In a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. The CDC also stated that about four percent of people living in the United States use sleeping pills. While many factors cause insomnia, many Americans use medication to find a good night’s sleep.
Ambien, a brand name for the generic drug zolpidem, is one of the most recognized sleeping pills. It is a sedative that many people use to help fight insomnia. While many use this pill for its calming effects, it also has risks.
Addiction to Ambien
The makers of Ambien created and advertised the drug as a less addictive option to benzodiazepines (benzos), a category of drugs used to treat insomnia, anxiety, seizures, and other conditions. Because of its generic name, zolpidem, Ambien is known as a z-drug or a z drug. It is a sedative-hypnotic drug.
Ambien has the same medical effectiveness as benzodiazepines, but produces fewer of the habit-forming dangers that may accompany benzos. Yet Ambien is still a substance that may be addictive. Addiction to this sleeping pill may start in as little as a few weeks.
Many people do not realize that they have a problem with Ambien until they stop taking it. It may be very noticeable when they stop taking Ambien, because they may be unable to sleep. Some of the major signs of addiction are withdrawal symptoms and other signs, which may include:
- Refilling prescriptions frequently
- Taking larger doses of the drug or ignoring other prescription instructions
- Craving the drug
- Participating in risky activities and the inability to recall the activities later
- Spending extra money on Ambien
- Isolating from family members and friends
Understanding Ambien (Zolpidem) Treatment
For some people suffering from substance use disorder, an important step is the recognition that there is a higher power that may help them. They may view their addiction in spiritual way. They may feel that humans have limitations and weaknesses and that there is something greater than themselves. Using this perspective, a higher power may lead to the individuals’ spiritual growth, so they seek treatment and assistance that reinforces these beliefs.
Others believe that addiction is a disease that people should treat like other diseases. According to this philosophy, since addiction affects the brain and the body, medical science and therapy are effective ways to treat the condition. Many addiction treatment centers use these approaches to treat addictions to Ambien, other drugs, and alcohol.
Ambien Effects and Reasons for Abuse
Taking prescription medication without a doctor’s prescription is abuse. Taking more than the prescribed dosage is also considered abuse. If people form a tolerance to Ambien, they will require much higher doses to treat their insomnia. Such doses increase their dependence on the medication, so they will require more to sleep. This drives some users to increase their dose even without their doctors’ consent.
Ambien may be safer to use than medications such as benzodiazepines because Ambien abuse is less likely to cause overdoses. But it may be difficult to recognize Ambien abuse or overdoses. The drug is a sedative and a powerful depressant of the central nervous system (CNS). It may slow users’ breathing and heart rates considerably. It may slow the heartbeat so drastically that it causes heart failure.
Signs of Ambien Use and Abuse
Since there is less chance of overdosing compared to other drugs, some Ambien users may not be aware that they are abusing the drug. They do not realize that they have become reliant on Ambien. It may be difficult to recognize that people are abusing the sleeping aid because it may appear that they are taking the medication as prescribed by their doctors.
In time, their tolerance may increase and they may start taking more doses than prescribed to fall asleep. Ambien may treat sleep problems but it may also make users feel high. There are signs and symptoms that may indicate if users are abusing the sedative. They could include:
- Unusual friendliness and talkativeness
- Atypical behavior without recalling the behavior
- Sleep talking, sleepwalking, and other sleep activities
- Problems with balance and coordination
- Hypersexual behavior
Dangers of Ambien
The regular formulation of Ambien is intended to help users fall asleep. Its extended-release version, Ambien CR, helps users fall asleep and stay asleep. People should only take this sleeping aid if they are available to sleep seven or eight hours. This time period ensures that people have enough time to recover from the effects of the sedative.
If people need to wake up early and are unable to obtain a full seven to eight hours of sleep, they should not take Ambien. Waking up early may cause cognitive problems such as memory loss. It may also trigger changes in thoughts, mood, and behavior. This may be especially applicable to people who have a history of anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses.
Taking Ambien may worsen depression. It may also cause anxiety, hallucinations, mood swings, confusion, and even aggressiveness. The drug may also produce other side effects. They include diarrhea, exhaustion, dizziness, grogginess, and vomiting or nausea. Some people who use such drugs experience headaches, joint and muscle pain, fainting, dry mouth, and low blood pressure.
Sleep Activities and Ambien
Ambien affects the brain’s natural activity. It may produce drowsiness, extreme calmness, and sedation. In an article in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, doctors discussed zolpidem-induced sleepwalking, sleep driving (driving while asleep), and sleep-related eating disorders. Users of Ambien and other sleep aids sometimes participate in different activities while under the influence of the drug.
In one instance, a person had no history of sleepwalking, sleep talking, or other parasomnias (sleep-related disorders) and no history of eating disorders. The person started to experience sleep-related activities several weeks after she began taking zolpidem. She started sleepwalking, sleep talking, and sleep eating. In one incident, she urinated in a hallway while sleeping. Police found her sleeping ten miles from her home. These sleep activities ended when she stopped using the drug.
Hallucinations and Ambien
There are cases of Ambien-induced hallucinations. Some people say that hallucinations occur when the drug’s dosage is not strong enough. Others say that hallucinations occur because users force themselves to stay awake after taking the sleeping aid. These hallucinations range from seeing imaginary people to observing inanimate objects that are able to talk or move.
