Sonata Addiction, Abuse and Treatment

The popular sleeping pill has a wide array of negative side effects, up to and including death by respiratory depression or suicide.

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Understanding Sonata


A nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic prescribed to treat insomnia, Sonata is the brand name for zaleplon. It sits among the popular prescription “Z-drugs” Lunesta and Ambien as a prominent sleep aid in America.

Sonata activates the neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), slowing mental processes, blocking feelings of anxiety and stress, and producing sedative effects to help patients enjoy healthy, restful sleep. Users take Sonata orally as a capsule or tablet. Slang terms for Sonata include downers, tranks and sleepeasy.

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Sonata Abuse and Effects

Sonata is one of the fastest-acting sleeping pills available, with a terminal half-life of an hour. As such, Sonata is a prime target for accidental and recreational abuse, as people might overuse the drug as an immediate sleep aid. Like Lunesta and Ambien, Sonata is federally regulated as a Schedule IV controlled substance. Sonata is not considered as habit-forming as some sleep medicines, such as Ambien and Lunesta. It is, however, more likely to cause withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop using it after approximately 2 weeks of daily use. Any pattern of Sonata use deviating from a physician’s recommendation qualifies as abuse.

Those abusing Sonata will experience a mild, euphoric rush punctuated with bouts of hallucinations and “blackouts,” or intermittent memory loss.

Those abusing Sonata may break capsules open or crush tablets and snort their contents, intensifying the drug’s “buzz” and hallucinatory properties (which only occur at extremely high doses). Sonata’s unique sedative effect on the brain can also trigger unnerving behaviors in users —  sleep-walking, sleep-eating and driving and even having sex while asleep — all without recollection of performing them. This is known as parasomnia. Forcing oneself awake after ingesting Sonata significantly raises the risk of unconscious behavior. Side effects of Sonata abuse might include:

  • Mental confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Amnesia
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Hallucinations
  • Impaired coordination
  • Aggression and irritability
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tremors
  • Mood swings
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Sonata is not as potent as some of its Z-drug counterparts, but the danger of abuse persists. Overdosing on Sonata alone is relatively uncommon, but co-abusing the prescription drug alongside other CNS depressants like alcohol — which happens frequently — can depress respiratory function to the point of failure and death.

Attempted suicides are the most common emergency room admission associated with Sonata use.

Signs of a Sonata Addiction

Signs of a Sonata addiction can be hard for friends and family to spot. It can be difficult to tell the difference between addictive and prescriptive use of the drug. However, changes in behavior such as doctor shopping — acquiring multiple prescriptions for the drug — and using Sonata for any unprescribed purpose should be considered troubling.

One telltale sign of Sonata addiction is a built tolerance to the drug’s effects and subsequent withdrawals when quitting use. Sufferers might experience “rebound insomnia” (or a resurgent, intensified case of insomnia), a notorious withdrawal symptom and sign of chemical dependency. With long enough use someone may not be able to fall asleep without taking Sonata. Learn the criteria professionals use to diagnose addiction now.

Some signs of Sonata addiction include:

  • Rationalizing behavior to justify Sonata use
  • Inability to quit after multiple attempts to do so
  • Neglecting major responsibilities at work, home, or school
  • Inability to function without the use of Sonata
  • Taking Sonata in unintended ways, such as during the day
  • Having cravings or urges to use Sonata
  • Preoccupation with wanting to use Sonata
  • Stealing in order to obtain Sonata
  • Excessive sleep or drowsiness
  • Taking Sonata in larger doses than prescribed
  • Using Sonata in methods other than prescribed
  • Doctor shopping
  • Increased tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms upon decrease of dosage ceasing use
  • Engaging in hazardous behaviors while under the influence of Sonata
  • Verbal concerns from family members or friends about changes in mood and behavior or use of Sonata
  • Isolation from family and friends

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Sonata Addiction Treatment

Sonata packs less of a punch than Ambien or Lunesta regarding addictive potential, but over a long enough period of use, an addiction can develop.

Once the mind and body become dependent on Sonata, excruciating withdrawal symptoms can follow quitting use.

The type and duration of withdrawal symptoms that Sonata users will experience are determined by a number of factors. Some of these include:

  • Length of time a person has been using Sonata
  • The average dose of Sonata they regularly took
  • How frequently they took Sonata
  • Whether the person used Sonata with alcohol or any other drugs
  • The person’s mental health and medical history
  • The person’s gender
  • The person’s body weight
  • How the individual took Sonata

Sonata’s impact on brain chemistry essentially renders addiction sufferers incapable of functioning without it. Abruptly stopping Sonata use can induce convulsions, hallucinations and even seizures.

