Zopiclone is a non-benzodiazepine variety of hypnotic medicine classed as a cyclopyrrolone and works by causing a tranquilization of the central nervous system. It is similar pharmacologically to benzodiazepines and is molecularly distinct from them. It contains an active ingredient which assists by slowing the brain activity to help treat people with sleeping difficulties, known as insomnia by allowing for better sleep.

Zopiclone is a medicine marketed under various brand names, such as Zimovane, Zopisign, Zop and Imovane among others.

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Zopiclone was developed by Sepractor and was introduced for commercial sale by Rhone-Poulenc S.A in 1986. The drug was initially touted as a superior alternative to benzodiazepines; however, more recent studies have failed to verify these claims, although they have similar benefits. There are now many generic brands available.

Medical Uses

Doctors typically prescribe Zopiclone for short-term treatments that are between 2 and 4 weeks in length. Long term use of this medicine (i.e: exceeding 4 weeks) can cause health problems and is not recommended.

Imovane can be used to treat a variety of disorders. These include:

Insomnia

Insomnia refers to a condition in which sufferers receive inadequate sleep or suffer from poor-sleep quality. This disorder can occur due to a variety of reasons.

Short term insomnia has been linked to stress, while long term or chronic insomnia could be due to a combination of factors such as respiratory conditions, acid reflux, chronic pain, or mental disorders.

Insomnia is typically treated using Zopiclone (sold as Imovane), Temezapam (sold as Temaz and Normison), or Zolpiderm (sold as Stilnox).

Anxiety disorders

Similar to insomnia, anxiety can be caused by day-to-day stress. Many people develop anxiety after a particularly stressful event such as the death of a loved one or a health scare.

A small subset of the population suffers from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This anxiety disorder is characterized as a chronic form of anxiety that can be exacerbated by stress. However, this type of anxiety usually persists even in the absence of stress.

Anxiety can be treated using antidepressant medication that targets the brain’s levels of serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine.

A recent study has also found Zopiclone to be more effective at treating anxiety disorders when compared to benzodiazepines such as Nitrazepam.

Mechanism of Action

Despite being classified as a non-benzodiazepine, Zopiclone acts at the body’s benzodiazepine binding sites. It modulates GABAA receptors to create sedative effects and other adverse effects.

Contradictions

Patient should avoid taking Zopiclone if they suffer from any of the following conditions:

  • Lung problems
  • Liver issues
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Mystenia gravis
  • Untreated abnormality of the thyroid gland
  • Strokes

How to Take Zopiclone

Dosage

A single Imovane tablet contains 7.5mg of Zopiclone. Patients should take one tablet before going to bed. However, your doctor may prescribe a different dose depending on your unique condition. Older patients who suffer from liver issues should take smaller doses.

Tablets containing Zopiclone should be swallowed whole with the aid of water.

Precautions

Patients should avoid taking this medication on an empty stomach, as it may cause the drug to work more quickly.

Zopiclone should only be used for short periods of 2 to 4 weeks. Long-term use is not recommended unless advised by a medical professional.

Patients that miss their daily dose of Zopiclone should avoid taking their missed dose the next day as it could lead to oversleeping. The next dose should be taken the following night to avoid taking two doses within a 24-hour period.

Zopiclone is typically offered to patients on a prescription basis. Patients should avoid giving their medication to other people who are suffering from similar conditions without the supervision of a doctor.

Adverse Effects

Taking Zopiclone may lead to certain side effects. Some of these side effects are relatively harmless, while other more-serious side effects should be shared with your doctor as soon as possible. At prescribed doses people can have a moderate impairment the next day.

The following side effects are relatively common when taking Zopiclone, but you should still inform your doctor if you are suffering from them:

  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Mouth dryness and/or a metallic taste in your mouth
  • Headaches

The following side effects may occur when taking Zopiclone. You should inform your doctor immediately if you are experiencing:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Blurry vision
  • Stomach aches
  • Appetite changes
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Impotence

Overdose, Tolerance and Withdrawal Effects

Patients should also be careful about other problems associated with taking Zopiclone.

Overdose

Overdosing on Zopiclone is relatively common due to the memory loss associated with taking the drug. People that have taken Zopiclone may forget that they have taken their daily dose and take another one.

If you have overdosed on Zopiclone, contact your doctor or Poison Information Centre at 13 11 26 immediately. Visit the emergency room if you have overdosed or know someone who has overdosed on Zopiclone. The effects of overdosing on this medication are not readily apparent, so visiting the ER could save your life.

Tolerance

It takes multiple weeks of use before patients start to develop a tolerance to Zopiclone. However, some of the medication’s effects may feel less pronounced after a few weeks of usage.

Withdrawal effects

Patients may develop a physical dependence on Zopiclone and could suffer withdrawal symptoms after abruptly stopping its use. Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, agitation, headaches, confusion, muscle aches, and/or restlessness.

Effects on Women and Children

Women who are pregnant should avoid taking Zopiclone as it may harm the fetus during development.

Patients under the age of 18 should not take Zopiclone, as studies have yet to confirm if the drug is safe for children and adolescents to use.

Interactions

Patients should avoid using Zopiclone in conjunction with:

Alcohol

The sedative properties of Zopiclone can be increased if it is combined with alcohol. However, this combination carries severe health risks and could impede patients’ ability to operate heavy machinery.

Central nervous system (CNS) depressants

Patients who take Zopiclone alongside CNS depressants such as benzodiazepines and barbiturates may experience more severe central nervous depressant effects.

Erythromycin

Combining Erythromycin with Zopiclone can result in faster absorption of both drugs. This can lead to the effects of each drug being felt faster than if they had been consumed in isolation.

Dependency

Patients that take Zopiclone for more than 4 weeks may develop a dependency towards the drug. Users may also develop dependency if they combine the medication with alcohol.

Taking Zopiclone for less than 4 weeks should not lead to withdrawal effects.

Conclusion

Zopiclone is used to treat sleep disorders and can be used to treat anxiety. However, the drug should be taken only under the supervision of a doctor. Treatments involving Zopiclone should not last more than 4 weeks.

Patients should familiarize themselves with the dangers of combining Zopiclone with alcohol and benzodiazepines.

So, if you are starting on Zopiclone, make sure to talk to your doctor about your health and other medicines, supplements or herbal products that you are using. If you have any more questions about Zopiclone, talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.