Can You Overdose on Sleeping Pills? Signs, Withdrawal, and Detox

December 20, 2021
Overdose on Sleeping Pills
Can You Overdose on Sleeping Pills? Signs, Withdrawal, and Detox

Millions of Americans use sleeping pills to get a healthy amount of sleep. Can you overdose on sleeping pills? The short answer is yes, but it depends on multiple factors. Mixing pills with alcohol and other drugs can be extremely dangerous. Here are important points to know about sleeping pills.

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Brief Science of Sleeping Pills

The scientific class of medications designed to treat sleep issues is called sedative-hypnotics. This class includes benzodiazepines (aka “benzos”), barbiturates, and hypnotics. While barbiturates depress the central nervous system, newer alternatives have quicker effects. These faster drugs include Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata.

Why Do People Use Sleeping Pills?

The main reason Americans take sleeping pills is to resolve sleep disorders such as insomnia. Lack of sleep may result from working too much or regularly watching late-night entertainment. Sleep disorders may also be caused by stress. Some people can become so addicted to the pills that they overdose either by accident or suicide. According to Facts & Factors, the global market of sleeping pills is expected to surpass $100 billion by 2026. Popular tranquilizers include Valium and Xanax. Both are in the older benzo drug class, which has longer and stronger effects.

What Happens if You Overdose on Sleeping Pills?

Several celebrities have died from taking excessive sleeping pills or mixing them with other dangerous substances. Both Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley ingested large amounts of barbiturate pills before their sudden deaths at young ages. Barbiturates are sedatives used to induce sleep, but they’ve also been used in capital punishment through lethal injection. Mixing sleeping pills with alcohol is a deadly combination even in small amounts. Karen Ann Quinlan became a national news story after she mixed alcohol with a low dose of Valium at a party in 1975. She had been on a strict diet. This combination caused her to lapse into a coma. She never regained consciousness but stayed on life support until her death in 1985. It’s possible, however, to survive after an overdose if the person is given immediate professional medical care.

Sleeping Pills

Which Sleeping Pill Overdose Can Cause Death?

Two big risks associated with taking several sleeping pills are death and cancer. A study published in 2012 headed by Dr. Daniel F. Kripke at the University of California, San Diego found alarming results. Individuals who take over 132 sleeping pills per year have an increased risk of death and cancer compared with people who don’t use sleeping pills. Researchers observed over 10,500 people taking prescribed sleeping pills in 2002-2007. The sleeping pills taken by study group participants included Restoril, Ambien, Intermezzo, Lunesta, and Sonata. Another deadly risk arises when someone mixes opiate painkillers with hypnotics. This combination creates overwhelming physical and mental effects that lead to incoordination and confusion. Women who take sleeping pills during pregnancy face the risk of stillbirth.

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Side Effects & Overdose Symptoms

The common side effects from sleeping pills are numerous including constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, and stomach pain. Side effects can be more severe with age, which is why doctors often advise seniors to avoid sleep medication. Sleep aids may disrupt breathing. Symptoms that someone may have overdosed on sleeping pills include slurred speech, vomiting, cold skin, and shock. After mixing alcohol with sleeping pills a person may go through phases of drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion. Signs that may be on the brink of death include impaired motor capabilities, slow heart rate, low blood pressure, and trouble breathing.

Sleeping Pill Addiction

People who take sleeping pills as an escape or to relieve long-term depression are at high risk of becoming addicted. Sleeping pills can be effective as a short-term solution but may be harmful or deadly for someone who develops an addiction. Benzos are depressants that reduce brain activity and can be highly addictive. Ambien is less addictive, as it’s often used to treat insomnia following cognitive behavior therapy. The best way to phase out sleeping pill intake is a gradual process, according to a report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

Withdrawal and Detox

Treatment for sleeping pill addiction depends on the individual. The process of quitting sleep medication can be a matter of days or weeks. It’s typical to experience withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings and anxiety. Users should detox according to instructions from their physician. A personalized treatment program is often the best solution for overcoming addiction. Detoxification is the process of cleaning harmful substances from the body. A detox program prescribed by your doctor will help you safely manage withdrawal symptoms.

Sleeping Pills


If you have a sleeping disorder, make sure you follow a doctor’s instructions regarding sleeping pills. Can you overdose on sleeping pills? Yes, and if you are looking for proper treatment contact us at Mango Clinic to learn more about how to overcome sleep disorders or click the banner below to book your appointment.


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