 877-855-3470 today. A qualified, understanding representative is available 24/7 to answer your questions about our treatment options.