Leah Miller, MHC


Ambien Addiction – Treatment, Signs and Risks

Ambien (zolpidem) is a prescription medication that is known as a sedative-hypnotic.1, 2, 3 It is used to increases inhibitory brain activity, allowing people with insomnia to get sleep.3

What is Ambien?

If you or a loved one is abusing Ambien, you should seek treatment.

Ambien was initially promoted as a safer alternative to benzodiazepines, with less risk for addiction or tolerance, but studies show that this has been underestimated.1There are also serious health risks associated with long-term use of Ambien, including a potentially increased likelihood of respiratory issues, reflux, and infections.3, 4

Ambien works similarly to benzodiazepines but is slightly less likely to make you feel groggy the next day or experience dependence.1,5

Other sedative-hypnotics include:1

  • Sonata.
  • Lunesta.
  • Xanax.
  • Restoril.
  • Valium.
  • Ativan.

Ambien Risks and Addiction

Risks and side effects are always something to aware of with medications and other drugs. The potential for misuse, tolerance, physiological dependence, and withdrawal with Ambien is higher than initially thought.1,6 Side effects can include:3,6,7

  • Aggression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Doing things you can’t remember.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Impaired driving.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Nightmares.
  • Slowed reaction time.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

People with insomnia find it difficult to fall or stay asleep. If you have been using Ambien long-term and have tried to stop using the drug, your insomnia can worsen.1

Some additional long-term risks may include: worsening sleep apnea, reflux, chronic sinus infections, coughs, and laryngitis.6

Since you can develop tolerance to the effects of Ambien, you may find yourself taking larger doses to get the same results from the drug.1 Instead of feeling sleepy, some people report feeling euphoric when they take Ambien.8

If you are taking Ambien and have concerns, or if a loved one has an addiction to the drug, you should be aware of these potential signs of abuse:1,3,9

  • Buying Ambien illegally.
  • Combining it with other substances.
  • Driving under the influence of Ambien.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop.
  • Forging prescriptions.
  • Taking it differently than prescribed.
  • Sleeping through important events because of Ambien.
  • Strong cravings.
  • Trying to cut down or stop without success.
  • Using Ambien every night.
  • Visiting multiple doctors for prescriptions

    Ambien Withdrawal and Treatment

    If you have been taking Ambien in high doses or for a long time, you may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms.6 Withdrawal may start within 48 hours of stopping or cutting back on Ambien use.6 Symptoms of withdrawal can include:1,2,3,6

    Abusing drugs like Ambien is dangerous.

    • Agitation.
    • Anxiety or panic attacks.
    • Delirium.
    • Disorientation.
    • Hallucinations.
    • Increased blood pressure, pulse, breathing rate, or body temperature.
    • Sweating.
    • Fatigue.
    • Insomnia.
    • Irritability.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Restlessness.
    • Seizures.
    • Stomach cramps and abdominal discomfort.
    • Tremors.

    Medically managed withdrawal, also known as medical detox, is when you decrease the use of a substance in a facility while under the care of trained medical staff.10 Case report evidence supports there being a potential risk of withdrawal seizures. For this reason, medical management of Ambien withdrawal could be beneficial as this is potentially a life-threatening complication.3,6,10 Staff at a treatment or detox facility can provide medication and constant monitoring to ensure your safety.

    After completing detox, you will begin treatment. You should discuss your options with your treatment team to decide what is right for you. Treatment options can include:11