Zopiclone Addiction: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

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Zopiclone is a widely prescribed sedative that is relatively safe when used short term. However, zopiclone is a controlled substance with abuse potential. As such, if used long-term or in large doses, zopiclone can be habit-forming. Here we explore the zopiclone’s effects, the risks of use, and what addiction treatment for zopiclone addiction may look like.

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What Is Zopiclone?

Zopiclone is a prescription medication used as a short-term treatment for insomnia. Zopiclone belongs to a group of drugs known as non-benzodiazepine hypnotics. It has similar benefits and side effects to benzodiazepine sedative hypnotics but works differently on the brain. 

Medical use of zopiclone aims to help reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep, increase the amount of time you sleep, and decrease the number of times you wake up at night. Zopiclone starts to work quickly, taking about an hour to take effect.

What Are the Effects of Zopiclone?

When taken as medically prescribed, zopiclone works by causing a tranquillization of the central nervous system, enhancing the effects of a calming chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This helps you fall asleep more quickly and stops you from waking up during the night. 

Before you start to take zopiclone it is important to understand the potential unwanted side effects that you may experience as part of treatment or if used unprescribed. These include a high risk of addiction, drowsiness, breathing difficulties, increased risk of suicidal ideation, and sleepwalking to name a few. 

Is Zopiclone Addictive?

Sedatives are widely prescribed for a variety of conditions and are relatively safe when used short-term, intermittently, or ‘as needed’. However, sedatives are generally controlled substances with abuse potential.

After prolonged use of zopiclone, your body may become accustomed to its effects meaning you need increasing amounts of the drug to achieve the same result. This physical dependence can lead to addictive use of the drug and withdrawal symptoms when the dose is then reduced or the use of the drug is stopped abruptly.

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What Are the Risks of Abusing Zopiclone?

Sedatives such as zopiclone, depending on the dosage, can induce euphoria meaning many use sedatives recreationally. However, long-term abuse of zopiclone leads to significant health concerns as well as zopiclone addiction.

Adverse effects of zopiclone that you may experience include sedation, drowsiness, poor memory, and the risk of motor vehicle accidents rising dramatically. The longer-term use of sedatives may lead to depression, dementia, anxiety, and dependence leading to withdrawal syndromes and potential overdose which can be fatal. Cancer, pneumonia, and other infections are also a risk.

What Are the Side Effects of Zopiclone Addiction?

If you are misusing zopiclone, this can cause significant harm to your well-being and personal circumstances. 

Behavioural side effects of zopiclone addiction may be taking the drug unprescribed, lying about the amount or frequency of use, stealing the drug or money to purchase it, purchasing the drug unprescribed, isolation from friends and family, avoiding personal responsibilities, and lack of personal care. Mental side effects of zopiclone addiction include depression, feeling anxious, suicidal ideation, and preoccupation with drug use.

Zopiclone addiction may lead to an overdose, especially if taken recreationally. A zopiclone overdose may be intentional, a result of recreational misuse, or accidental. The signs of an overdose may differ from person to person depending on factors such as the amount taken, frequency of use, medical history, and age.

Key signs that someone has overdosed on a sedative such as zopiclone include extreme drowsiness, lethargy, loss of muscle control, paleness, blurred vision, excessive sweating, breathing problems, loss of consciousness, or death.

Zopiclone Addiction

Signs and Symptoms of Zopiclone Addiction and Dependence

Zopiclone addiction is a serious disorder that occurs when the effects of the sedative alter the brain’s limbic system, causing cravings to use the drug despite the consequences to health, relationships, and everyday life.

If you have been self-medicating with zopiclone — taking the drug for longer than recommended or in higher doses than prescribed — you may develop a tolerance. Being dependent on zopiclone can feel as if you need more of the drug to achieve the desired effect, maintain normalcy or avoid uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

There are some behavioural and physical symptoms of zopiclone addiction to look out for: 

  • Sleeping problems
  • Intoxication 
  • Loss of coordination
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hiding or stealing zopiclone
  • Lying about zopiclone use or frequency of use
  • Taking zopiclone with other mood-altering substances

What Does Zopiclone Withdrawal Feel Like?

Initial zopiclone withdrawal symptoms include rebound insomnia, a feeling of being on edge, and a strong craving shortly after cessation of use. 

More serious withdrawal symptoms from zopiclone that you might experience include anxiety, depression, confusion, paranoia, dissociation, noises sounding louder or colours changing, shaking, muscle pain, spasm, and/or flu-like symptoms. 

Who Is at Risk of Zopiclone Addiction?

Anyone using zopiclone long-term or recreationally is at risk of developing an addiction to the sedative. The risk of dependence increases if you have a history of substance abuse or dependence, but individuals who have no previous history of addiction may become dependent within a short period of time.

If you are taking zopiclone under the care of a doctor, it is important to take these drugs as prescribed and always follow medical advice. If you are taking zopiclone recreationally at a high dose and frequently you may already have developed an addiction to the sedative and need treatment to stop taking it safely. 

Zoplicone Addiction

Treatment for Zopiclone Addiction

Once your body has become dependent on a sedative such as zopiclone, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using the drug. Because sedative withdrawal can have fatal consequences, the safest way to come off sedative drugs is via a medical detox programme. An assessment with a trained clinician will help identify if a medical detox is needed and will depend on the amount of zopiclone you are taking, how long you have been taking it, and the frequency of use.  

During a medically-assisted detox, a clinical team will gradually decrease the amount of the sedative in your body over a set period and monitor you 24/7. This gives your body a chance to adjust and minimises the risk of complications brought on by abrupt cessation of sedative use.

Following a successful detox, it is strongly advised that you join a therapeutic rehabilitation programme whether on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Addiction treatment will see you stay at a rehab facility and receive round-the-clock care which includes therapy groups, individual therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, 12-step meetings, and family therapy. Outpatient programmes for sedative addiction are also available which mirror inpatient addiction treatment but only require you to attend during the day.  Outpatient programmes last much longer as therapeutic hours are spread over several weeks or months. 

To help you re-enter everyday life and practice a new way of living free from zopiclone addiction, aftercare on an outpatient basis can help make this transition and prevent relapse. Aftercare programmes usually last a couple of months and groups commonly take place several times a week.


How Addictive Is Zopiclone?

Zopiclone has the potential to be an agent of abuse and addiction. While research suggests that the addictive potential for this and other “Z” drugs is less than for most benzodiazepines, caution should be taken when using zopiclone for insomnia, particularly recreationally. 

What Are the Withdrawal Effects of Zopiclone?

If not managed by a medical detox, withdrawal symptoms from zopiclone addiction include insomnia, cravings, anxiety, depression, confusion, paranoia, dissociation, noises sounding louder, shaking, muscle pain, spasms, and/or flu-like symptoms. 
Because of the dangers of zopiclone withdrawal, for your safety, it is important to seek medical advice before stopping the use of zopiclone. 

What Happens if You Take Zopiclone Every Day?

If you take zopiclone every day as prescribed, you will experience the mild sedative effect of the drug which helps you to fall and stay asleep. If you are taking it every day for longer than recommended, for recreational use, or at higher doses than prescribed then you may experience unwanted side effects of the drug, and/or develop a life-altering dependence that requires medical intervention.

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