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Zaleplon is classified as a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic in the pyrazolopyrimidine chemical class. It is delivered in capsule form and is usually taken with food. While the exact chemical mechanism of zaleplon is not yet fully understood, it appears to work by increasing the availability and effectiveness of the neurotransmitter GABA inside the brain. This increased availability aids in slowing neural activity within the brain and depressing certain other functions of the central nervous system. Patients should not discontinue using zaleplon abruptly; the medication can be habit-forming and may cause serious withdrawal symptoms if proper care is not used.

Uses for Zaleplon

Zaleplon is most commonly prescribed for insomnia. As a result, it can be useful for patients with severe or chronic back pain that interferes with regular sleep. While zaleplon is not thought to directly relieve back pain, it can provide an added degree of comfort to patients in managing their treatment for spinal injuries, muscle strains and other serious back disorders.

Contraindications for Zaleplon

Zaleplon should not be used by patients who are allergic to it or any other non-benzodiazepine hypnotic medication. Additionally, zaleplon may not be right for patients suffering from the following conditions:

  • Liver problems
  • Severely high or low blood pressure
  • Respiratory difficulties, including asthma and emphysema
  • Depression
  • Addictive behaviors, including drug and alcohol abuse

Elderly patients may experience heightened susceptibility to the effects of zaleplon and should take extra precautions during use. As with any prescription medication, zaleplon should be used only under the supervision of a physician. The effects of zaleplon on fetal development and on infants are not known; as a result, pregnant and nursing women should not take this medication.

Known Drug Interactions

Zaleplon is known to interact with a number of other medications, herbal supplements and other substance. Patients should inform their physician and pharmacist if they are currently taking any of the following:

  • Prescription or nonprescription antihistamines
  • Barbiturates
  • Cough and cold medications
  • Allergy pills
  • Seizure medications
  • Prescription pain relievers
  • Sedatives and sleeping pills

These medications may amplify the effects of zaleplon and cause severe depression of the nervous system, leading to respiratory depression in susceptible individuals. It is essential to notify appropriate medical personnel immediately if any signs of respiratory distress occur in patients using zaleplon.

Side Effects of Zaleplon

The primary side effect of zaleplon is sleepiness; as it is a medication intended to treat insomnia, this may seem obvious. However, the drowsiness and sleepiness caused by zaleplon can cause serious difficulties for patients who attempt to continue regular activities while using the medication. It is advised that patients take the medication right before bedtime and avoid driving, cooking and other activities while under the influence of zaleplon. Other side effects include the following:

  • Headache
  • Reduced physical coordination
  • Lessening of appetite
  • Increased sensitivity to noise and odor
  • Menstrual pain
  • Numbness and tingling in the extremities

These side effects are usually mild; serious side effects of zaleplon include the following symptoms:

  • Rashes, especially hives or swelling
  • Generalized itching
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swollen throat, tongue or facial features
  • Hoarseness
  • Sleepwalking
  • Hallucinations

Patients who experience serious reactions while using zaleplon should contact their physician and seek immediate medical attention.

Zaleplon can provide help in sleeping for patients with chronic or acute back pain. This can speed the healing process and allow a greater degree of comfort for the patient. As with all prescription drugs, zaleplon should be used only under the supervision and guidance of a trained medical professional.