Lunesta® (eszopiclone) is a non-benzodiazepine, non-imidazopyridine, cyclopyrrolone hypnotic sedative produced by the pharmaceutical corporation Sepracor in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Although it is neither a benzodiazepine nor an imidazopyridine, it can produce effects similar to either. It was developed in large part in the 1980s, and then refined and tested in the 1990s and early 2000s before finally being patented and made available as a prescription drug in 2005. It's a close cousin of Ambien® (zolpidem tartrate), Sonata® (zaleplon), and Imovane® (zopiclone; eszopiclone is an enantiomer of zopiclone) as all four drugs bind to the same GABA receptors in the human brain.

Beyond the GABA connection, it is unknown to science how Lunesta actually affects the brain and helps it to induce sleep. This is the case with most hypnotic drugs, and indeed, with most sedative drugs. The part of the brain that controls sleep is not well-understood by the science-pharmacology complex.

Due to Lunesta becoming available only very recently (mid-2005), its primary user base consists mostly of former users of Ambien or of Sonata, the former of which has a seemingly endless amount of undesirable side-effects. Lunesta, however, is much safer. The only side-effects most people notice are a metallic, bitter taste in the mouth which can last until the drug's half-life has expired six to nine hours after dosing, and occasionally a slight headache. However, like Ambien, Lunesta can be habit-forming, can cause anterograde amnesia (though not nearly as severely as with Ambien, in my experience), and a tolerance for it can be achieved within 6-8 weeks. Doses come in tablet form and are available in 1mg (light blue, circular tablet imprinted with "S190"), 2mg (white, circular tablet imprinted with "S191"), and 3mg (dark blue, circular tablet imprinted with "S193"). Doses of 6mg are sometimes prescribed to chronic insomniacs (like me), although getting one's insurance provider to cover 60 pills a month instead of 30 is a particularly Herculean task.

About 15 minutes after dosing, the aforementioned metallic taste will likely invade your taste buds. Apparently this phenomena is well-known by its scientific name, "dysgeusia." This is normal, according to Sepracor, although they offer no explanation for it. Some suggest drinking fruit juice or milk (cow's milk if you're insensitive to animal rights; soy or rice milk if you're gentle) to alleviate the taste, which can be quite strong (though it may be mild; it's barely noticeable for me). After 30 minutes, you'll likely feel ready to go to sleep if you haven't already. If you take your dose and then go immediately to bed, chances are good that you'll be asleep within 15-20 minutes, with REM sleep starting at around one hour after dosing (one hour is its peak absorbtion level) and with a good chance of staying asleep for at least five hours (unless someone or something wakes you, of course).

The effects of Lunesta on pregnant women can pass to the unborn fetus, which has a chance of causing birth deformity (as of this writing, it's in FDA Pregnancy Category C¹), and minute amounts of the drug are excreted through breast milk. Otherwise, around 75% of the drug and the inactive ingredients in the tablet are excreted via micturation. Taking Lunesta immediately after or within two hours of consuming a high-fat meal may diminish its effects in some people, but then, you really shouldn't be eating right before bed, anyway.

Overdosing on Lunesta can be fatal, usually by renal or liver failure. In clinical tests conducted by Sepracor, one test subject consumed 36mg, but was able to recover completely, most likely due to the medical supervision of the tests. If the overdoser were left alone, 36mg would probably be fatal. As with almost all other oral drug overdoses, the standard treatment for overdeosing on Lunesta is the dreaded activated charcoal cocktail and your friend and mine, Mr. Stomach Pump. In the event of renal damage, dialysis may be in order, depending on the severity of the damage. With complete renal or liver failure, well, there's only one thing you can do: go through his clothes and look for loose change.

It is worth mentioning that Lunesta is the first sleep aid drug in the United States approved for long-term use, unlike Ambien or Sonata, which are both approved only for temporary use. You may have seen the smarmy television commercials for Lunesta; believe me, it's just marketing hype. The butterflies and happy people sleeping in foofy beds is pure fantasy, because chances are, if you have to take a drug to make yourself fall asleep, you're probably not living in an idyllic world. I'd suggest sampling Lunesta before deciding if it's what you need. The Lunesta website offers four free sample tablets (URL below), or you can ask your physician or psychiatrist for some sample packets. As a general rule, however, Lunesta (and indeed almost all hypnotic sedatives) is not prescribed to children. According to Sepracor, most users are between the ages of 30 and 65, which is really prime time in one's life for insomnia to come along. Users over 65 may experience increased effects, as if they took a double dose when they took only a single.

There's a small niche in the underground drug culture of Lunesta addicts since, at DEA Schedule IV, it's relatively easy to obtain, many use it during the "come down" phase of intoxication by cocaine, meth, LSD, MDMA, the 2-C and 5-MeO families, and just about any other illicit "upper" drug. ADD/ADHD patients also commonly use Lunesta or other hypnotics in order to get to sleep after spending their waking hours under the influence of amphetamine variants.

In summary, Lunesta is a fine drug. It works as advertised (though not quite as white bread as portrayed in its commercials), has a low potential for danger at normal doses, and best of all, it doesn't impair one's judgment like Ambien and Sonata can. I began taking it after finally weaning myself off of Ambien, to which I was addicted for four years, and I can honestly say that it doesn't play games with your mind or your body (apart from the metallic taste). It doesn't produce a sedative hangover, either, like many sedatives of all drug classifications have the reputation for doing. I most wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has had continuous insomnia for more than two months, at least, and who would like to get through their day without the need to gulp down cup after cup of coffee or caffeinated soda to stay awake. I'm a regular walking pharmacy, myself, and as such I've tried quite a lot of sleeping pills before, but so far Lunesta has been the best and the easiest to work with.


Footnote: "Pregnancy Category C," according to the USFDA, means:

"Animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks."

Sources, helpful info, and the letter J provided by:

Erowid Zopiclone (Imovane) Vault
Lunesta overdose, contraindictions and information
Eszopiclone - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
LUNESTA - Prescription Sleep Aid

My own experiences with Lunesta also contributed a not insubstantial amount of information to this writeup.

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