Zopiclone, sold under the brand name Imovane among others, is a nonbenzodiazepine used to treat difficulty sleeping. Zopiclone is molecularly distinct from benzodiazepine drugs and is classed as a cyclopyrrolone. However, zopiclone increases the normal transmission of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the central nervous system, via modulating benzodiazepine receptors in the same way that benzodiazepine drugs do.
Zopiclone is a sedative. It works by causing a depression or tranquilization of the central nervous system. After prolonged use, the body can become accustomed to the effects of zopiclone. When the dose is then reduced or the drug is abruptly stopped, withdrawal symptoms may result. These can include a range of symptoms similar to those of benzodiazepine withdrawal. Although withdrawal symptoms from therapeutic doses of zopiclone and its isomers (i.e., eszopiclone) do not typically present with convulsions and are therefore not considered life-threatening, patients may experience such significant agitation or anxiety that they seek emergency medical attention.
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Zopiclone is used for the short-term treatment of insomnia where sleep initiation or sleep maintenance are prominent symptoms. Long-term use is not recommended, as tolerance, dependence, and addiction can occur. One low-quality study found that zopiclone is ineffective in improving sleep quality or increasing sleep time in shift workers – more research in this area has been recommended.
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be superior to zopiclone in the treatment of insomnia and has been found to have lasting effects on sleep quality for at least a year after therapy.
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