Ambien is in a class of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics.  It works by activating the neurotransmitter GABA, which slows down the brain and the central nervous system.  Ambien is used to treat insomnia but is only intended for short-term use.  Ambien addiction is due to prolonged use to fall asleep. There are two forms of Ambien; a quick-release form that helps initiate sleep and an extended-release form that helps maintain sleep.

Ambien makers created and marketed the drug as a less addictive alternative to benzos for acute insomnia.  However, while it generally takes users longer to develop an addiction to Ambien than to Benzos, and withdrawal from Ambien is usually less severe and dangerous than Benzo withdrawal, Ambien is still an addictive substance.  In addition, it is now recognized that Ambien has a very similar potential for abuse as Benzos, causing Ambien addiction.

The physical dependence on Ambien can form in as little as two weeks, whether the user is following a prescription or abusing the drug. In addition, the user requires more significant amounts of the substance to feel the same effect, and withdrawal symptoms appear if they stop taking the drug or reducing their dosage. 

Suffering Ambien Addiction
Ambien (Zolpidem) is commonly prescribed for Insomnia.

Eventually, Ambien dependence may become a full-blown addiction characterized by increased tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, impaired control, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and cravings.  Unfortunately, many people don’t know they have a problem until they stop taking the drug and realize they cannot sleep without it.

Signs Of An Ambien Addiction

  • Refilling prescriptions unusually often
  • Repeatedly taking larger doses than prescribed
  • Experiencing cravings for Ambien
  • Engaging in dangerous situations without any memory of them later
  • Spending large amounts of money on the drug
  • Isolating oneself from family and friends

Ambien addiction begins with a simple case of short-term insomnia.  Some users underestimate the addictive potential of Ambien because a doctor prescribes it, and they only use it to help them sleep.  Ambien becomes less and less effective after taking it for more than a couple of weeks.  At this point, some users can’t stop taking the drug because their insomnia is even worse — they are incapable of sleeping without Ambien.

What is Ambien?

Ambien is the brand name of Zolpidem.  It is primarily prescribed as a temporary treatment for insomnia.  Ambien is taken by mouth as a small, oblong tablet or as an extended-release tablet.  Some people may crush up the pills and snort them to get a more substantial effect.  Slang terms for Ambien include no-gos, zombie pills, sleep easy, tic-tacs and A-minus. 

Ambien was primarily marketed as an alternative to benzodiazepines, like Halcion, which came under public scrutiny for their addictive potential and other side effects.  The makers of Ambien claimed their drug was safer and less addictive.

Ambien is a schedule IV controlled substance.  According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), this means people aren’t likely to use it recreationally.  Despite this, many users have abused the drug for its euphoric and hallucinatory effects.

Ambien Addiction and Associated Risks

Risks and side effects are always something to be aware of with medications and other drugs.  The potential for misuse, tolerance, physiological dependence, and withdrawal with Ambien is higher than initially thought.  Side effects can include.

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Doing things you can’t remember
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired Driving
  • Lack of Coordination
  • Nightmares
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Suicidal Thoughts

People with insomnia find it difficult to fall or stay asleep.  If you have been using Ambien long-term and have tried to stop using the drug, your insomnia can worsen.

Additional long-term risks may include worsening sleep apnea, reflux, chronic sinus infections, coughs, and laryngitis.

Since you can develop tolerance to the effects of Ambien, you may find yourself taking larger doses to get the same results from the drug.  Instead of feeling sleepy, some people report feeling euphoric when they take Ambien.

Ambien Abuse

Taking Ambien without a prescription or in any way not directed by a doctor is abuse.  Once someone builds a tolerance to Ambien, they need larger doses to fall asleep.  This strengthens their dependence on the drug to sleep and causes many users to escalate their doses without medical guidance.

Ambien is meant to be taken immediately before bed, but some people have been known to take the drug hours before sleeping.  This leads to a euphoria that washes away insecurity and self-conscious behavior.

Ambien is a safer alternative to benzodiazepine sedatives in some ways because there is less potential to overdose on the drug.  It may be hard to detect an Ambien overdose because the signs of overdose are similar to the effects of the drug.  As a potent central nervous system depressant, Ambien, when taken in large doses, can slow a user’s breathing and heart rate to the point where respiratory failure occurs.  The result could be a fatal overdose.  Prolonged breathing or heartbeat is a strong indication that the user is in trouble.

Common Drug Combinations

One of the most common substances used with Ambien is alcohol.  Often when someone’s tolerance to Ambien builds, they need higher doses of the drug to fall asleep.  Some people with an Ambien tolerance take a drink with their pill to amplify the drug’s sedative effects.  This is dangerous because both drugs depress the central nervous system.

Some people have also combined Ambien with benzos like Valium.  This is especially dangerous because Ambien is very similar to benzos, and they are both central nervous system depressants.  There is also a risk of damage to the heart, brain, and lungs.

Recovering from Ambien addiction begins with a medically-assisted detox.  The detox process helps prevent relapse and issues caused by withdrawal symptoms.  In addition, many inpatient rehabs and outpatient clinics provide resources for detox and counseling to work out behaviors that lead to Ambien use.  If you’re struggling with an Ambien addiction and ready to quit, contact a dedicated treatment provider to find out about your treatment options today.

We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope.  We work as an integrated team providing support through Ambien addiction and other aspects of treatment.  Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life.  Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists.  Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.