Ambien is the brand name of the sleep medication zolpidem. While this drug can be taken safely, it is often abused by those who wish to experience its intense euphoric effects when taken in large doses. This can lead to addiction, so it is important to seek treatment for yourself or a loved one who has abused Ambien.
According to the National Library of Medicine, the purpose of Ambien is to treat insomnia by allowing the individual to relax enough in order to fall asleep. It belongs to the drug class of sedative-hypnotics, and it is recommended that patients only take it for a period of two weeks or fewer. This is because of its high potential for abuse.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse lists sedatives as the seventh most popular substance of abuse among 12th graders, ahead of ecstasy, cocaine, hallucinogens, and OxyContin. As such, it is very important to avoid misusing one’s sedative medication or taking the drug when it belongs to someone else. Ambien and other sedatives can cause addiction when abused as well as severe side effects that are much more likely to occur in someone who is taking large doses of the drug.
Signs and Symptoms of Ambien Abuse
Ambien’s main effect is drowsiness, which is why doctors urge patients to only take it before bed. It is dangerous to drive or perform other activities requiring immense concentration after taking Ambien. However, there are other signs and symptoms one can recognize when a person is abusing Ambien, such as
- Being very tired and fighting the urge to sleep
- This is the way people abuse the drug and others like it in order to experience its euphoric effects.
- Drunkenness or druggedness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Strange dreams
- Coordination problems
- Memory impairment
Doctors usually try to discourage patients from taking the drug for a long period of time because dependence can set in. Once it does, abuse is more likely to occur, as individuals will feel like they need Ambien in order to fall asleep every night. They may also enjoy the way they feel while on the drug and want to take it even when they don’t need it.
Other signs someone you know may be abusing Ambien include
- Lack of interest in things that used to matter to them
- Confusion and trouble remembering recent events
- Changes in appetite
- Exhibiting problematic physical or psychological issues but not wanting to see a doctor
- Blurred vision
- Constantly seeming sedated and tired
Dangers of Ambien Abuse
Like most other drugs, Ambien can cause serious side effects, which become much more likely to occur when a person abuses it. These can include
Participating in activities while not fully awake
It is important to be aware that some individuals who took Ambien as prescribed performed activities like driving a car, making and eating food, and having sex all while under the influence of the drug and with no memory of doing so. This issue is also likely to occur in individuals who abuse the medication.
Hallucinations and abnormal thinking
The US Food and Drug Administration reported several incidents of individuals experiencing hallucinations and abnormal thoughts after waking up from an Ambien-induced sleep. These issues could become even more severe when a person abuses the drug, possibly leading to psychological problems.
Drugs like Ambien can sometimes worsen existing depression or even cause depressed feelings in those who take it for a prolonged period of time. This can lead to suicidal thoughts and other dangerous results.
Respiratory depression and overdose
Ambien, like other CNS depressants, can cause a person’s breathing to slow considerably, which can be dangerous. Especially those who drink while taking the drug and/or take it in large doses put themselves at risk of overdose. Ambien overdose could result in brain damage, coma, and death.
Dependence and withdrawal symptoms
People who take the drug consistently also become dependent on it, and the withdrawal symptoms associated with CNS depressants can be severe. Sometimes, psychological issues like delirium and hallucinations occur, and rarely, a person may experience seizures.
Another reason doctors don’t want their patients taking Ambien for a long period of time is because the drug can cause tolerance (DailyMed). Patients who become tolerant to its effects are more likely to begin abusing the drug in order to experience those same effects.
Ambien is a drug that should be taken carefully, even in prescribed doses, but its abuse is likely to cause a number of additional issues.
Who Abuses Ambien?
People who want to experience the euphoric effects of the drug often abuse Ambien, and unfortunately, the medication is among the most commonly abused drugs, according to the NIDA. In addition, some people use it and other sleep medications in order to facilitate sexual assault. Because of this, Ambien abuse is highly prevalent in many different populations.
- “About 4 percent of US adults aged 20 and over used prescription sleep aids in the past month,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Women are more likely to be prescribed these medications than men.
- Nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic drugs, like Ambien, were once thought to be less vulnerable to abuse, but according to more recent findings, this may actually be untrue (British Pharmacological Society).
Ambien can become addictive, especially if a person abuses it consistently. Over time, their use will no longer be voluntary, and they will require more and more of the drug in order to be satisfied. People who become addicted to prescription drugs can no longer gain enjoyment from the other areas of their lives and instead will only feel good when they are using.
This is extremely dangerous, as Ambien abuse can be deadly, especially when the drug is taken in high doses and in combination with alcohol. In addition, long-term abusers of prescription drugs sometimes turn to illicit substances when tolerance blocks them from experiencing intense effects. The best way to put an end to your substance abuse, especially if it has become unmanageable, is to seek help.
Am I an Ambien Addict?
But how can you know if you are already an addict? It can help to talk to your doctor, but ask yourself these questions first to see if you are exhibiting the classic signs of addiction.
- Do I feel I need to use Ambien every day?
- Do I think about using even when I’m not?
- Do I make excuses for myself to take the drug?
- Do I combine Ambien with other substances so I can feel stronger effects like I used to?
- Have my friends or loved ones expressed concern about my substance abuse?
- Do I hide my Ambien use from others because I feel they will try to make me stop?
- Has my drug abuse negatively affected my professional and/or personal life?
- Do I spend lots of money and time on obtaining more Ambien?
- Has my abuse of the drug gotten beyond my control to the point where I don’t believe I will be able to stop on my own?
If you answered yes to these questions, it is time to seek help. Ambien abuse and addiction can be just as dangerous as substance use disorders involving illicit drugs like heroin, and many people need to seek help in order to put an end to them.
Ambien Addiction Treatment
Recovering from Ambien addiction takes time and patience but also professional treatment in a rehab center. Treatment often follows a specific pattern.
An individual must safely detox from Ambien in professional treatment because the withdrawal effects caused by the drug can be severe, even deadly. Patients are usually weaned off a similar drug in order to ensure that they do not experience these effects in full.
Once they become more stable, patients attend behavioral therapy programs like cognitive-behavioral therapy or group therapy in order to learn new skills for the future. They will also learn to recognize triggers, cope with cravings, and change negative attitudes and beliefs toward substance abuse.
Treating co-occurring disorders
It is incredibly common for substance abusers to suffer from comorbid disorders such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc. (NIDA). As a result, these issues must be treated simultaneously with addiction so neither disorder sets back the progress made with the other.
Ambien addiction is dangerous and extremely hard to break, but you can put an end to your substance abuse with treatment and start your life over.