Zopiclone is a novel hypnotic agent used in the treatment of insomnia. Its mechanism of action is based on modulating benzodiazepine receptors. In addition to zopiclone’s benzodiazepine pharmacological properties it also has some barbiturate-like properties.
Who can take zopiclone
Most adults over the age of 18 years can take zopiclone.
Who may not be able to take zopiclone
Zopiclone is not suitable for some people. To make sure it’s safe for you, tell your doctor if you:
- have ever had an allergic reaction to zopiclone or any other medicine
- have liver or kidney problems
- have myasthenia gravis, a condition that causes muscle weakness
- have breathing problems or sleep apnoea, where you stop breathing for short bouts while sleeping
- have ever had mental health problems
- have had issues with alcohol or drug abuse
- are trying to get pregnant, already pregnant, or breastfeeding
How and when to take zopiclone
Dosage and strength
Zopiclone tablets come in 2 different strengths: 3.75mg and 7.5mg.
The usual dose is one 7.5mg tablet, taken just before you go to bed. It takes around 1 hour to work.
A lower dose of 3.75mg may be recommended to begin with if you’re over 65 years old or have kidney or liver problems. Taking a lower dose in these cases reduces the risk of excessive sleepiness and other side effects.
How to take it
It’s important to take zopiclone exactly as your doctor has told you. Your doctor might ask you to take a tablet on only 2 or 3 nights each week, rather than every night.
Swallow the tablet whole. Do not crush or chew it.
You can take zopiclone with or without food.
How long to take it for
You’ll usually be prescribed zopiclone for just 2 to 4 weeks.
This is because your body gets used to this medicine quickly, and after this time it’s unlikely to have the same effect. Your body can also become dependent on it.
Do not stop taking zopiclone suddenly without speaking to your doctor. They may suggest you reduce your dose slowly to prevent withdrawal symptoms. However you’re unlikely to have withdrawal symptoms if you’ve been taking it for less than a month.
If you still have sleeping problems after finishing your course of zopiclone, try lifestyle changes to help you get to sleep. See your doctor again if these do not help.
If you forget to take it
If you forget to take it by bedtime, just skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the usual time the next night.
Never take 2 doses at the same time. Never take an extra dose to make up for a forgotten one.
If you take too much
Taking more than your prescribed dose of zopiclone can be dangerous. You may get symptoms including:
- feeling drowsy, feeling confused, sleeping deeply and possibly going into a coma
- feeling dizzy, light-headed or faint due to low blood pressure
- floppy muscles
- falling over or losing your balance
- shallow breathing or difficulty breathing
Side effects of zopiclone
Like all medicines, zopiclone can cause side effects, but not everyone gets them.
Common side effects
These common side effects of zopiclone happen in more than 1 in 100 people. There are things you can do to help cope with them:A bitter or metallic taste in your mouth or a dry mouth. Feeling sleepy or tired the next day. Speak to a doctor or pharmacist if the advice on how to cope does not help and a side effect is still bothering you or does not go away.
Serious side effects
It happens rarely, but some people have serious side effects when taking zopiclone.
- get a poor memory (amnesia)
- see or hear things that are not real (hallucinations)
- fall over, especially if you’re over 65 years of age
- think things that are not true (delusions)
- feel low or sad (have depression)
Serious allergic reaction
In rare cases, it’s possible to have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to zopiclone.
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