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Ambien Addiction

By We Level Up | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: December 30, 2022

Ambien Addiction

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. However, research indicates that this claim was overstated. Long-term use of Ambien is also linked to major health hazards, such as an increased risk of respiratory problems, reflux, and infections.

Is Ambien Addictive?

Ambien is addictive and 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.

Some additional sedative-hypnotics are:

  • Ativan
  • Restoril
  • Valium
  • Xanax
  • Lunesta
  • Sonata
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How Can You Get Addicted To Ambien?

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 Ambien addiction withdrawal symptoms appear if they stop taking the drug or reduce their dosage. 

A full-blown addiction to Ambien is possible at some point; this is characterized by cravings, reduced control over usage, compulsive use, and persistent use despite negative effects. Many people are unaware of a problem until they stop using the medication and discover they can’t sleep without it.

Ambien (Zolpidem) is commonly prescribed for Insomnia and is one of the top 10 most abused prescription drugs in the US.
Ambien (Zolpidem) is commonly prescribed for Insomnia and is one of the top 10 most abused prescription drugs in the US. Is Ambien addictive? Yes, it is. Ambien addiction treatment may be required when tolerance and side effects of the drug become prominent.

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.

Ambien Addiction Signs. Side Effects of 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.

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Ambien Addiction Treatment FAQs

How Do You Know If You Are Addicted To Ambien?

Some signs of Ambien addiction that you can notice are:

-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.

Why Is Ambien So Addictive?

Ambien addiction begins with a simple case of short-term insomnia.  Is Ambien addicting? Yes, it is. Some users underestimate how addictive Ambien can be because their family doctor prescribes it, and they only use it to help them sleep. However, 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. And they are incapable of sleeping without taking Ambien.

How Long Does It Take To Get Addicted To Ambien?

There are negative consequences associated with Ambien and other zolpidem-containing sleep aids. When drug use first starts, these negative effects appear. They can swiftly get worse. After only a short while, you could develop a drug dependence or addiction.

Is Ambien Addicting Even at a 5mg dose?

While Ambien has a low risk of misuse and dependence, per the DEA Scheduling, it can quickly become an abused sleeping pill. The danger of withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using Ambien is increased by considerable physical and psychological reliance that can develop from self-medicating or long-term Ambien use.

Five warning signals to look out for if you're worried that you or a loved one may be developing an addiction to Ambien.
Learn the five Ambien addiction signs if you’re worried that you or a loved one may be developing an addiction to Ambien.

Am I Addicted To Ambien?

Here are five warning signals to look out for if you’re worried that you or a loved one may be developing an addiction to Ambien:

  • Family members notice a change in you.
  • Problems emerge at work or school.
  • Financial problems keep getting worse.
  • You are unable to stop using Ambien.
  • New health issues are emerging.

Ambien Addiction Side Effects And Risks

With pharmaceuticals and other substances, it’s important to be informed of the risks and potential adverse effects. It turns out that Ambien has a larger risk of abuse, tolerance, physiological dependency, and withdrawal than previously believed. Some possible addiction to Ambien side effects and addiction to Ambien symptoms are:

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

Insomniacs have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep. Your insomnia can get worse if you’ve tried to stop taking Ambien after using it for a long time.

Intensifying sleep apnea, reflux, persistent sinus infections, coughs, and laryngitis are possible additional long-term dangers.

Given that Ambien’s effects can become tolerable, you might need to take higher doses of the medication to achieve the same effects. Some persons who take Ambien claim that they experience euphoria rather than sleepiness.

If you take Ambien and are worried, or if a loved one is addicted to the drug, you should be aware of these possible abuse indicators:

  • Illegally obtaining Ambien.
  • Mixing it with additional chemicals.
  • Ambien-related driving offenses.
  • Having withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit.
  • Committing prescription fraud.
  • Taking it differently than as directed.
  • Missing critical events while sleeping.
  • Strange cravings.
  • Attempting to reduce or quit yet failing.
  • Taking Ambien every night.
  • Obtaining prescriptions from multiple physicians.

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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.

Treatment For Ambien Addiction And Withdrawal

You may suffer more severe withdrawal symptoms if you have taken Ambien in heavy doses or have a long term Ambien addiction. Within 48 hours of quitting or reducing Ambien use, withdrawal symptoms may begin. Withdrawal symptoms might include:

  • Agitation.
  • Panic or anxiety attacks.
  • Tremors.
  • Abdominal discomfort and cramping in the stomach.
  • Delirium.
  • Disorientation.
  • Seizures.
  • Restlessness.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Sickness or vomiting.
  • Increased respiratory rate, pulse, or blood pressure.
  • High fevers.
  • Irritability.
  • Insomnia.
  • Sweating.
  • Fatigue.

When you reduce your substance usage in a facility under the supervision of experienced medical personnel, this process is referred to as medically managed withdrawal, often known as medical detox. The existence of a potential risk of withdrawal seizures is supported by case report information. As a result, medical care for Ambien withdrawal may be advantageous as this consequence has the potential to be fatal. A treatment center’s staff can give you medication and keep an eye on you constantly to ensure your safety.

You will start treatment after you have finished detox. With the help of your treatment team, you should go over your options and choose what is best for you. Options for treatment include:

  • Outpatient treatment: While still residing at home, you attend multiple individual therapy sessions in a week and once a month for a psychiatrist appointment. Although it is considerably less intensive and restrictive, you can still receive care that is comparable to that provided in an inpatient setting. The best candidates for outpatient therapy are those who have finished inpatient therapy or who have robust, encouraging social networks at home.
  • Inpatient treatment: This is a facility where you can remain while receiving rigorous group and one-on-one therapy. You will learn about addiction, relapse prevention, self-care, and how to treat insomnia without turning to addictive sleep aids for patients who are recovering from Ambien usage.

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Recovery And Rehab For Ambien Addiction

Learning to live sober is a necessary part of recovering from an Ambien addiction. Utilizing insomnia management tactics will help you avoid using sleeping drugs. Unmanaged insomniacs must also learn about their diagnosis, the factors that set off their Ambien addiction symptoms, and effective coping mechanisms in order to heal.

Learning to function without Ambien might be challenging and irritating in the short run. You can have trouble falling asleep and have intense Ambien cravings. You could train a variety of skills such as:

  • Avoid using electronics, coffee, or exercise right before bed.
  • Going to bed every night at the same hour.
  • By means of cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT).
  • Relaxation methods, such as yoga and meditation.
  • Keeping your space dark and cool.

It’s critical to give treatment first priority. Following therapy, many people join 12-step programs or other peer support organizations. These are frequently comparable to group therapy in that you can discuss your struggles and achievements with others who are going through substance abuse recovery.

Ambien Addiction Treatment Centers

The We Level Up Ambien addiction treatment centers provide 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.

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