Sleep Disorders

Michael Jackson’s untimely death has shed light on the dangers of prescription drug abuse, but it has also made the public more aware of sleep disorders and how they can lead to substance abuse and relapse in many individuals.

Jackson was taking the powerful anesthetic Propofol, in addition to an array of other prescription drugs, in order to sleep, as he believed he could not sleep without the aid of these narcotic sedatives, which are normally only used in hospitals.

“Jackson developed tolerance to several more commonly used prescription drugs that are sometimes used as sleep aids, such as Xanax or Ambien. Over time he would have needed higher doses to sleep and even these would not have worked as well,” said Dr. David Sack, an addiction specialist and CEO of Promises Treatment Centers in Malibu and West Los Angeles. “This tolerance can easily lead to substance dependency, and can often result in overdose, as in Jackson’s case.”

Many clients who come to Promises for treatment may be suffering from sleep disorders that either led to their substance dependency or developed as a result of their drug or alcohol use, so our team of professionals will thoroughly assess each client and ensure that both problems—the sleep disorder and the substance dependency—are treated with the highest quality of care.

“Some clients suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition where nightmares and flashbacks severely disrupt sleep. Because insomnia can trigger relapse to drug and alcohol abuse, it’s critical that clients who are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep are evaluated for other medical and psychiatric disorders that can cause insomnia,” said Dr. Sack. “People who have insomnia are three times more likely to relapse than those who don’t have insomnia,” he continued.

Some clients may also experience sleep disturbances during the detoxification process, as their bodies and minds are not yet accustomed to being free of substances. Where appropriate, medication can be given to help with any sleeplessness, and clients will be carefully monitored to ensure their safety.

“A common problem is that family physicians may not fully explore a history of drug or alcohol abuse in patients who complain of insomnia. Prescribing sleep medications to patients abusing drugs and alcohol is a slippery slope. It worsens their addiction and increases the risk of an unintentional overdose. This may have been the case with Michael Jackson,” said Dr. Sack.

Dr. Sack added, “It is our mission at Promises to ensure that all problems or situations that can trigger relapse are thoroughly treated, greatly increasing the changes for successful, long-term recovery.”

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