Treatment programs for Sonata addiction are usually provided in residential and outpatient models, and the level of care depends on several factors, such as the amount of support at home, type and manner of drugs abused, any underlying medical or mental health concerns, and the severity of the drug dependence. Before admission to any rehab program, a substance abuse assessment must be completed by an addiction professional to determine if it is appropriate for the potential patient.

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Inpatient Sonata Rehab

Inpatient rehab offers 24-hour supervised care at a live-in facility. Both psychiatric and physical health assistance are included in inpatient rehab. On average, clients will remain in inpatient rehab between 30 to 90 days. The goal of inpatient rehab is to return clients to a more independent lifestyle that does not involve the use of Sonata to cope with difficult emotions or life stressors. It provides education about the disease of addiction, while teaching healthy coping skills for relapse prevention, trauma, anxiety, depression, and other struggles.

Outpatient Sonata Rehab

Unlike inpatient treatment, outpatient rehab does not require patients to stay at a treatment facility or have supervised medical care to address medical conditions. Outpatient rehab can be very useful for individuals who must continue to work or attend school or for adults with children who are unable to attend treatment for months at a time. There are various types of outpatient rehab programs that vary in intensity depending on the client’s needs. Typically, an outpatient program will require meeting at least a couple times per week for a few hours each session. Outpatient treatment often involves group therapy, individual therapy, family therapy, and specialized therapy types, such as art or music therapy.

Outpatient therapy can also be used as an aftercare or step-down program upon completion of inpatient rehab to assist the client transition back into their daily life while maintaining their recovery.

Sometimes, patients attend outpatient programs while staying in a sober living home, or a residence in which drugs and alcohol are prohibited. In sober homes, residents typically are subject to periodic drug screenings and restrictions on curfew to ensure they remain sober.

Therapy for Sonata Addiction

Addiction treatment for Sonata may include the use of many types of therapy to help a person recover. Behavioral therapies like motivational interviewing (MI) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teach healthy coping mechanisms for stress and help individuals uncover the root cause of why they may be abusing drugs. They also help patients avoid or manage potential triggers. MI is a non-confrontational approach that aids individuals in finding the internal motivation to change while learning to accept themselves for who they are. CBT works to turn negative thoughts into positive ones, thus influencing self-esteem and modifying behaviors in turn.

Group and individual therapy and counseling sessions are typical aspects of a Sonata abuse treatment program. Relapse prevention tools and communication skills are taught during these sessions. Support groups are formed that may help individuals to build a network of peers with a common interest and goal in remaining drug-free.

Improving Sleep in Sonata Addiction Treatment

Since Sonata is a sleep aid, individuals who are addicted to the drug may suffer from difficulties sleeping. Holistic methods may be useful during Sonata treatment and recovery to improve sleep. Yoga, meditation, mindfulness techniques, chiropractic care, stress management techniques, acupuncture, massage therapy, nutritional meal planning, and fitness programs may all be beneficial in promoting healthy sleep habits.

Methods of reducing stress and anxiety, which may include the use of antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications, may also be helpful. When someone is well-rested, that person is better able to handle stressors and think clearly. As a result, improving sleep quality can enhance overall quality of life.

Tips for improving sleep include:

  • Setting and sticking to a regular sleep schedule with set wake and sleep times
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Avoiding caffeine
  • Engaging in regular physical activity
  • Using relaxation techniques
  • No naps during the day
  • Avoiding stimulation right before bed
  • Keeping the bedroom dark and using it mainly for sleep

Sonata Abuse Statistics



Americans filled approximately 60 million prescriptions for sleeping pills in 2011.


higher risk

People taking sleeping pills have about a 44 percent higher risk of developing infections such as sinusitis, upper respiratory tract infections, herpes and more.



Approximately one in 500 children in the United States are on sleeping pills.

Suicidal ideation can manifest and lead to tragedy, as well. Physician-proctored detoxification helps diminish severe withdrawals, allows for behavioral observation, and reduces the potential for adverse complications such as seizures. Treatment centers across the country focus on helping Sonata addiction sufferers recover mentally and physically, as well as decreasing the odds of relapse.

Take Back Your Health

Prescription sleeping pill addiction plagues millions of Americans, but hope for recovery is out there. Community support groups and inpatient and outpatient treatment programs can equip sufferers with the resources needed to overcome this debilitating struggle. Overcome your Sonata addiction today.

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