Ambien is a common sleeping aid that has been prescribed in some form since the late 1980s.  However, there are many consequences for Ambien overuse, and it is possible to become addicted to Ambien.

Science and medicine have developed many techniques designed to help people cope with the stress in their lives and get a better night’s sleep. Medications are often prescribed when a person is experiencing temporary sleeplessness to get a good night’s sleep. Ambien and other medications are effective for short-term use and found to be less habit-forming than benzodiazepines, such as Xanax; however, it is still possible to misuse Ambien and become addicted.

Causes of Ambien Addiction

As with many substances, there are many potential causes of Ambien addiction.

From a physical perspective, Ambien works by slowing down what is happening in your brain. This essentially allows your mind to calm down and let you get a good night’s sleep. Ambien tends to work very quickly – in as little as 30 minutes – and helps you stay asleep. There are side effects, of course, as many people find themselves less alert in the morning. More severe side effects include memory loss, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, and more.

There are multiple dangers associated with using Ambien for more than a short-term period. It is meant to be used as a temporary sleep aid, and even then, only to help people sleep when they have issues doing so or are in a particularly stressful period. Using so for longer periods can alter your body chemistry and make someone dependent on the drug. This, of course, can lead to other significant physical and emotional problems.

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Long-term Ambien users can develop a tolerance to the drug. Tolerance to Ambien occurs in different amounts and at different levels for everyone, but taking the same amount of the drug will not lead to the same desired effect. As a result, someone may need to take more and more Ambien to sleep. This can lead to an Ambien addiction, and it is one of the more common side effects of the medication, specifically and other sleeping pills.

To illustrate the size of the sleeping pill addiction problem, one survey recorded 18% of Ambien users took the drug every day, and another 41% said they had been on it for more than a year.

Ambien is often used in a way not prescribed by doctors, meaning people use it as a recreational drug or by individuals who have not had the medication given to them by a doctor. As of 2017, 18 million Americans had misused drugs like Ambien at least once in the past year. This is a massive number, and it shows the potential of the drug to be abused.

All of these make it clear: Ambien is an addictive substance. Many can use Ambien safely without it becoming habit-forming or addictive; for some, that isn’t the case.

Ambien Withdrawal

People addicted to Ambien may wean themselves off the drug, but it’s recommended that one only do so under medical supervision. Withdrawal can be hugely challenging for a person to deal with, and depending on the severity of their symptoms, it may be extremely uncomfortable. How long it will take varies from person to person, how high of an Ambien dose they are taking, and how long they have taken it. Symptoms may take days to cease, or they could take as long as weeks.

There are a few points to keep in mind when it comes to managing Ambien withdrawal and detox. First, it can be extremely difficult. In many cases, a person should only do it with the assistance of a trained professional who has a background in helping people manage and overcome addictions. Second, Ambien should rarely be stopped cold turkey. The body and brain can become dependent on the substance, and abruptly stopping it can cause significant physical and emotional problems. You should speak with a medical or addiction professional to get assistance in quitting Ambien, as there are many options for assistance in withdrawing from Ambien. These include counseling, behavioral therapy, and medication that can help you ease the symptoms and get your body and mind adjusted to living without the substance and address the initial sleep problem.

Ambien Overdose

It is possible to overdose on Ambien. If someone takes too much Ambien, it is possible to feel numerous side effects. This includes difficulty breathing, extreme drowsiness, and a slowed heart rate. In more extreme versions, an overdose can knock someone unconscious or put them in a coma.

If you believe that someone is overdosing on Ambien, call 911 as soon as possible. With proper care, there is good news, as someone can be treated following an Ambien overdose. However, it may require extensive medical attention.

These are not minor issues. According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service Administration), emergency room visits related to Ambien doubled more than 220% from 2005-2010, and those numbers appear likely to continue to increase. Additional evidence indicates that the elderly and women are more likely to visit the Emergency Room due to an Ambien overdose. Other complicating factors include someone mixing Ambien with other prescription drugs, recreational drugs, or alcohol. Any of these can have extremely negative effects.

