Is Zopiclone a controlled drug?

    Zopiclone is a medication that many people may not have heard of, however, it provides an important service for those that have to use it. Zopiclone is usually used as a short-term treatment for insomnia and is usually only prescribed for between two to four weeks. Does this make Zopiclone a controlled drug, however? A controlled drug is a drug that is under close control by the government as it can lead to abuse and addiction.

    In 1971, the United Kingdom Misuse of Drugs Act was introduced with an aim of controlling the possession and supply of listed drugs and medications. The act also regulated the possession and usage of certain controlled drugs, which is commonly shortened to CD. In medical practice, controlled drugs could lead to addiction if misused/misdiagnosed. For further information regarding controlled drugs, feel free to read this guide from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. In this article, we will talk about Zopiclone specifically in terms of whether it is not a controlled drug or not.

    What is Zopiclone used for?

    Zopiclone is a medication that is used to treat insomnia in the short term. It will not usually be used to treat mild cases of insomnia and will not generally be prescribed to those who are suffering from long-term, severe insomnia. Zopiclone will help those suffering from insomnia to fall asleep easier and quicker by affecting a calming chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. 

    GABA is a neurotransmitter that changes the effectiveness of a nerve cell’s ability to transmit messages in the central nervous system. GABA is known to have a calming effect as it can control nerve cell hyperactivity which is closely associated with feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. These can play a role in the symptoms of insomnia. 

    Zopiclone will take around twenty to forty minutes before it starts to work. You should make sure not to consume alcohol before taking Zopiclone as this can cause you to fall into a much deeper sleep that is harder to wake from naturally. If you feel tired during the day after using Zopiclone then you should refrain from driving or operating heavy machinery.

    Is Zopiclone classified as a controlled drug?

    Zopiclone is part of Schedule 4, Part I of the United Kingdom Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971. Drugs that are under Schedule 4, Part I are subject to minimal control, however, they are still classed as controlled drugs. Zopiclone is a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic, which is the classification of drugs that are named under Schedule 4, Part I. Other non-benzodiazepine hypnotics include zaleplon and zolpidem tartrate

    Schedule 4, Part I drugs do not apply to controlled drug prescription requirements or safe custody requirements. However, it is illegal to both possess or supply Schedule 4 drugs under the United Kingdom Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

    Has Zopiclone always been a controlled drug?

    Zopiclone was first developed and introduced in 1986 by Rhône-Poulenc S.A., which is now part of Sanofi-Aventis. To start with, Zopiclone was positioned as an improved version of benzodiazepines, however, when it was tested further it was deemed as having the same effects as benzodiazepines. On April the 4th 2005, Zopiclone was classified as a Schedule 4 drug due to the fact that it has similar addictive qualities as benzodiazepines. In June 2014 Zopiclone was placed in Schedule 4, Part I alongside benzodiazepines and Zaleplon.

    Why is Zopiclone classified as a controlled drug now?

    As mentioned, Zopiclone was first introduced as an improved version of benzodiazepines. When it was tested further it was noticed that it had similar addictive properties to benzodiazepines and was subsequently positioned in Schedule 4 as a controlled drug and has been since April 2005. Zopiclone was further classified as Schedule 4, Part I in June 2014 when benzodiazepines were as well. This is again because it has similar addictive properties to benzodiazepines. 

    What does Zopiclone being a controlled drug mean for patients in the UK?

    Patients do not need to worry when their medication is controlled as they will not have to deal with it directly themselves. It is the responsibility of the prescriber to ensure that all guidelines are being followed when they prescribe controlled drugs. The responsibility of upholding the guidance around controlled drugs is placed on the suppliers, prescribers, and pharmacies that provide them. Controlled drugs, including Zopiclone, are only available via a prescription and it is illegal to supply them without an appropriate prescription. 

    Zopiclone can also only be prescribed for short-term use. The typical period of Zopiclone use is between two to four weeks. This is because your body will become used to it quickly and its effects will not be as useful as they need to be. This short-term use is also because you can become dependent on the medication.

    Should I still take precautions when using Zopiclone as a pain killer?

    Zopiclone is a medication that is used to treat insomnia. This is what Zopiclone is prescribed for, and should be what it is used for. Zopiclone should not be used for any other reason other than what it has been prescribed for. It is important to stress the importance of using your prescribed medication correctly for your health. 

    Can I get a prescription for Zopiclone?

    If you feel like a prescription of Zopiclone would benefit you and your health then you may wish to go to your GP, who will then be able to provide you with a prescription if they feel it is necessary. Alternatively, you can fill out a consultation form with EU Meds. If your consultation is successful then you will then be able to purchase your Zopiclone with a valid prescription provided to you. 

    Sources

    https://www.chemistanddruggist.co.uk/CD017059/Tramadol-zopiclone-and-zaleplon-reclassified-as-controlled-drugs

    https://medicines.necsu.nhs.uk/recent-changes-in-controlled-drug-legislation-for-tramadol-lisdexamfetamine-zopiclone-and-zapelon/

    https://www.england.nhs.uk/south/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2018/06/nhse-cd-newsletter-dcios-may14-suppl.pdf

    https://bnf.nice.org.uk/medicines-guidance/controlled-drugs-and-drug-dependence/

    https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/sleeping-pills-and-minor-tranquillisers/before-taking-them/

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