Drug-related hallucinations may also occur if users have previous histories of mental illness. An article in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine discussed the case of a twenty-year-old person with zolpidem-induced hallucinations. Professionals diagnosed the person with major depressive disorder (MDD). The person reported seeing a Lilliputian (a character from the novel Gulliver’s Travels) and hearing imaginary things.
The hallucinations occurred thirty minutes after taking zolpidem. After the episodes, the person slept comfortably. When asked about the incidents afterward, the person vaguely remembered what had happened.
Using Ambien, even as prescribed, may create potentially severe side effects. It is very important to pay attention to its effects on the body. A user who experiences negative effects on a low dosage may suffer even more grave effects during an overdose. If you or your loved one overdoses on Ambien, find emergency medical assistance immediately.
Overdoses may be deadly. Seeking medical help as soon as possible may prevent major health problems such as long-term brain impairment or even prevent death. People who display the following symptoms may have overdosed on Ambien:
- Slowed or unusual breathing
- Slowed heartbeat or heart rate
- Extreme drowsiness
- Sudden unconsciousness
Common Drug Combinations
Alcohol is one of the most common substances used with Ambien or zolpidem. Over time, a user’s tolerance to Ambien and other drugs increases. As a result, users take higher doses to get much-needed sleep. Some Ambien users with a high tolerance drink alcohol while taking the sleeping aid.
Drinking alcohol intensifies the tranquilizing effect of Ambien. This combination may be lethal since alcohol and Ambien are both depressants that affect the central nervous system (CNS). Other users combine zolpidem with benzodiazepines such as Valium. This is another combination with potentially fatal results.
Drug misuse causes overdoses that contribute to thousands of emergency room visits in the United States every year. These visits include people who used Ambien with other substances. People sometimes use Ambien with alcohol, antianxiety drugs, opioid/opiate painkillers, and other sedative-hypnotic drugs, but this use may be dangerous, even deadly.
Ambien Abuse Statistics
Between 2005 and 2010, there was a 220 percent increase in the number of Ambien-related visits to the emergency room. 70 percent of zolpidem-related emergency cases involved women, while 74 percent of zolpidem-related emergency room visits were people forty-five years old and older.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that “[i]n 2015, 0.6 percent of the population aged twelve or older misused prescription sedatives in the past year.” Between 2006 and 2011, doctors issued 38 million zolpidem prescriptions. Sanofi, the manufacturer of Ambien, earns more than two billion dollars annually from Ambien. The drug is currently one of the most common sleeping aids in the United States.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), sexual predators frequently use sedatives to assault people. People in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada sometimes use Ambien as a recreational drug. Some users take it to feel high. Using Ambien and other prescription drugs for such purposes is illegal and a form of drug abuse.
Recognizing an Addiction to Ambien
Knowing you or your loved one is addicted to a substance such as Ambien may be very difficult, especially if the drug was legally prescribed as a medication. It is important to note that improperly using drugs or sedatives, even legal drugs, may still lead to abuse and addiction.
To determine if you or your loved one is already addicted to Ambien, you may want to take an objective and honest assessment of the situation. Addiction to Ambien may involve some of these signs and symptoms:
- Relationship difficulties: People with addiction issues may be more likely to experience conflicts with family members, friends, coworkers, and classmates.
- Changes in financial habits: Addiction may be present if you notice that your loved one is spending more money on Ambien and less money on bills and other necessities.
- Altered interests: Ambien addiction may make users less motivated and less energetic. They may not enjoy or participate in activities that they once enjoyed. Instead, they may spend their time pursuing and using drugs.
One sign of Ambien addiction is users’ continued consumption of the sleeping aid despite knowing that it has affected them in negative ways.
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- Prioritized Safety
- Relaxing Environment
- Patient’s Privacy
- Customized Treatment
Treatment for Ambien (Zolpidem) Addiction
Users addicted to Ambien receive treatment based on their needs and level of addiction. User often need to undergo Ambien detoxification (detox). Supervised detoxification may decrease the effects of withdrawal symptoms. Rehab programs and facilities offer specialized Ambien treatment, which may incorporate these techniques:
- Sleep hygiene training: These approaches address problems with sleep using the assistance of licensed therapists and other professionals. The training offers healthy ways to improve the quality and the quantity of sleep.
- Behavioral therapy: Various forms of therapy are used to treat addiction. They include contingency management (CM), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and motivational interviewing (MI), among others.
- Family education and therapy: Involving supportive family members and friends may help individuals’ recovery treatment and encourage more successful and longer-lasting recoveries.
- Support groups: This approach can be very helpful, whether used alone or with other treatments. Such groups may allow people with addictions to learn from other people in similar situations.
Find Treatment Now
Breaking free from Ambien addiction often starts with medically supervised detoxification (detox). This process may minimize the issues caused by withdrawal and may minimize the risk for relapse.
There are numerous outpatient clinics or inpatient rehabilitation centers that provide detoxification and counseling. If you or a loved one is ready to quit using drugs, consider contacting Mountain Springs Recovery.