Drug Combinations

As noted above, there are certain drugs that people should not mix with Ambien. These drugs can cause various dangerous medical interactions, such as difficulty breathing, dizziness, confusion, excessive drowsiness, and many, many more. You should always check with your doctor before taking any medication. There may be instances where the benefits of taking Ambien with a particular drug outweigh any potential harm. Ultimately, that is a decision for you and your doctor.

Ambien should never be combined with clonazepam, hydrocodone, Lexapro, and Percocet. Many more drugs could create such a risk, but all of these have potentially dangerous impacts on your body.

Ambien Side Effects

Additionally, there are potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms that people may have to deal with when getting off of Ambien. These include a variety of negative side effects.

From a physical perspective, Ambien causes you to fall asleep, but it may also cause you to be more groggy than preferred when you wake up. As such, some recommend that you do not take Ambien on days where you have to be fully alert, operate heavy machinery, or even drive a car. It is also possible to become dizzy or disoriented on Ambien. Some even hallucinate or experience bouts of delirium.

Emotionally speaking, side effects include depression and mood swings. Suicidal thoughts or behaviors are possible while on Ambien. It is something that all individuals who take the drug should be aware of – mainly if they are already at risk for these thoughts and behaviors.

In addition to possible tolerance and addiction issues, research has also found the long-term effects of using Ambien are harmful. These include excessive drowsiness, cognitive dysfunction, and memory loss. At least one study has also found that patients who take Ambien have a higher cancer risk than those who do not.

How Do People Abuse Ambien?

Ambien abuse can include:

  • Using Ambien longer than recommended
  • Using it to relax rather than sleep
  • Taking more than the doctor-recommended dosage.
  • Using it at inappropriate times, such as while driving or at work.

Some also misuse Ambien for purposes of creating a “high” or its intoxicating impact. This can happen by taking large amounts of Ambien, mixing it with alcohol, or snorting the drug.

 Getting Help

When it comes to an Ambien addiction, one of the most important things to realize is that this addiction is treatable. Quitting Ambien isn’t easy, but it can be done.

Quitting Ambien cold turkey may be dangerous. It may cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including seizures and a variety of other medical problems. A detox program from Ambien may be necessary. Every detox program will be different, with the same goal of helping stop Ambien misuse and enable someone to sleep and function without Ambien.

There are a few things to know about detox. First, it will involve a medically-supervised tapering down of the Ambien. In this process, you are given a gradually declining dose of Ambien until you’ve successfully weaned off it completely. At the same time, you will undergo psychotherapy to learn to manage insomnia, irritability, and other concerns while withdrawing from Ambien. Furthermore, a doctor may prescribe medications to help ease symptoms and manage the withdrawal.

Like many types of addiction, there are two types of treatment options: Inpatient and Outpatient. Outpatient treatment means that someone will still live at home, go to work, and attend to daily responsibilities. They will spend a certain amount of time in therapy. Inpatient treatment means you stay at a residential treatment facility. In these instances, the therapy is more intensive and may also involve more programs and supervision. It will also have some form of 24-7 monitoring.

It is possible to find treatment for an Ambien addiction. Many larger employers have Human Resource hotlines that offer confidential hotlines. These hotlines can provide information on available medical assistance options. You can also contact your insurance provider to see what kinds of therapy and facilities are covered. Your insurance company will also tell you if there are any out of pocket costs you may have to pay. Just make sure that you confirm any payment and insurance requirements before enrolling in any program.

If you or someone you love has an addiction to Ambien, please understand just how serious this addiction can be and know we are here to help. People with an Ambien dependence can seek treatment and recover to lead healthy and productive lives. Call us today for more information on the types of programs we offer at our best-in-class facilities and how we can help you recover your life.