Sleep disorders are among the most common health problems in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as much as a third of Americans don’t get enough sleep each night. Sleep problems often involve insomnia or the inability to fall asleep when you want to go to bed. Sleep disorders can also cause you to have restless sleep or wake up in the middle of the night. Sleep issues have been a common problem for decades, so researchers have come up with dozens of medications that can be used to treat issues like insomnia. Sonata is in one of the newest categories of prescription sleep aids.

Sonata is a non-benzodiazepine, sedative-hypnotic drug primarily used to treat insomnia. It’s in a distinct chemical category from other depressants, such as benzodiazepines and barbiturates, which have also been used to treat sleep disorders. While Sonata is chemically different from those drugs, it works similarly in the brain and can cause some of the same side effects. Sonata may cause central nervous system depressing effects that are similar to other depressant medications or alcohol. 

It’s also a fast-acting drug, which is a common trait among drugs that are targeted for misuse or abuse. When Sonata is used in high doses or misused as a recreational drug, it may have some risk of causing chemical dependence or a substance use disorder. Learn more about Sonata addiction and how it might be treated if you have developed a substance use disorder. 


What Is Sonata?

Sonata is a non-benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotic, which is a group of prescription sleep aids. They are generally considered to be milder than benzodiazepines and barbiturates, and they also may be less likely to cause serious side effects. Sonata is a brand name for a drug called zaleplon. Drugs in this category are sometimes called Z-drugs because they usually start with the letter z. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved Sonata for use in the United States in 1999 to treat sleep problems and reduce the time it takes to get to sleep each night. It’s a fast-acting hypnotic, so it’s generally advised that patients take it just before bed. It may be used as an alternative to benzodiazepines, offering hypnotic benefits with fewer side effects. 

However, like benzodiazepines, Sonata is not recommended for long-term use among elderly patients. Older people may not be able to process the drug well, making uncomfortable side effects more likely. One potential side effect is next-day drowsiness, which can make driving more dangerous the morning after you take the drug. If it’s taken when you’re not ready to sleep, side effects can include sedation, sleepiness, impaired cognition, and impaired motor function.

How Does Sonata Work?

Sonata works in the brain by interacting with a natural chemical called GABA, or gamma-Aminobutyric acid. GABA is closely tied to rest, relaxation, anxiety release, and sleep. It’s part of your body’s rest-and-digest response. People with insomnia and other sleep disorders may not be able to get to sleep effectively with GABA and their other natural processes alone. Sonata works by binding to GABA receptors in the brain and making GABA more effective. Alcohol and other depressant medications work similarly, which explains why Sonata can cause some similar side effects to those other substances. 

What Is Sonata’s Abuse Potential?

Like other central nervous system depressants, Sonata may have some abuse potential. Sonata is a Schedule IV drug, which means it is federally regulated and considered to have some abuse potential. It’s on the same level of regulation as benzodiazepine medications. In high doses, Sonata may cause euphoric or intoxicating effects, but it may be less likely to facilitate those effects than other depressants. 

Medications like Sonata are sometimes mixed with other drugs or alcohol to enhance their effects. However, this can be extremely dangerous. Mixing depressants increases your risk of experiencing a life-threatening overdose. 

What Are the Signs of Sonata Addiction?

Sonata addiction isn’t as common as addiction to other depressants like alcohol and benzodiazepines, but it may happen, especially after a period of misuse or abuse. Addiction is a chronic disease that affects the reward center of the brain, causing powerful compulsions to use a drug. The DSM-5 calls addiction a substance use disorder and classifies it based on severity. A mild substance use disorder involves three or four of the 11 common symptoms of addiction that are listed in the DSM. A mild disorder involves four or five symptoms, and a severe disorder involves six or more.

The 11 symptoms include physical, psychological, and behavioral signs of addiction. Withdrawal symptoms and tolerance are common physical signs, and they signal a chemical change caused by the drug that makes you rely on it. Drug cravings are a common psychological sign. Finding and using the drug may dominate your thoughts as a top priority. There are several behavioral symptoms, including neglecting normal duties or giving up hobbies to use a substance.

Like other depressants, Sonata abuse can cause alcohol-like intoxication. Someone who’s addicted to Sonata may display similar symptoms to someone with alcohol use disorder (AUD). They may have a strange sleep schedule or be drowsy a lot of the time. Without Sonata, they may be agitated, restless, and unable to sleep.

Sonata can also cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Depressants are known for causing severe withdrawal symptoms, which makes it important to speak to a doctor before you quit Sonata “cold turkey.” Depressants can cause seizures and heart complications, especially when you quit abruptly. 

What Is Involved in Sonata Addiction Treatment?

sonata addictionIf you’ve been taking Sonata and developed a substance use disorder, it’s important to reach out for help as soon as possible. Substance use disorders are progressive, so leaving an addiction untreated can lead to serious consequences. To reach out for help, you can speak to your doctor or therapist or call to learn more about an addiction treatment program. The first step in treatment is to determine your needs and to make a personalized treatment plan. 

When you enter a treatment program, you will likely go through an assessment of your biological, psychological, and social needs. Since addiction is complex, treatment should address all three of these areas. People who are dependent on central nervous system depressants may need to start with medical detox. Detox, or intensive inpatient treatment, is for people with high-level medical needs. Detox is a level of care that’s used to treat people who are likely to go through severe or potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. 

If you don’t need medical detox or if you complete detox, you may move on to inpatient or residential treatment. Medically monitored inpatient treatment treats people with significant medical or psychological needs, but they don’t need intensive, medically managed treatment like detox. Residential treatment also involves 24-hour care, but it’s less intensive. You will live in on-site accommodations and attend many hours of treatment services each week.

If you can live on your own safely, you may move onto an outpatient level of care. Partial hospitalization is the highest level of outpatient care, requiring 20 or more hours of treatment each week. Intensive outpatient involves at least nine hours, and fewer than nine hours is standard outpatient treatment. 

How Dangerous Is Sonata?

Sonata may be less dangerous than other depressants like barbiturates or benzodiazepines. Still, the medication can cause an overdose in high doses. On its own, a Sonata overdose is likely to cause uncomfortable or severe side effects, such as sedation and next-day drowsiness. It may be hard to stay awake. A deadly accidental overdose on Sonata is unlikely unless you take very high doses or mix the drug with another substance.

Mixing Sonata with alcohol, depressant medications, or opioids may cause you to experience a life-threatening overdose. Dangerous overdose symptoms can include loss of consciousness, coma, respiratory depression, oxygen deprivation, and a slow heart rate. 

Sonata may also cause potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, especially if you quit cold turkey. Depressants can cause seizures, increased blood pressure, fever, heart palpitations, chest pains, and even heart attacks during withdrawal. Dangerous or severe withdrawal symptoms are more likely if you’ve gone through depressant withdrawal in the past.

Sonata Abuse Statistics

  • Sonata isn’t a common drug of abuse, but it can be misused and used for recreational purposes. Benzodiazepines and other sedative-hypnotics are commonly misused. 
  • According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2020, 4.8 million people misused benzodiazepines, and 6.2 million people misused tranquilizers and sedatives in general.
  • The survey also found that 1.2 million people reported a substance use disorder involving tranquilizers or sedatives in 2020.
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