Recognizing the Signs of Ambien Addiction 

Ambien is the brand name for zolpidem tartrate, a sedative-hypnotic prescription that’s used as a short-term treatment for insomnia. Over time users can become addicted to the drug which is why it is important to know the Ambien addiction signs. There’s also some evidence that suggests Ambien can be used to arouse certain individuals who have suffered a brain injury and are in a vegetative state. However, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved the drug for this use yet. 

Even though Ambien acts in a similar way to other sleeping pills (e.g. benzodiazepines), it’s molecularly different to these drugs. Just like benzodiazepines, it binds to the same receptors in the brain but only those that are related to sedation, meaning it has fewer side effects and doesn’t interfere with the sleep-wake cycle as much. 

Ambien Addiction Signs - close up of a woman laying in bed with her head turned towards a few of Ambien pills next to her left hand sitting on the bed.

Ambien slows the brain’s activities down, evoking a feeling of deep drowsiness and relaxation – thus inducing sleep. However, these sedating feelings may be pleasurable for the user, which results in some people abusing Ambien so they can enjoy the high it may provide. This can, unfortunately, lead to addiction and may result in the user taking a risky path to feed this addiction. 

Despite Ambien providing many people with the deep and restful sleep they need, often during a particularly stressful time, this isn’t always the case. Therefore, if you or someone you love is becoming wrapped up in the unintended effects of Ambien abuse, it may be time to seek help. 

In order to get someone the help they need, it’s important to understand what the symptoms of Ambien addiction look like, as well as some of the important signs that someone may be abusing it. 

Who Abuses Ambien?

When it comes to who abuses Ambien, there’s no specific demographic, but there are patterns among certain genders, ages, and groups. 

For some, Ambien abuse is part of a larger story of addiction. For example, one study, which was published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, found that 43% of the study’s participants who were showing patterns of Ambien abuse had a history of abusing other substances. 

Why people with a history of substance abuse are more prone to becoming addicted to Ambien is unclear, but the study does cause great concern. Therefore, if you or your loved one have struggled with an addiction in the past, it may be better to avoid Ambien altogether. 

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Women have also shown more susceptibility to becoming addicted to Ambien, with 70% of emergency room visits involving Ambien in 2010 being for women. Since then, the FDA has taken steps to ensure women are taking lower doses, reducing the recommended amount from 10mg to 5mg per day. This is due to women metabolizing slower than men. 

There’s also an increasing number of teens abusing Ambien, with the majority of these cases arising from a previous prescription. One study by the University of Michigan also found that teens who had been prescribed sleeping or anxiety medication were 10 times more likely to abuse them than teens who hadn’t had any prescriptions. 

One of the ways people abuse Ambien is by crushing it up so they can snort it. This means the drug’s rapidly absorbed into their system so the effects of it become strong, quickly. However, when the drug enters the body so rapidly, there’s a chance the user can overdose and, in some cases, this can result in death because the body’s not receiving the messages it needs to continue breathing. And when Ambien is combined with other depressants, like alcohol, which have the same effect, this can add to the danger. 

The Signs of Ambien Abuse 

A lot of people taking Ambien won’t realize how quickly they’ve become addicted to it. And to the outsider, it may seem like they’re just taking their prescribed drugs as recommended.

However, as someone’s tolerance to Ambien increases and they have to start popping several pills to go to sleep, they may start to act differently, perhaps even doing things that are out of character without having any recollection of doing so. 

Behavioral Signs of Ambien Abuse 

Some of the Ambien addiction signs include:

  • Frequent blackouts
  • Uninhibited talkativeness and sociability
  • Strange behavior with no memory 
  • Hypersexual behavior
  • Sleepwalking or other sleep activities  
  • Changes in physical appearance and a lack of personal hygiene 

Physical Signs of Ambien Abuse 

As well as the above, they may some of the following physical signs and symptoms: 

  • Headaches the morning after 
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Impaired balance and coordination
  • Heartburn 
  • Appetite changes
  • Weakness
  • Shakiness
  • Pain in joints or muscles

Sometimes, after they get up from an Ambien-induced sleep, they may display these symptoms for several hours, and they can be most severe in the morning. 

