Restoril is the brand name for a benzodiazepine medication, temazepam, which is prescribed to treat insomnia. As with other benzodiazepines, this medication is intended for short-term use only – no more than 7-10 days of use is recommended. If the patient with the prescription continues to have difficulty with insomnia after that time, this is an indication to their doctor that something more serious may be the underlying cause of the insomnia.
How Is Restoril Used, and Is It Addictive?
Benzodiazepines, like Restoril and many others, are among the most prescribed medications in the world. Many of them are fast-acting, so they can stop panic attacks or seizures, or help people struggling with insomnia to fall asleep. While they have wonderful medical benefits, they should only be prescribed for a short period of time, and they can even be prescribed “as needed” due to the speed at which they take effect. However, the fast-acting nature of the medication, plus the relaxing benefits of the substance, make Restoril a prime target for addiction and abuse.
This medication, like other benzodiazepines, acts on the GABA receptors in the brain to adjust neurotransmitter balance. Changes in the uptake of the GABA neurotransmitter by receptors can lead to a feeling of being relaxed, which, in the case of Restoril, helps the person taking the prescription fall asleep and remain asleep for several hours. However, this feeling of relaxation can be addictive. Also, changes in neurotransmitter balances in the brain can lead to changes in the brain’s reward system, flooding the brain with dopamine. This is also potentially addictive.
Restoril is more widely prescribed in the United Kingdom than the US or Canada – the National Health Service reported a 2.8 million prescriptions for temazepam in the UK in 2011 – but some people can still receive prescriptions for this medication elsewhere. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Restoril abuse decreased between 2012 and 2013, from about 166,000 incidents in total to about125,000 incidents in total. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), however, tracks drugs of abuse, and benzodiazepines including Restoril are distributed illicitly for nonmedical purposes in the US too.
Restoril Intoxication Symptoms
Nearly all benzodiazepines carry some potential to lead to intoxication or a “high.” Typically, benzodiazepines that act quickly, like Klonopin, Xanax, and Restoril, are preferred to those that act more slowly (oxazepam), because they can more quickly induce recreational effects. Restoril, like other benzodiazepines, induces a sense of calmness and relaxation in the body. When a person gets high off a benzodiazepine like Restoril, symptoms are similar to intoxication from other central nervous system (CNS) depressants, like alcohol or opiates. Most often, signs of Restoril intoxication include:
- Stumbling or loss of coordination
- Slurred speech
- Reduced inhibitions
- Relaxed muscles
- Sleepiness or drowsiness
Side Effects of Restoril
General side effects from using Restoril, even as prescribed, can include:
- Lethargy or fatigue
- Inability to concentrate
- Memory loss
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Ataxia, or loss of muscle coordination
- Shaking or tremors
- Blurred vision
- Faintness related to changes in blood pressure
- Abdominal pain, cramps, nausea, or vomiting
Abusing Restoril for recreational purposes increases the risk of experiencing these side effects, as well as becoming addicted to, tolerant of, or dependent on the medication.
Short-term Problems with Using Restoril to Get High
People who take Restoril and other sleep aids are at a greater risk of somnambulism or other similar activities. Somnolent activities like sleepwalking, sleep-eating, sleep-driving, having conversations while asleep, and engaging in sexual activity while asleep have been reported in people who use Restoril, even when taken as prescribed by a medical professional. People who abuse Restoril to get high put themselves at greater risk of experiencing these activities, which increases their risk of physical harm, ingesting something dangerous, or contracting a sexually transmitted infection from activities they performed while asleep.
When a person abuses Restoril for recreational purposes, they typically take a large dose in order to achieve intoxication. Large doses of benzodiazepines like Restoril put the individual at a greater risk of more serious side effects, including oversedation, confusion, dizziness, loss of coordination, and muscle weakness that can lead to falls.
Restoril can affect cognition even if the person takes it as prescribed and gets enough sleep. The Food and Drug Administration’s medication guide warns not to drive or operate heavy machinery due to potential cognitive and motor function side effects related to taking Restoril. The University of Washington, Seattle studied many medications used in the treatment of insomnia, and their relationship to motor vehicle crashes. Temazepam was found to be the least dangerous among the drugs in the study, but there is still an increased potential for a person using or abusing Restoril to be involved in a car accident.
