Ambien Addiction

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Ambien is a brand name for zolpidem. Doctors prescribe it to treat people with insomnia or other sleep disturbances, and the sedative-hypnotic properties provide short-term relief. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that more than one-third of all adults do not get enough sleep. Substance use disorders (SUDs) involving Ambien usually start with prescribed medication.

Misuse of Prescribed Ambien

Experts recommend Ambien use be limited to 35 days or less, but many doctors prescribe for six months or longer. Unfortunately, some people become unable to sleep without taking the drug, which leads to dependency and potential addiction. In some cases, when their short-term prescription ends, people who have developed a SUD purchase illegally obtained Ambien, steal prescriptions from friends and family, or go “doctor shopping” online and in-person to get access from unsuspecting medical professionals. 

The deliberate long-term use or abuse of Ambien can have potentially severe and deadly consequences. According to information provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2010, Ambien and similar drugs were responsible for approximately 20,793 emergency room visits related to overmedication. Common causes of Ambien overmedication include:

  • Self-medicating
  • Using illegally created and sold Ambien without the oversight of a doctor
  • Mixing prescriptions
  • Not following instructions provided by your doctor


The Dangers of Rebound Insomnia

Rebound insomnia is a syndrome discovered relatively recently. Once you stop taking Ambien, insomnia and sleep disturbances usually return and increase in severity for several days after the last dose. The rebound period is when many people relapse, overmedicate, or overdose.  

More research still needs to be done on rebound insomnia caused by the cessation of sleep aids. However, current studies indicate only a small percentage of people experience the syndrome with Ambien. The statistical likelihood of the average person going through rebound insomnia even after prolonged use of Ambien is low except in cases where they took large amounts of the substance over a long period. You should not ignore the dangers associated with rebound insomnia despite how rarely it occurs. Speak with your doctor to learn more and determine your susceptibility to the condition. 


Alcohol Use, Ambien, and Parasomnia

Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic and becomes dangerous when mixed with alcohol or other drugs that cause similar effects. Zolpidem works by causing a chemical reaction in the brain that slows down activity in the central nervous system. Staying awake after taking Ambien creates feelings of calm and extreme tiredness. If you ingest other substances while in that state, you increase the risk of adverse reactions. 

Alcohol enhances some unfavorable side effects of Ambien, leading to severe injury or even death. Zolpidem use is known to cause the following in some individuals:

  • A wide range of parasomnias, including sleep-driving, sleepwalking, and sleep-eating
  • Cognitive and motor function impairment
  • Strange and erratic behavior
  • Amnesia
  • Severe injury or death due to accidents occurring under the influence

Complications Related to Ambien Use

Some people should not take Ambien or similar sleep aids because of the high risk of current co-occurring conditions. People with the following health complications should avoid Ambien:

  • Substance use disorder 
  • Sleep apnea or difficulty breathing
  • Liver, kidney, or lung disease
  • Chronic or major depression
  • Recent suicidal ideations or self-harming tendencies


Health Effects of Ambien Addiction

Extreme tiredness throughout the day is a typical result of insomnia and other sleep disorders treated by Ambien. Sedative-hypnotic effects of the drug mean it has the potential to cause extreme tiredness in anyone misusing zolpidem. Other known health side effects include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Changes in mood including unusual irritability, anger, anxiety, or depression
  • General fatigue
  • Anxiety centered on sleeping
  • Cognitive issues including difficulty focusing and memory problems
  • Decrease in work quality and motivation at school and work
  • Accidents leading to injury caused by driving or working with hazardous equipment while tired
  • Nausea and stomach pain
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension


Risk Factors Associated With Ambien Addiction

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the following demographics are especially susceptible to using legal and illegal Ambien: 

  • Experience sleep disturbances including insomnia and oversleeping with an average of over nine or under five hours of sleep per night
  • Personal or family history of sleep, substance use, or mental health disorders
  • Working in a stressful career or one with long and inconsistent hours
  • Individuals who take medications with insomnia as a possible side effect
  • Individuals with an illness, injury, or disability with insomnia as a primary symptom
  • Non-Hispanic white individuals are twice as likely to use sleep aids like Ambien
  • Women are almost two times more likely to use sleep aids


Treatment and Therapy Options for Ambien Addiction

Insomnia and substance use disorder both require individual treatment. The most common treatments for Ambien addiction include psychotherapy, alternative therapies, relapse education, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Standard behavioral and alternative therapies include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Meditation Therapy
  • Mindfulness Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI)
  • Contingency Management (CM)
  • Massage Therapy
  • Relaxation Therapy Techniques
  • Stimulus Control

We are here for you

Everyone needs to sleep. Without the benefit of quality sleep each night, your mental, physical, and emotional health will suffer. Unfortunately, Ambien and other sleep aids meant for temporary use sometimes lead to addiction. You have the power to stop taking the drug and get help. The medical team at White House Recovery and Detox understands the importance of a good night's sleep, and we are here to walk you through creating and following a healthy sleep schedule without the need for sleep aids. We can help you overcome your addiction today in a safe and supportive environment.