Treating an Ambien Addiction

an image of pills representing Ambien addiction

Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic prescription medication for those with insomnia. By increasing inhibitory brain activity, Ambien can be an effective sleep aid. 

This medication can also lead to the development of a sleeping pill addiction. Ambien addiction and withdrawal are best treated with a supervised medical detox followed by inpatient or outpatient treatment.

What is Ambien?

Ambien is a branded form of zolpidem that belongs to the sedative-hypnotic family of drugs.

Zolpidem, zopiclone and zaleplon are categorized as Z-drugs.

Its mechanism of action works on GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid). GABA is a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger that slows down activity in the brain and CNS (central nervous system).

Ambien comes in one of two versions. The quick-release formulation is indicated for initiating sleep, while the extended-release formulation can promote maintaining sleep.

All forms of Ambien are only suitable for short-term use.

Is Ambien Addictive?

Z-drugs like Ambien share a similar mechanism of action to with benzodiazepines. These medications appeared on the market as supposedly safer alternatives to benzos with a reduced potential for tolerance, abuse, and withdrawal. 

In many ways, Ambien is the ideal hypnotic due to the rapid onset of effects within thirty minutes and the medication’s short half-life.

That said, research indicates that Z-drugs have been implicated in many cases of abuse, dependence, and death over the past decade.

WHO (World Health Organization) considers zolpidem has the same risk profile for abuse and addiction as benzodiazepines. 

The DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) classifies Ambien as a schedule IV controlled substance.

The sustained use of Ambien, even at the prescribed dose, can be habit-forming. The risk of tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal is proven higher than anticipated.

Taking Ambien for two weeks can trigger physical dependence, regardless of whether the medication is taken as prescribed or abused. Physical Ambien dependence is characterized by tolerance forming so more Ambien is required to achieve the same sedative effects and withdrawal symptoms in the absence of Ambien.

Dependence often but not always leads to addiction, clinically termed substance use disorder. Central to all substance use disorders is the uncontrollable and compulsive use of the substance in the face of negative outcomes.

Many people develop an addition to Ambien without becoming aware of this until they discontinue use and find they cannot sleep without the sedative-hypnotic.

Signs of Ambien Abuse

Taking Ambien as a sleep aid can induce the following adverse effects:

  • Drowsiness and grogginess the next day
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Sleepwalking
  • Impaired coordination
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Amnesia

Ambien addiction side effects will vary from person to person and depending on variables such as the duration of abuse and the amount of Ambien taken.

Ambien addiction is referred to by any of the following clinical descriptors:

  • Substance use disorder
  • Sedative-hypnotic use disorder
  • Anxiolytic use disorder

All substance use disorders can be diagnosed according to the criteria in the most recent edition of APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5-TR

Some criteria specific to Ambien addiction include:

  1. Making unsuccessful attempts to moderate or discontinue use of Ambien.
  2. Taking more Ambien than planned or using the medication for longer than intended.
  3. Experiencing a compulsive desire to obtain and use Ambien.
  4. Abandoning favored activities.
  5. Continuing to use Ambien despite problems in your personal and professional life.

According to the number of symptoms that present from a total of eleven criteria, Ambien addiction is diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe.

Dangers of Ambien Abuse

If you take Ambien without a supporting prescription, this is considered abuse. Taking Ambien other than as prescribed – by taking more pills, for instance – is also categorized as Ambien abuse. 

Taking Ambien on an ongoing basis causes tolerance to form. To achieve the same sedative effects, you will need to take higher doses or more frequent doses of Ambien. Continuing to use Ambien in larger quantities will accelerate the development of physical dependence. By this point, you will be unable to sleep without the aid of this Z-drug.

Ambien is indicated for use immediately before bed. Some people abuse this medication by taking the drug during the day. This can trigger a sense of euphoria and a lowering of inhibitions. This application of Ambien is also abusive.

Most people addicted to Ambien started out with a case of short-term insomnia and then became reliant on a medication purported to be non-addictive. 

Addiction to Ambien can lead to a variety of adverse health outcomes. 

Health Effects of Ambien Abuse

The primary negative consequences brought on by Ambien abuse include: 

  • Intense cravings for Ambien
  • Physical dependence
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Ambien addiction
  • Ambien overdose risk

Ambien Overdose

When Ambien is abused recreationally, taking higher doses to intensify the euphoric high can heighten the risk of overdose.

If you’re mixing Ambien in combination with alcohol, this also increases the risk of overdose.

Ambien overdose involves the following symptoms:

  • Dangerously slow breathing
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Slow heart rate
  • Coma

Ambien Detox & Withdrawal

The Ambien withdrawal process can produce uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. It is always advisable to detox in a supervised medical setting.

Like all Z-drugs, long term Ambien use works by reducing brain activity. Abruptly discontinuing use can prompt brain activity to rebound to the extent that seizure occurs.

A tapered withdrawal can mitigate these risks during Ambien detox.

The first withdrawal symptoms present within 48 hours of the last dose of Ambien. Symptoms include: 

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Raised body temperature
  • Stomach cramps
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Seizure

After completing a medically managed Ambien detox, you will ready to engage with either inpatient or outpatient treatment. This will help you combat the psychological component of addiction to Z-drugs. 

We offer treatment programs at all levels of intensity at our Ambien addiction rehab in southern California.

an image of Gratitude Lodge's ambien addiction

Ambien Addiction Treatment at Gratitude Lodge

At Gratitude Lodge, we have three Ambien addiction treatment centers located at Newport Beach, Long Beach, and San Diego.

We specialize in the inpatient treatment of all addictions and mental health disorders at our affordable luxury rehab center. Engage with deeply experienced and credentialed medical professionals and addiction specialists. Our pet-friendly and inclusive treatment facilities offer an environment free of triggers and distractions, enabling you to build the firmest foundation for recovery.

Whether you require inpatient rehab or intensive outpatient treatment, you’ll have access to a personalized array of evidence-based treatments, a 12-step immersion program, daily meetings, and holistic therapies.

By the time you complete rehab for Ambien addiction at Gratitude Lodge, you will be ready to life without Z-drugs. Reach out to admissions today for immediate assistance by calling 888-861-1658.