There is also an increased risk of death when taking sleep aids like Restoril. A research study published in the British Medical Journal in 2012 reported that people who took 18 or fewer sleeping pills per year – including Restoril and other medications like Ambien – were 3.5 times more likely to die. CBS added to the report, noting that people who took 132 sleeping pills or more per year, which indicates potential abuse or addiction, had five times the risk of dying and also a 35 percent increased risk of developing some types of cancer. One of the researchers noted that medications like Ambien and Restoril were potentially as dangerous to a person’s health as smoking cigarettes. Taking more of a substance like Restoril, especially for non-medical purposes, puts the person at greater risk of serious physical side effects.
Long-term Problems with Using Restoril to Get High
Benzodiazepines, including Restoril, have a strong effect on the brain and memory. Taking too much Restoril for nonmedical purposes can lead to amnesia, or the inability to create new memories after a certain point. For most people, this is a blank space in their memory, but as more of the substance is introduced, this can lead to long periods of “blacking out” or failing to remember events. Large doses of benzodiazepines like Restoril can also make it difficult for the brain to form new memories or retain information. This can stunt learning.
Large doses of Restoril or other benzodiazepines can lead to conditions that are similar to the mental health issues the medications are prescribed to treat. People who abuse Restoril are more likely to struggle with anxiety, depression, and insomnia than people who use Restoril as prescribed.
A Canadian study published in the British Medical Journal in 2015 indicates that there is some potential for benzodiazepine use, including Restoril prescriptions or Restoril abuse, to increase a person’s risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease later in life. According to the study, if a person took Restoril or another benzodiazepine for six months or more – well beyond the recommended 1-2 weeks – their risk of Alzheimer’s disease increased 84 percent. Taking benzodiazepine medications for 3-6 months increased the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia 32 percent.
Overdose on Restoril
Taking too much of a benzodiazepine like Restoril can lead to overdose. SAMHSA reported that 32 percent of emergency room visits involving benzodiazepines, whether combined with another substance or not, resulted in serious outcomes such as hospitalization or death. Symptoms of an overdose of Restoril include:
- Drowsiness and inability to wake up
- Intense confusion or amnesia
- Reduced or absent reflexes
- Hypotension, or low blood pressure and reduced heart rate
- Depressed breathing
Dangers of Mixing Restoril and Other Intoxicating Substances
Mixing benzodiazepines with each other or with other substances of abuse is very dangerous. When a person who abuses heroin, alcohol, opioid painkillers, or other similar medications takes a benzodiazepine like Restoril, the drug increases the effects of the other intoxicating substances. Some people who abuse intoxicating substances do this on purpose, while others have a Restoril prescription but mix it with other prescription medications or take it with a substance they are addicted to. This can lead to serious side effects, including a greatly increased risk of overdose.
Dependence on and Addiction to Restoril
Restoril has a great potential for both physical and psychological dependence. Physical dependence on benzodiazepines like Restoril can occur in as little as two weeks, due to brain chemistry changes that the body begins to rely on to feel normal. Psychological dependence can form in people who believe that Restoril is the only way they can overcome insomnia and get some rest. It can also form when the reward system in the brain is repeatedly triggered to release dopamine, so the drug becomes the only way the person can feel good.
Tolerance occurs when the body becomes used to a specific dose of a substance like Restoril, so the medication no longer induces the same effects. Dependence occurs when the body needs a drug like Restoril to feel normal or to maintain normal brain chemistry. Addiction is a complex, chronic brain condition that affects the risk/reward system and leads to compulsive ingestion of an intoxicating substance.
People who take Restoril or other benzodiazepines in large doses can develop a dependence on the substance, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms. Although these symptoms can be managed, a person can develop benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, which can be physically dangerous if not monitored by a medical professional. Symptoms of this syndrome include:
- Extreme anxiety and panic
- Rebound insomnia
- Changes in perception, including tinnitus and tingling or numbness in the limbs
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Painful tremors
- Abdominal cramps or diarrhea
This condition can last for weeks or months, and psychological withdrawal symptoms can last for years. As a result, medical detox is always required for benzodiazepine withdrawal.
The physical and psychological dangers associated with nonmedical use of Restoril, or Restoril abuse, mean that it is very important to seek medical help as soon as possible. Medical professionals can help with the detox process, work with the individual on polydrug abuse issues, and help them overcome abuse and addiction problems.