Drug addiction can develop in many ways. For some people, drug abuse is a way to self-medicate. For others, it’s something that occurs almost naturally without them even realizing it. An addiction to Ambien can occur either way.
When taken in small doses for a short amount of time, Ambien can help a person to sleep. While this can be helpful when necessary, it can also be habit-forming and dangerous.
Some of the most common signs of Ambien abuse include extreme tiredness or sleeping more often than normal. You may also notice changes in a person’s mood, behavior, weight, or appearance.
Additionally, a person who’s abusing Ambien may even walk, talk, or engage in other more dangerous activities (like driving or having sex) while asleep. The next day, a person may not even remember doing these things. In these ways, Ambien abuse can lead to life-threatening situations.
Unfortunately, there are a variety of other side effects that can also occur as a result of Ambien use or misuse.
Some of the most serious side effects may include:
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
- increased heart rate
- chest pain
- risk of addiction
- risk of overdose
Ambien can be a dangerous drug, and it can also be addictive. Fortunately, there are several treatment options available.
What Is Ambien (Zolpidem)?
Ambien is a powerful sleeping aid that can have potentially severe side effects. Currently, it’s used to treat sleep disorders, like insomnia, in the United States.
The active drug in Ambien is zolpidem, which belongs to a class of sedative-hypnotic prescription drugs.
Other barbiturates (sleep aids) like Ambien include Lunesta and Sonata. These drugs are all central nervous system depressants that work with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. Here, they’re able to create a sedative effect. Benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium work in a similar way.
Generally, it’s believed that non-benzodiazepine sleep medications, like Ambien, have fewer side effects and less risk of physical dependence. Still, the side effects of Ambien can be potentially severe, especially if it’s taken in higher doses or more frequently than prescribed.
Side Effects Of Ambien
Ambien can cause a variety of side effects that may range from mild to moderate to severe.
A few of the most common short-term side effects of the drug may include:
- drowsiness or tiredness
- loss of coordination or unsteadiness
- stomach pain
- changes in appetite
- gas, constipation, or diarrhea
- strange thoughts or dreams
- tremors or shaking in parts of the body
- muscle aches or cramps
- joint, back, or neck pain
- pain, burning, numbness, or tingling throughout the body
- dry mouth or throat
- ringing, painful, or itchy ears
- eye irritation or redness
- heavy menstrual bleeding
Additionally, some severe side effects may occur. These may include difficulty breathing or swallowing, vomiting, increased heart rate, chest pain, and other problems.
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While these side effects can occur even when taken at the prescribed dosage, the risk of having life-threatening side effects is greatly increased when Ambien is being abused.
Signs And Symptoms Of Ambien Abuse
If you’re afraid that you or a loved one may have developed an addiction to Ambien, there may be some noticeable signs and symptoms.
Someone who is abusing the prescription drug may:
- seem very social or talkative
- experience memory loss
- act strange and then not remember the next day
- sleepwalk or do other activities while asleep
- show hypersexual behavior
- experience impairment or loss of coordination
It can be easy to develop an Ambien addiction without realizing what’s happening. If a person develops a tolerance, they may begin taking higher doses of the drug to get to sleep or stay asleep. Once tolerance has developed, physical dependence, or addiction, may soon follow.
Alternatively, if a person is knowingly abusing Ambien as a recreational drug, they may be abusing other drugs alongside it.
In either case, there may be additional signs and symptoms of substance abuse including:
- changes in social circles
- spending more time alone
- losing interest or motivation in work, school, and hobbies
- lack of hygiene
- fast-changing moods
- symptoms of depression or anxiety
If you notice these signs and symptoms in one of your family members, friends, or yourself, consider reaching out for help with an Ambien addiction.
Ambien Withdrawal Symptoms
Once a person develops a tolerance, dependence, or addiction to Ambien, it may be easier said than done to stop taking the drug. In fact, it’s possible that a person can experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they quit taking sleeping pills.
Side effects of Ambien withdrawal may include:
- panic attacks
- trouble sleeping
- suicidal thoughts or actions
Generally, when people are abusing Ambien, the detoxification process involves gradually lowering the dosage until it’s safe to stop taking it completely.
Ambien Overdose Risk
If a person takes too much Ambien, an overdose is definitely possible. This can be done intentionally or by accident.
Unfortunately, Ambien overdoses are becoming more and more common. According to a national survey, the number of emergency room visits due to Ambien use more than doubled between 2004 and 2009.
Symptoms of an Ambien overdose may include:
- drowsiness (tiredness)
- loss of consciousness or blacking out
- slowed or difficult breathing
- decreased heart rate
An overdose of Ambien can be fatal. These severe cases of an overdose may take the form of central nervous system depression, cognitive impairments leading to unconsciousness, respiratory depression, or cardiovascular problems, including a stroke.
If you think it may be possible that you or someone near you is experiencing an overdose, call for help right away.
Ambien And Polysubstance Abuse
Taking multiple substances together is what is known as polysubstance abuse. Mixing Ambien with other drugs, especially other depressants, is extremely dangerous and can lead to life-threatening effects.
Common Ambien drug combinations include:
Treatment Programs For Ambien Addiction
Ambien can have potentially severe side effects and the potential for abuse. For these reasons, it’s important to reach out to a treatment specialist or healthcare provider if you think that an addiction has developed.
Drug addiction and substance use disorder can be addressed at treatment facilities in an inpatient or outpatient program. Inpatient programs are designed for a person to stay at the treatment center while receiving treatments. Alternatively, outpatient programs allow participants to continue their daily routines and visit addiction centers a few times weekly.
Ambien addiction may be treated with a variety of approaches including cognitive-behavioral therapy, group or individual therapy, and evaluation/treatment for co-occurring mental health issues.
These types of treatments have proven to be effective in helping people recognize the root of the problem, develop healthy life skills, and recover from substance use disorders.
If you think that you or a loved one may be abusing Ambien or other prescription drugs, don’t put off getting help. To find a treatment program that best fits your needs, contact an AddictionResource.net addiction specialist today.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
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- Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — Ambien (zolpidem tartrate)
- National Center for Biotechnology Information — Zolpidem
- National Institutes of Health: MedlinePlus — Zolpidem
- National Institutes of Health: National Institute on Drug Abuse — Prescription Drug Abuse
- National Institutes of Health: National Institute on Drug Abuse — The Science of Drug Use