Dominion Diagnostics, a national provider of drug testing, medication monitoring, and actionable clinical information, now offers a new laboratory?based urine test for the detection of commonly prescribed Z?Drugs.

“Z?Drugs” are a class of non?benzodiazepine medications prescribed mainly for the treatment of insomnia. Included in this group are zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and zaleplon (Sonata). Their growth in popularity has been due to their being promoted as an alternative drug class that exhibits clinical effects similar to those of benzodiazepines but with less potential to cause side effects such as residual daytime sedation and rebound insomnia.

Despite their claim to be safer than benzodiazepines, Z?Drugs, particularly zolpidem, have become popular among recreational drug users, who describe visual effects, euphoric experiences, and hallucinations, Dominion Diagnostics says. Tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal are all reported with these drugs, although they tend to be less severe and less common than with benzodiazepines. Withdrawal symptoms include delirium, craving, anxiety, tremor, palpitations, and rarely seizures and psychosis.

The potential for abuse exists for all Z-Drugs but appears to be most common with zolpidem and eszopiclone, Dominion Diagnostics says. Zolpidem has been noted as the drug most often implicated in emergency department visits, accounting for 11.5% of all adult psychiatric medication adverse drug effect visits. In visits involving adults 65 years or older, it was involved 21% of the time.

Dominion’s testing for Z?Drugs is performed by ultra performance liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC?MS/MS) and detects zolpidem, zolpidem metabolite, eszopiclone, eszopiclone metabolite, and zaleplon.

“The addition of Z?Drugs to our testing menu is important as we see increased popularity in Z-Drugs prescribed as sleep aids,” says Lawrence Andrade, Manager of Research and Development at Dominion Diagnostics, in a release. “Although they are mainly used for the same purpose, Z?Drugs are chemically distinct from benzodiazepine medications and will not be detected in a benzodiazepines screening test or confirmatory procedure.”