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Ambien Abuse Side Effects

Ambien Abuse Side Effects & Treatment

Abusing Ambien. Ambien Abuse Potential. Ambien Abuse Signs.

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What is Ambien?

Zolpidem, sold under the brand name Ambien, among others, is a medication primarily used for the short-term treatment of sleeping problems. Ambien is used to treat insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep). Ambien belongs to a class of medications called sedative-hypnotics. It works by slowing activity in the brain to allow sleep. [1]

Ambien Abuse Potential

Ambien should normally be taken for short periods of time. If you take Ambien for 2 weeks or longer, Ambien may not help you sleep as well as it did when you first began to take the medication. Unfortunately, this drug may be habit-forming or may cause sedatives addiction.

Ambien, a nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic, binds to the benzodiazepine binding site on the gamma-aminobutyric acid type A (GABA-A) receptors. Many studies have reported the efficacy and safety of zolpidem in the treatment of insomnia, low abuse, and dependence capability. However, many cases of zolpidem abuse and dependence were reported around the world. [2]

Ambien Abuse Signs

The signs related to Ambien dependence include:

  • Tolerance
  • Signs of withdrawal
  • Use of the drug out of its therapeutic field (high doses, daytime consumption), with a goal other than treatment of insomnia, and they are unable to control the use of zolpidem (Ambien)
Ambien Abuse Side Effects
Controlling anxiety and stress is the main reason or cause of Ambien abuse side effects.

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Ambien Abuse Symptoms

Ambien abuse side effects will cause the user to become drowsy, tired, and lethargic. Even for someone who is not addicted to Ambien, there are certain side effects associated with taking the drug.

Short-term Ambien abuse side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • A headache
  • Unusual dreams
  • Dizziness
  • A feeling of having been drugged
  • Blackouts
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Heartburn
  • Uncontrolled sleepwalking, eating, or sexual activity

Ambien abuse side effects can also have rebound symptoms the morning after. “Hangover” or drowsiness and impaired cognitive function can make driving extremely dangerous. This rebound effect naturally increases with Ambien’s abuse.

Ambien Abuse Side Effects & Overdose

Ambien may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • Drowsiness
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drugged feeling
  • Unsteady walking
  • Difficulty keeping balance
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Heartburn
  • Stomach pain or tenderness
  • Changes in appetite
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
  • Pain, burning, numbness, or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, or legs
  • Unusual dreams
  • Redness, burning, or tingling of the tongue (with sublingual tablets)
  • Dry mouth or throat
  • Ringing, pain, or itching in the ears
  • Eye redness
  • Muscle aches or cramps
  • Joint, back, or neck pain
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding

Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms, or those listed in the IMPORTANT WARNINGS or SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS sections, call your doctor immediately:

  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Feeling that the throat is closing
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Yellow eyes or skin
  • Light-colored stools
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Blurred vision or other vision problems

Ambien may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while you are taking this medication. If the victim has collapsed, had a seizure, has trouble breathing, or can’t be awakened, immediately call emergency services at 911.

Symptoms of Ambien drug overdose may include the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Coma (loss of consciousness for a period of time)
  • Slowed breathing or heartbeat

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Sleepwalking and Other Activities

According to FDA, there are rare but serious injuries that have happened with certain common prescription insomnia medicines because of sleep behaviors, including sleepwalking. Serious injuries and death from complex sleep behaviors have occurred in individuals with and without a history of such behaviors, even at the lowest recommended doses, and the behaviors can occur after just one dose. These behaviors can occur after taking these medications with or without alcohol or other central nervous system depressants that may be sedating such as tranquilizers, opioids, and anti-anxiety drugs. [3]

Ambien Abuse Side Effects
A large number of drugs are associated with sedative addiction after chronic exposure, although the risk varies among them.


There are cases associated with Ambien abuse side effects that included:

  • Accidental overdoses
  • Falls
  • Burns
  • Near drowning
  • Exposure to extreme cold temperatures leads to loss of limb
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Drowning
  • Hypothermia
  • Motor vehicle collisions with the patient driving
  • Self-injuries such as gunshot wounds and apparent suicide attempts

Patients usually did not remember these events. 


A sleep-related eating disorder has been described in association with Ambien abuse side effects. The effects can produce uncontrollable nocturnal eating.

Having Sex While Asleep

Often, the user who has taken Ambien has no recollection of these activities when they wake up. If you have depression, Ambien abuse side effects can make symptoms worse.

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Long-Term Effects of Ambien Abuse

Do not take a larger dose of Ambien, take it more often, or take it for a longer time than prescribed by your doctor. Do not stop taking Ambien without talking to your doctor, especially if you have taken it for longer than 2 weeks. If you suddenly stop taking Ambien, you may develop unpleasant feelings or mood changes or you may experience other withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Shakiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Stomach and muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Flushing
  • Tiredness
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Nervousness
  • Panic attack
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a part of your body
  • Seizures

Ambien Abuse Statistics

Misuse of prescription psychotherapeutic drugs, including sedatives, is second only to marijuana as the nation’s most prevalent illicit drug use issue. All sedative and hypnotic drugs pose a significant risk of physical and psychological dependence.

According to National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2015, the most commonly used prescription sedatives were zolpidem products, such as Ambien®, Ambien® CR, and generic zolpidem, extended-release generic zolpidem, and similar products. An estimated 11.5 million people aged 12 or older used zolpidem products in the past year, representing 4.3% of the population. [4]

Ambien Abuse Side Effects
Withdrawal from sedative addiction poses a risk of seizures, which can be very dangerous if not treated immediately.

Ambien Addiction Treatment Centers

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of withdrawals.

Medically-Assisted Detox

If you are experiencing Ambien abuse or Ambien and alcohol addiction, it’s crucial to first get an accurate assessment of all the symptoms. When the symptoms have been evaluated by a mental health professional, it may be determined that another form of mental condition is present and needs a particular type of treatment. Very often, some combination of psychotherapy, medication, and/or lifestyle changes are effective for coping with functional. 

Medical detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated process of Ambien withdrawal, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to drug use. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.


Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of mental health disorders along with addiction, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves making changes in both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Solution Focused Therapy – is an approach interested in solutions that can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for substance use disorders and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures.

Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily. If you or a loved one are struggling with Ambien abuse side effects and a co-occurring mental health condition such as depression, contact one of our helpful treatment specialists today. We Level Up can provide information on dual diagnosis and detox programs that may fit your specific needs.


[1] Zolpidem – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health
[2] Zolpidem dependence, abuse, and withdrawal: A case report – National Center for Biotechnology Information
[3] FDA adds Boxed Warning for risk of serious injuries caused by sleepwalking with certain prescription insomnia medicines – U.S. Food & Drug Administration
[4] Prescription Drug Use and Misuse in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

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