Beyond bedtime: Exploring Zopiclones influence on daily life

Z-drugs and benzodiazepines are primarily prescribed to treat sleeping issues such as insomnia, as well as for anxiety symptom management.

Benzodiazepines are a group of depressant medications. Z-drugs are a group of medications that were first available in the 1980s and 1990s. They include Zopiclone, eszopiclone, zaleplon and zolpidem. Prescribing trends of these medications have appeared to increase in the UK for several years. Whilst these drugs can be effective in the management of both anxiety and disturbed sleep, they do carry risks that complicate their long-term use. With both addiction potential and a range of possible health effects, it is important to understand how Zopiclone can affect us beyond the bedtime routine.

What are Zopiclones?

Zopiclones are a specific kind of ‘hypnosedative’ or sleeping medication. When they were initially being synthesized and tested, the hope was that Z drugs would provide a sedative option for patients that posed less addiction risk than other options on the market, such as benzodiazepines. The drug is not classed as a benzodiazepine but does work in a very similar fashion to drugs in that family.
Zopiclone is often sold under the name ‘zimovane’ in the UK.

What are they used for?

Typically, Zopiclones (and other Z-drugs) are prescribed for people experiencing insomnia. They can also be used to treat symptoms of anxiety and have been linked with epilepsy treatment. Zopiclone is recommended to be used as a short-term solution rather than as a prolonged treatment. However, evidence suggests that in clinical practice, many patients use Zopiclone every night for several months. Patients have also noted that practising clinicians may not mention the addictive risk of the drug or may indicate that Zopiclone does not have addictive potential.

How do they work?

The goal of Zopiclone is to allow individuals to fall asleep faster while limiting instances of waking throughout the night. This provides a base level of more consistent, undisturbed sleep. Zopiclones are known as a type of cyclopyrrolone. This means that it excites GABA receptors in the brain, therefore increasing GABA’s effects. GABA (or gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an amino acid in the brain that calms the nervous system. This means that, in action, increased GABA activity can lead to a reduction in anxiety and, therefore, easier sleep.

The benefits of zopiclone

Insomnia impacts more than just our sleep. On average, it is recommended that adults sleep for between 7 and 9 hours a night. Functioning less than this can lead to a reduction in both physical and mental health. If you have been experiencing this for some time, then Zopiclone can offer relief in the following ways:

  • It is fast-acting, taking only around an hour to produce its effects
  • It can provide relief from insomnia, allowing patients to get adequate rest
  • This rest period can lead to a noticeable improvement in mood and anxiety symptoms
  • This rest period can lead to an increase in motivation and energy levels

Can Zopiclone cause addiction?

Perhaps the biggest risk around zopiclone use is its addiction potential. The NHS recommends that individuals only use Zopiclone for between 2 and 4 weeks at a time. This is because using Zopiclone for longer than this period can lead to:

  • Increased tolerance (the drug no longer has the same effect)
  • Developing a dependence (the body can become reliant on the drug)

A recent study investigating this concluded that ‘zopiclone has the potential for being an agent of abuse and addiction.’ Whilst other drugs – such as benzodiazepines – carry more risk in this area, this does not mean that using Zopiclone will not lead to sleeping pill addiction.

The same study revealed that it is not uncommon for individuals with a preexisting addiction to request Zopiclone from their prescribing clinician. This indicates that for some, Zopiclone could be a secondary substance in a cycle of polydrug use.


Effects of Zopiclone

All drugs carry side effects. It is important to know the risks in order to weigh up the benefits and risks of using a specific medication. Included in zopiclone’s ‘common’ list of side effects are:

  • drowsiness or ‘daytime sleepiness’
  • a metallic taste in the mouth
  • dryness in the mouth

The drug also carries a range of other more serious side effects, such as:

  • amnesia
  • hallucinations (typically auditory or visual)
  • delusions (pervasive beliefs that are not consistent with reality)
  • loss of coordination and increase in falls
  • development of exacerbation of depression
  • allergic reactions
  • overdose

Zopiclone also has a risk of contraindications, meaning that there are specific people who should not use this drug. This includes:

  • people with an allergy to zopiclone
  • people who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • people who are trying to get pregnant
  • people who have experienced sleep apnoea
  • people with a history of mental health problems
  • people with myasthenia gravis
  • people dealing with (or with a history of) addiction

Risks of Zopiclone: Beyond bedtime

Mental health risk

Zopiclone and other Z-drugs have been associated with the development of symptoms of psychosis. This means that you may experience hallucinations, delusions and unstable mood as a result of using Zopiclones. This can be particularly dangerous for those with a preexisting mental health condition; however, this risk is present for all patients using the drug.

Zopiclone is also associated with the exacerbation of other negative symptoms, such as social withdrawal and anhedonia.


It is possible to overdose on Zopiclone. This is especially risky given the fast mechanism of the drug. As you develop tolerance, you may begin to feel that the drug is not acting quickly or efficiently enough, which can lead to increasing use. Over time, this can increase the risk of addiction but also establish a pattern of repeat use that can increase zopiclone toxicity. This can lead to central nervous system depression, which can then result in coma and loss of life.

Zopiclone can also be used in the context of intentional overdose.

Zopiclone addiction

Perhaps the heaviest risk associated with Zopiclone is the development of an addiction. As a result of the drug’s engagement with GABA, Zopiclone acts on our neural pathways. This can risk creating new connections and habits in our neurotransmitter activity. This can mean that the body and brain can become reliant on Zopiclone for the way that it stimulates GABA activity, which can then provide relief from anxiety and sleep deprivation. But what this does mean is that in the absence of Zopiclone, we may find that our levels of GABA feel insufficient, meaning that we experience dramatic peaks and troughs in anxiety, depression, and sleep issues.

Individuals may experience the following side effects of zopiclone addiction:

  • withdrawal effects (tremors, heart palpitations, panic attacks, ‘rebound insomnia’)
  • using zopiclone more frequently than suggested
  • worsening mental health
  • frequent aches and pains (particularly headaches)
  • feeling lethargic in the day
  • struggling to sleep
  • cravings for zopiclone
  • attempts to access prescriptions through multiple channels
  • use of other substances to negate withdrawal symptoms

If you are experiencing any of the above zopiclone addiction symptoms, then it is possible that you have developed a dependency and would benefit from structured support.


Get support for sleeping pill addiction

An addiction to prescription medication is just as pervasive as any other kind of dependency. If you feel that your use of Zopiclone is slipping out of your control, then you may want to consider sleeping pill addiction treatment. There is no shame in accessing support. Addiction is a chronic disorder – not a choice. All individuals deserve to feel happy, healthy, and in control. You can contact us to discuss the various routes to zopiclone addiction recovery that we offer to find a treatment that suits you. We offer confidential support and advice from industry experts who are here specifically to help you get back on track.

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