Waking Up to The Truth About Sleeping Pills


Papaver rhoeus L., known as corn or field poppy, is an annual herb native to Europe and Asia. Extracts of the plant are used in medicine and beverages. Also known as opium poppy, the species is cultivated extensively in many countries, including Iran, Turkey, Holland, Poland, Yugoslavia, India, Canada, and many Asian and Central and South American countries. The poppy seeds and fixed oil that cab be extracted from the seed are not narcotic, because they develop after the capsule has lost the opium-yielding potential. Poppy seeds are used as a condiment with baked goods and pastries for their nutty odor and flavor. Poppy oil is widely used as an edible cooking oil. The oil is also used in the manufacture of paints, varnishes, and soaps. Opium is used in the production of morphine, codeine, other alkaloids, and deodorized forms of opium.

Moreover, Poppy is one of the most important medicinal plants. Traditionally, the dry opium was considered an astringent, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, diaphoretic, expectorant, narcotic, sedative and hypnotic. The juice of the poppy contains chemicals known as opiates, from which morphine and heroin are distilled.

From the ancient medicinal herbs such as the opium poppy, emerged other sleep-inducers. Sleeping pills are nothing new. The bark of mandrake, or mandragora, was used as a sleep aid, as were the seeds of an herb called henbane. The juice of lettuce was also used to induce sleep. As early as 300 B.C., Greek doctors were known to prescribe concoctions of these different plant derivatives. Similar prescriptions were also apparently known throughout the Arab world. By the early 1900s, barbiturates were introduced. In the 1960s, benzodiazepines arrived on the scene. In the 1990s, consumers welcomed a safer class of insomnia drugs known as nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics.

Sleeping pill, also commonly referred to as a sleep aid, is a drug that helps a person fall asleep or remain sleeping. Disorders such as insomnia (inability to sleep) are widespread and has been a “nocturnal plague” that has been afflicting people for such a long time. In fact, herbs and chemical concoctions have been used to induce sleep since the ancient times.

Two distinct categories of sleeping pills are sold in the United States; these are prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Most prescription sleeping pills are made of active ingredients known as benzodiazepines, a central nervous system depressant. Benzodiazepines include the commonly prescribed drugs called contain chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and diazepam (Valium). Pharmacists developed non-benzodiazepine hypnotics in the 1990s such as zopiclone and zaleplon. Over-the-counter sleeping pill, which can be bought without a prescription, contain antihistamines which induce drowsiness by working against the central nervous system chemical called histamine.

However, most sleeping pill users, such as insomniacs, do not know that sleeping pills do the same things to them during the day than what they want them to do at night, that is, they impair the consciousness, judgment, memory and intelligence. Ironically, insomniacs think sleeping pills make them sleep better, when they actually make them feel worse. Many people believe the misconception that sleeping pills are supposed to help them sleep better. In truth, the effectiveness of sleeping drugs wear off over time. The more often you take them, the less effective they become.

Both prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids can cause side effects, such as next-day drowsiness and, of course, sleeping pill overdose can be fatal. Given the potential hazards, the manufacture of sleeping pills is highly regulated and overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Pharmaceutical companies concentrate are now also reducing the side effects of sleeping pills.

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