Are You Abusing Ambien? 

It’s often difficult to establish whether or not someone is addicted to Ambien. However, when an Ambien addiction takes hold, there will be several pulls that make sure someone keeps taking the drug time and time again. 

Ask yourself whether any of the following Ambien addiction signs apply to you or your loved one: 

  • I crave the drug 
  • I’m emotionally dependent on the drug’s effects
  • I’m scared of the withdrawal symptoms I experience when I stop taking it 
  • I feel guilty about what I’m doing to my body and how my behavior is affecting those around me 
  • I feel depressed, but this only gets worse when I don’t take Ambien 
  • I take higher doses than my prescribed limit
  • I’m taking Ambien throughout the day
  • I’m using the drug for fun now, not just to get to sleep 
  • I’m stealing Ambien or going to other doctors in order to get it 
  • I’m on edge when I haven’t taken it
  • I’ve tried to quit taking it before but it didn’t work 

People with an Ambien addiction may feel as though some of (or all of) these statements are true. If you recognize this behavior in yourself, it’s time to seek help. 

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The Dangers of Ambien 

When taken in the lower, recommended doses, Ambien can be extremely effective. But when it’s taken in higher doses over a long period of time, it can induce a number of very unpleasant side effects. 

At the most, doctors will prescribe Ambien for two weeks. After that, the drug loses some of its effectiveness. Therefore, those who continue to take the drug are abusing it and may start to experience some of the disturbing and strange side effects Ambien can create. Some of these include coming out of a sleeping state to engage in complicated activities without realizing you’re doing so.

Ambien and Sleep Activities 

To achieve the calmness and sedation required to go to sleep, Ambien induces drowsiness by inhibiting the brain’s natural activities. This means that people who take Ambien while trying to stay awake are much more likely to carry out unconscious actions. Some of these may include: 

  • Driving 
  • Making and eating food
  • Sleepwalking
  • Talking on the phone
  • Having sex

Some of these side effects may even occur when you’re not abusing the drug, which is why the FDA cautions users about the fact they may find themselves engaging in activities while they aren’t fully conscious. 

Even though some of these activities may seem quite harmless, others could result in serious injuries or even death. That’s why, even if you don’t think you’re addicted to Ambien, you should alert your doctor if you experience any sleep acting or sleepwalking. 

Ambien and Hallucinations

When people take Ambien and either, it isn’t strong enough or they try to stay awake, they may also suffer from strange hallucinations. These can range from thinking there’s someone else in the room to inanimate objects talking or moving. In the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, Dr. Michael Weaver (an addiction specialist) noted how a number of adverse side effects had been reported, including psychosis and hallucinations, particularly in those taking zolpidem (Ambien). 

Intervention and Treatment for Ambien Addiction

As you can see, there are some incredibly worrying, and potentially life-threatening, side effects to Ambien addiction. That’s why it’s imperative you seek help if you think you or a loved one has an addiction to the drug. 

Nevertheless, due to the nature of the drug and the fact it’s often prescribed (initially) by a doctor, many people don’t think they have a problem. Talking to them about the drug and their use of it may help them identify the issue. 

It’s important not to make them feel pressured or “ganged up on” when you, your family, and friends speak to them about their drug abuse but you should come together to recommend that they seek treatment. Offer consequences that will happen if they don’t agree to getting the right help because this is often what persuades addicts to get treatment. 

Withdrawal and Treatment 

Even though Ambien is, to some, a harmless prescription drug, it can have some potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. In mild cases, users may experience vomiting, nausea, and anxiety, along with stomach cramps and rebound insomnia. But in severe cases, the user may go through some dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, and seizures. 

That’s why going “cold turkey” isn’t recommended. Rather, an Ambien rehab center will help the user undergo a tapered detox program that slowly reduces their doses of Ambien until they’re no longer taking any at all. 

This detox is often coupled with support groups and therapy to help tackle the psychological issues rooted in the addiction, also finding ways to overcome the insomnia that resulted in the initial prescription.

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If you need help finding treatment for you or a loved one, that’s where our dedicated, friendly team at Find Addiction Rehabs can help. To get immediate advice, just call 877-959-7271.