If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, your doctor may prescribe Belsomra. This FDA-approved medication belongs to a class of drugs called sedative-hypnotics. Before you start using it, be aware that Belsomra is a Schedule IV controlled substance.
What Is Belsomra?
The drug is classified as an orexin receptor antagonist. That means its mechanism of action involves blocking orexin, a hormone that promotes wakefulness. It’s available in 5, 10, 15, and 20 mg tablets.
Is Belsomra A Controlled Substance?
Yes, Belsomra is a controlled substance. That means it poses a risk of abuse.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) categorizes controlled substances into five schedules. Substances in Schedule I (such as heroin) pose the highest risk of abuse, while substances in Schedule V (such as the cough medicine Robitussin AC) pose the lowest risk of abuse.
Belsomra is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance. Other drugs in this schedule include:
- other sedative-hypnotics, including zolpidem (Ambien) and carisoprodol (Soma)
- benzodiazepines, including alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium)
- a prescription opioid called tramadol (Ultram)
Belsomra abuse occurs when you use the drug in a manner not prescribed by your healthcare provider. For example, you might use higher doses than prescribed, use it more often than prescribed, or mix it with alcohol.
People abuse Belsomra to enhance the drug’s sedative-hypnotic effects. In other words, they want to feel extra sleepy and relaxed. Unfortunately, abusing Belsomra poses serious risks.
Risks Of Belsomra Abuse
Belsomra abuse may lead to increased side effects, adverse drug interactions, worsened health conditions, overdose, and addiction.
Increased Side Effects
People who abuse Belsomra face a much higher risk of side effects. The most common side effects are somnolence (drowsiness) and reduced alertness the next day after you take the drug.
These effects can make it dangerous to drive, operate heavy machinery, or perform other complex tasks. You should avoid such tasks until you feel fully awake and alert.
Other common side effects of Belsomra include:
- dry mouth
- abnormal dreams
In addition, some people experience more serious side effects, including sleep paralysis.
Sleep paralysis is a temporary inability to move or speak while waking up or falling asleep. It can also cause intense anxiety and hallucinations (images, sounds, or sensations that aren’t really there). It typically lasts for up to a few minutes.
Other serious side effects of Belsomra may include:
- temporary leg weakness
- complex sleep behaviors, such as sleepwalking or sleep-driving
- worsening depression, which may include intense feelings of sadness or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- suicidal thoughts or behaviors
- memory problems
- symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as rash, itchiness, or swelling
If you or a loved one experiences these more serious side effects, call your doctor for medical advice right away.
Belsomra may also pass into breast milk and cause side effects in your baby if you use it while breastfeeding. For more information on the possible side effects of Belsomra, talk to your doctor or read the medication guide that came with your prescription.
Adverse Drug Interactions
Some prescription and over-the-counter substances can increase the amount of Belsomra in your body and make you more likely to experience side effects. These substances include:
- other sedative-hypnotics, such as Ambien
- benzodiazepines, such as Xanax
- certain anti-seizure medications, such as carbamazepine and phenytoin
- certain blood pressure medications, diltiazem and verapamil
- certain heart medications, such as digoxin
- certain antifungal medication, such as itraconazole and ketoconazole
- certain antibiotics, such as clarithromycin, erythromycin, and rifampin
- certain HIV protease inhibitors, such as indinavir and ritonavir
- certain antidepressants, such as nefazodone
To avoid adverse drug interactions, tell your doctor about every medication and supplement you use before you start Belsomra.
Worsened Health Conditions
Belsomra may worsen symptoms of certain health conditions, including:
- narcolepsy (a condition that causes excessive daytime sleepiness)
- cataplexy (a condition that causes muscle weakness)
- breathing problems, such as sleep apnea or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Before starting Belsomra, make sure your doctor knows about all of your health conditions.
Belsomra is a central nervous system depressant. That means it slows down your breathing. If you take more than the recommended dose of Belsomra or mix it with other CNS depressants (such as alcohol or opioids), your breathing may slow to the point of overdose.
Along with slowed breathing, other possible symptoms of a Belsomra overdose include extreme drowsiness, seizures, and loss of consciousness. If you think you or someone you know is overdosing on Belsomra, call 911.
Abuse or long-term use of Belsomra might lead to addiction. However, because Belsomra is a relatively new drug, there have not been enough clinical studies to determine if it’s truly addictive.
If you or someone you love struggles with Belsomra abuse, please contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center. Our compassionate healthcare professionals offer behavioral therapy, support groups, and other evidence-based services to help your or your loved one stay healthy.