How Drugs Affect Dreams | Banyan Delaware

How Drugs Affect Dreams

How Drugs Affect Dreams

Many drugs are known for affecting the brain’s chemical makeup, impacting cognitive function, behavior, and mental health.

Because drug abuse is known for causing so many adverse effects, it’s no surprise that drugs can affect dreams as well. Prescription drugs that treat mental disorders like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder can affect users’ dreams. Other mind-altering drugs like hallucinogens are also known for the psychedelic effects they cause, both in and out of sleep. 

As a rehab center in Delaware, we know that drugs can affect every area of a person’s life, even when they’re asleep. Even short-term drug abuse can lead to changes in the mind, and years of active addiction can definitely affect your dreams.

How Do Drugs Affect Dreaming?

Many people, regardless of their experience with drug use, have wondered how drugs affect dreams. Even people who take their medications according to their prescriptions have experienced odd dreams. However, the people who struggle with substance abuse disorders experience an array of intense, disturbing, and odd dreams. 

How drugs affect dreams is directly linked to something called rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep). REM sleep is a phase of sleep during which the individual experiences the most dreams. As the name suggests, people tend to move their eyes rapidly in all directions during this phase of sleep. Normally, the production of biogenic amines (like adrenaline and dopamine) decreases, and acetylcholine activity increases. This particular neurotransmitter is released by motor neurons in the nervous system to active muscle movement. However, it also plays a significant role in attention, arousal, and memory. Drugs that increase the activity of these neurotransmitters tend to increase REM sleep and affect dreams in the process. 

Different drugs and nightmares have been linked to each other in several studies. While there are people who take prescription drugs responsibly and still experience odd dreams, the effect of substance abuse on dreams is a whole different story. Drug addiction can not only affect your dreams, but it can deteriorate your physical and mental health, often resulting in conditions like heart disease, liver disease, and mental illness. We offer a medically monitored detox at Banyan Delaware to help addicts take the first step in their recovery journey. Addiction is a chronic disease, and the most effective way to treat it is with professional help.   

Drugs That Affect Dreams 


Donepezil is used to treat dementia-related to Alzheimer’s disease. While it doesn’t cure this condition, it can improve patients’ memory, awareness, and cognitive ability. Although this medication has its benefits, it’s been known for causing nightmares in patients who take it before bedtime. A 2005 study reported that there is a clear correlation between an evening dose of donepezil and nightmares. Researchers suggested that the visual cortex of the brain is activated by this drug during REM, causing nightmares.  


Galantamine is another medication that is used to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s. It’s also been linked to lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is a state of consciousness in which a person is aware they’re dreaming. A 2018 study reported that galantamine noticeably increases the likelihood of lucid dreaming.


Benzos include medications like Valium and Xanax. They’re tranquilizers that are used to treat insomnia. Because of their sedative effects, they can help patients fall asleep and stay asleep. Because these medications are highly addictive, many individuals who misuse them quickly develop a dependency. Aside from the additional dangers a benzo addiction can cause, they’re also known for affecting dreams. According to a study testing benzo-related dream modifications, they were linked to more unpleasant, aggressive, and sexual dreams.

MDMA (Ecstasy)

MDMA, better known as ecstasy or molly, is a psychoactive drug that is used for recreational purposes. It produces altering effects and sensations, as well as feelings of euphoria and pleasure. While this drug is toxic for the mind and body, it’s also known for causing persistent sleep disturbances and unpleasant dreams.   
While some of these drugs are prescribed medications, they also have the potential for abuse. Continuous misuse or abuse of these drugs can affect much more than just dreams. While nightmares are unpleasant, any form of drug addiction can cause more severe problems for a person’s physical and mental health. 

Don’t let drug abuse run your life. Make the decision to get sober today. Call us at Banyan Treatment Centers Delaware now at
888-280-4763 for more information about our residential treatment program.

  1. NCBI- The Biogenic Amines
  2. NIH- Nightmares in patients with Alzheimer's disease caused by donepezil. Therapeutic effect depends on the time of intake
  3. NCBI- Pre-sleep treatment with galantamine stimulates lucid dreaming: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study
  4. NCBI- Benzodiazepine-induced modifications of dream content: the effect of flunitrazepam

Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.

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