Ambien (zolpidem) is a sedative-hypnotic drug prescribed for short-term use to treat insomnia. It is available as an immediate-release (IR) or extended-release (ER) tablet and is prescribed based on the nature of the person’s sleeping troubles.
People who take Ambien for longer than prescribed, or in higher doses, may be at risk for developing a physical dependence on Ambien. This can cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms with reduced or stopped doses and increase the risk of developing a psychological addiction.
Other adverse side effects, such as memory problems and lasting drowsiness the following day, can also occur when taking Ambien. Taking Ambien in any way other than prescribed is considered drug abuse and can be a sign of addiction.
- taking large or multiple doses
- taking it for reasons other than prescribed
- crushing and snorting Ambien tablets
- mixing Ambien with alcohol or other drugs
- continuing to take Ambien for longer than directed
Ambien abuse can cause several dangerous side effects, including bizarre changes in behavior, blackouts, and driving while not fully awake. Having an addiction to Ambien, or seeing someone you care about struggling, can be a confusing and frightening experience.
If you or someone you know is abusing Ambien, professional treatment may be required to stop using the drug.
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How Does Ambien Work?
When taken, Ambien is rapidly absorbed into the body and binds to GABA receptors in the brain capable of slowing down functions throughout the body. Within an hour, Ambien can make a person drowsy enough to fall asleep and stay asleep for at least seven to eight hours.
Ambien was originally marketed as a drug with less addictive potential than benzodiazepines, which have a high potential for abuse and can cause severe dependence. Studies have shown, however, that people can build a tolerance to Ambien within a few weeks, which can result in physical and psychological dependence.
This can make it difficult for people to stop using the drug on their own, even when they have been taking the medication as prescribed. Some people begin to rely on Ambien to help them sleep, or up their dosage on their own to keep up with their body’s tolerance to smaller doses. This can lead to a dangerous pattern of increasing Ambien doses, resulting in stronger dependence on the drug and risking serious effects on mood and behavior.
Side Effects Of Ambien Abuse
Ambien has a long list of potential side effects, including lasting drowsiness the day after taking the drug. Taking Ambien in any way other than directed can increase the risk for these side effects and cause them to be more intense.
Side effects of Ambien abuse may include:
- impaired motor control
- problems with coordination
- bloodshot eyes
- memory problems
- slow breathing
- stomach pain
- changes in appetite
Taking excessive doses of Ambien can also lead to overdose. People who have overdosed on Ambien may experience unusually slow breathing and slow or irregular heartbeats. If someone is unresponsive or has lost consciousness after taking Ambien, call 9-1-1 right away.
Symptoms Of Ambien Abuse
Drug abuse can have far-reaching effects on a person’s daily life, causing changes in behavior, and impacting their ability to function in their normal routine. This can affect a person’s work, relationships, and cause mood problems such as anxiety and depression.
Signs and symptoms of Ambien abuse may include:
- drug cravings
- unable to focus on anything other than taking or getting more of the drug
- going to multiple doctors to get more Ambien prescriptions
- isolating from friends or family
- having financial problems
- acting out aggressively or behaving in a bizarre manner
- forgetting things you did while under the influence
- having trouble sleeping (rebound insomnia)
Misusing Ambien over an extended amount of time can make a person unrecognizable from who they were before using the drug. This can be difficult for the person struggling, as well as people around them who may be confused by the person’s drug abuse and feel helpless to get them to stop.
Dangers Of Abusing Ambien
Ambien abuse can pose several dangers to a person’s wellbeing, including risk for overdose and serious injuries due to mental and physical impairment.
Earlier this year, Ambien was included in a drug safety report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as one of several prescription sleep aids now required to have its side effects listed for a warning on prescription labels.
This follows a safety announcement issued by the FDA in 2013 requiring dose recommendations be lowered for Ambien due to the lasting mental and physical impairment following doses higher than 5 mg (IR) or 6.25 mg (Ambien CR). These effects can last for up to 11 hours after taking the drug and put people at risk for motor accidents, confusion, and other injuries.
People taking Ambien have also reported incidences of sleepwalking, where they have engaged in activities without being fully awake.
The most common of these sleepwalking activities include:
- driving while only half awake
- talking to people
- making phone calls
- having sex
- eating or preparing food
According to the FDA, these dangerous side effects are more common in people taking the extended-release tablet, known as Ambien CR.
People who engage in these sleepwalking activities while under the influence of Ambien may or may not remember doing so the next day. Abusing Ambien can lead to even more severe effects as well as continued episodes of blackouts with continued use of the drug.
Treatment For Ambien Abuse
Side effects of Ambien abuse can grow worse over time as the problem becomes more ingrained in a person’s life, causing more serious effects on physical and emotional health.
The first step to recover from Ambien abuse after developing dependence is medically supervised detox. This is a process of allowing the drug to completely leave a person’s system, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms that may be difficult to manage alone.
At Vertava Health, we offer comprehensive treatment programs that include medical detox services, as well as behavioral treatments such as counseling and group therapy. Our treatment centers offer a safe setting for people to explore all of the ways their addiction has negatively impacted their lives, and help them develop healthy skills for recovery.
By reaching out to our treatment specialists, we can help you develop a treatment plan that is personalized to meet the personal needs of yourself or a loved one.
Contact our treatment specialists today to learn more about Ambien abuse and treatment options.