What Causes a Sleeping Pill Overdose?

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Photo of a woman in partial darkness holding her forehead.

The term “sleeping pill” can apply to a wide variety of drugs. While it could refer to over-the-counter or prescription drugs, sleeping pills can be dangerous when misused. 

Some types of sleeping pills are strong, and are controlled carefully, while others are relatively harmless and generally can’t be abused. Since all of them cause a decrease in body processes and a feeling of relaxation, though, individuals may abuse them regardless.

Non-Prescription Sleeping Pills

There are many over-the-counter sleeping pill options out there. Virtually unlimited, these substances are generally weaker than prescription medications, but they may still be dangerous when taken in large quantities or with other substances. 

Mixing drugs can be unpredictable and dangerous. Since the combined effect of the substances might be different for each person and based on how much of each substance was taken, the effect can range from unpleasant to dangerous or even deadly.

These drugs, while usually not habit-forming, can still be dangerous in certain situations and in large enough doses. Abuse can still occur, but addiction is unlikely to develop.

Prescription Sleeping Pills

Substances that may be habit forming or are stronger than normal generally require a prescription to obtain. However, this may not entirely eliminate the risk of abuse. Whether someone gets sleeping pills from a friend or uses a prescription they no longer need, the abuse of this type of sleeping pills is much more likely, and more dangerous. Since they have a stronger effect overall, dependence can form, and overdose may even be fatal.

As with over-the-counter sleeping pills, abusing prescription drugs with other substances is risky and unpredictable. Some substances, like alcohol, could combine with sleeping pills to cause dangerously slow breathing or heart rate. On the other hand, stimulant drugs could clash in the body to make an extremely uncomfortable blend of drowsiness and increased energy.

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