There are three main types of medications that are commonly prescribed for patients with insomnia in Hong Kong.
You can buy medication over the counter without a doctor’s prescription that acts on the histamine receptors (such as medicine for the common cold) and the melatonin receptors.
While they are considered first-line therapy, many patients develop tolerance to these medications, and the sleep-promoting effects eventually wear off after prolonged use. Medications acting on the benzodiazepine receptors, including Z drugs (zopiclone or zolpidem), traditional benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium) and lorazepam (Ativan), are also helpful in sleep promotion and maintaining sleep throughout the night. However, these lead to dependence and other side effects such as sleepwalking. As such, they are only available with a doctor’s prescription.
There are other off-label uses of medications that doctors might prescribe for sleep promotion purposes. If a patient is suffering from a co-morbid mental illness, the doctor may choose to prescribe a medication to treat the underlying mental illness with a sedating side-effect, in order to treat the coexisting insomnia.
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