Ambien is the brand name for zolpidem, a powerful sedative prescribed to people who have chronic insomnia. Users can become addicted if they use this drug longer than two weeks or at higher than prescribed doses. When taken as prescribed by a doctor, zolpidem helps patients with insomnia. However, it can also cause undesired side effects–especially in those who abuse it. Misuse can cause addiction, overdose, or death. In addition, Ambien addiction can harm a person’s body, imbalance their mind, and destroy meaningful relationships.
Zolpidem tartrate is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance by federal regulation. According to the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) , persons with a history of addiction to drugs or alcohol should be carefully monitored when receiving zolpidem because they are at increased risk and more likely to get addicted to this drug. Moreover, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) , 741,000 Americans age 12 or older abused zolpidem, specifically, in 2018.
The physical dependence on Ambien can form in as little as two weeks, whether the user is following a prescription or abusing the drug. Tolerance develops when the user requires large amounts of Ambien to feel the same effect. Withdrawal symptoms begin if the user stops taking the drug or reducing their dosage. Ambien Addiction starts when the user begins to act in ways that are damaging to them in order to continue its use.
Signs of Ambien Addiction
It is difficult to tell if a person is struggling with Ambien Addiction, particularly when they’ve been given a legitimate prescription from their doctor. However, there are signs of abuse of prescription drugs that may indicate someone who takes Ambien is abusing it.
Indications of Ambien Abuse
- Taking Ambien in a way other than prescribed, such as crushing and snorting the pills
- Taking Ambien that was prescribed to someone else
- Appearing overly sleepy or looking “drugged” during the day
- Taking more Ambien than prescribed or taking it more often than directed
- Frequently requesting refills on the prescription or “doctor-shopping” to get more prescriptions for Ambien
- Lying about their Ambien use
- Noticeable changes in behavior
- Financial problems or requests for money with no good reason
Taking the drug with another central nervous system (CNS) depressants like alcohol, opioids or benzodiazepines significantly raises overdose risk and can be an Ambien addiction deadly effect.
If Ambien is dissolved under the tongue or crushed and snorted, it reaches the bloodstream faster and all at once. This can produce a more intense effect, which makes it a desirable method of abuse. It can also increase toxicity levels too rapidly and cause an overdose.
It is especially dangerous to abuse the extended-release version of Ambien (Ambien CR) in these ways. Ambien CR contains a higher dose of zolpidem that is intended to be dispersed through the body over time. If it hits the bloodstream all at once, it can have a drastic effect.
Ambien Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms
- Mood Swings
- Cravings for Ambien
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Abdominal Cramps or Discomfort
- Uncontrolled Crying or Depression
- Panic Attacks
- Rapid Heart Rate and Breathing
- Rebound Insomnia
Factors Determining Ambien Withdrawal Side Effects
How Long the Person Took Ambien
- When a person takes it as prescribed for a short time, withdrawal symptoms are less likely to occur, and they are less intense and extreme.
How Much of The Substance Was Taken
- If a person takes more of the drug than prescribed, he or she is more likely to have Ambien addiction side effects in turn develop a resistance to the drug, requiring more Ambien to feel “normal.” This can increase physical and mental withdrawal symptoms.
If the Ambien Was the Extended-Release Version or Not
- Compared to non-extended-release drugs, extended-release medications have a higher dose of the medicine. However, this ensures that it is released slowly into the bloodstream when the drug is administered correctly. Addiction allows people to circumvent the chemicals that delay the release and take a heavy dose of Ambien all at once. Withdrawal symptoms can become even more severe as a result of this.
If the Person Used Other Drugs in Addition to Ambien
- Other medications, alcohol, or illegal drugs may amplify the effects of Ambien, potentially enhancing the “high.” In addition, if a person abruptly stops using all drugs, withdrawal symptoms are likely to worsen.
Medically Assisted Ambien Detox and Treatment
Help for Ambien addiction and its withdrawal may be necessary for those who abuse Ambien along with alcohol or other drugs, and who are physiologically dependent on one or more substances. Those who have been abusing or addicted to Ambien, and especially those experiencing polysubstance dependence, may have more severe symptoms. They may require a period of medical detox prior to initiating inpatient treatment.
Medical detox is when you decrease the use of Ambien in a facility while under the care of trained medical staff because of a potential risk of withdrawal seizures. For this reason, medical management of Ambien withdrawal could be beneficial as this is potentially a life-threatening complication. Staff at a treatment or detox facility can provide medication and constant monitoring to ensure safety.
Sedative-hypnotic addiction is not treatable with detox alone. Addiction treatment involves much more than overcoming physical dependence. Through rehabilitation, particularly inpatient treatment, the person will learn the skills needed to live in recovery and work through the issues that may have led you to abuse Ambien in the first place.
Treating Co-Occurring Disorder
For someone struggling with insomnia and a substance use disorder, it’s essential that, during rehab, the treatment plan identifies the cause of insomnia. Insomnia as a result of a substance use disorder will focus more on the treatment of the SUD. Substance use disorder as a result of an insomnia disorder will primarily focus on treating insomnia.
Therapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), is an evidence-based treatment that has been proven effective for many mental, behavioral, and substance abuse issues. In addition, it has been helpful in treating insomnia. Research further indicates that CBT for insomnia has as much benefit as Ambien and other sleep drugs in the short term and an even more significant lasting benefit.
Find the Right Mental Health Treatment Plan for You
Inpatient medical detox and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at our affiliated facility at Level Up West Palm Beach Rehab. For some primary behavioral health treatment clients, medical detox and or addiction rehab may be required first. If you have a co-occurring severe substance abuse diagnosis, please contact us prior to beginning inpatient mental health therapy. Treatment services may vary. Please call us to learn which treatment options are most suited for your individual needs.