Ambien Addiction: Abuse Signs, Effects & Treatment

A Guide to Ambien and Addiction Treatment

Ambien, also known as zolpidem, is a sedative-hypnotic prescription drug that is prescribed to clients experiencing insomnia to increase inhibitory brain activity and induce them to sleep. This non-benzodiazepine, however, is not recommended for long-term use.

Even though it is rare for an individual to get addicted to Ambien, recent studies show that it is being abused by young adults and middle-aged people. Ambien addiction has serious health risks and effects if not diagnosed and treated early.

Ambien Withdrawal

What Causes Ambien Dependence and Addiction?

Ambien is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance, which means that it has lower risks of abuse and dependence. Its abuse and dependence chances are assumed to be similar to benzodiazepines like Xanax. Despite its low potential for abuse, it can still be abused by taking higher doses.

Whether you are under prescription or are abusing the drug, Ambien addiction begins in two weeks because you develop a tolerance after this point. When you use Ambien for a long time, you will experience withdrawal symptoms whenever you don’t take it. Most Ambien addicts begin by seeking treatment for insomnia. They underestimate the addictive power of Ambien because it only helps them sleep.

What Are the Signs of Ambien Addiction?

If you or your loved one is taking Ambien, you need to keep an eye for the following signs of sleeping pill addiction:

• Failing to stay or fall asleep without Ambien
• Combining Ambien with other substances
• Taking Ambien every night
• Purchasing Ambien illegally
• Performing activities such as cooking or driving under the influence of Ambien
• Counterfeiting prescriptions to get more Ambien
• Failed attempts to quit Ambien
• Visiting different doctors for an Ambien prescription
• Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit
• Overdosing on Ambien

What Are the Symptoms Associated With Ambien Addiction?

Ambien addiction has serious health risks and effects on an individual, just like any other misused or abused drug. You will notice how symptoms of Ambien addiction may mimic the signs of stimulant addiction. This is because two of the primary symptoms of Ambien addiction are anxiety and panic attacks. Other symptoms include:

• Headaches
• Backaches
• Dry mouth
• Rashes
• Anxiety or panic attacks
• Depression
• Drowsiness or lightheadedness
• Diarrhea or constipation
• Allergic reactions
• Increased heartbeat and blood pressure and breathing difficulties
• REM sleep suppression (inadequate or lack of sleep)
• Sore throat, coughs, laryngitis, or any flu-like symptoms

If Ambien addiction is severe and has lasted for a long time, the patient may experience the following severe symptoms or effects:

• Memory loss
• Serious allergic reaction
• Severe depression and suicidal thoughts
• Slow breathing
• Hallucinations
• Aggression or out-of-character behavior
• Unusual behavior such as sleepwalking, sleep talking or performing other activities while sleeping
• Difficulty in falling or staying asleep

What Are the Risks of Ambien Addiction?

Ambien addiction has a lot of consequences and risks to your physical and psychological health. The gravity of the consequences and risks depend on the following factors:

• How long you have been taking Ambien
• The amount of zolpidem that you typically take
• The seriousness of the withdrawal symptoms
• Whether or not you have overdosed on the drug
• Whether you were physically dependent or addicted to the drug

Ambien abuse can be extremely dangerous. It can lead to memory loss and unusual behaviors like sleep talking or sleepwalking. This is because you were in a sleepy-not-quite-asleep state. Some people even engage in risky behaviors and don’t remember them the next day.

People who have developed an Ambien dependence sometimes combine it with other substances. Taking other drugs that are known to affect the brain with Ambien may lead to dangerous effects such as difficulty breathing or brain damage. This is especially true when it comes to alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system and respiratory system. When consumed with Ambien, it may cause breathing difficulties, drowsiness, or anxiety attacks.

There is hope, however, for people facing Ambien addiction. They can seek Ambien addiction treatment and therapy to help them navigate through the path of improved well-being and sobriety.

Treatment for Ambien Addiction

Ambien addiction treatment begins like almost all treatments for substance use disorders, regardless of whether it’s alcoholism, stimulant abuse, or heroin addiction. The first step to recovery is medical detox. This is followed by inpatient treatment for a few months and outpatient treatment.

Medical Detox

The first step to treating alcohol addiction, stimulant addiction, or Ambien addiction is medically managing the withdrawal. It involves decreasing Ambien dosage over time while supervised by trained medical staff. Some clients can be withdrawn from Ambien within two weeks while severe cases take a month or more.

Ambien medical detox aims at getting rid of the discomfort and painful withdrawal symptoms. In this stage, there are chances that you will experience withdrawal symptoms such as:

• Headaches
• Trembling hands
• Excessive sweating
• Flu-like symptoms
• Body aches and pains
• Nausea and vomiting
• Anxiety or panic attacks
• Restlessness and sleeplessness
• Increased heart rate or hyperventilation

In a medical detox center, the medical staff evaluates you, steadies your symptoms, and once you can taper off Ambien, you can begin treatment. Detoxing alone may put you at a dangerous health risk because of the withdrawal symptoms such as sleeplessness, seizures, and extreme anxiety.

Inpatient Rehabilitation and Treatment

In this stage, you would live in a treatment facility such as rehab for alcohol abuse, stimulant treatment, and Ambien addiction. In these inpatient centers, you are provided with intense treatment depending on the severity level of the Ambien addiction. There is a professional medical staff that provides good health care and support 24/7.

Individuals getting treated for Ambien addiction are taught about addiction, relapse avoidance, self-care, and how to manage insomnia without using sleep-inducing drugs. It includes individual and group counseling. In individual sessions, the client will meet daily with a therapist who will discuss the root cause of their addiction.

Ambien addiction is especially difficult because patients originally started taking Ambien because of insomnia, which needs to be treated separately. During inpatient rehab, the center that you’re in may have you see a sleep specialist to diagnose and treat any issues so that you can sleep without drugs. A sleep specialist will need to monitor your sleep to run tests, so inpatient treatment for Ambien overuse is especially important.

Outpatient Rehabilitation and Treatment

Outpatient treatment is similar to inpatient rehabilitation and treatment. The only difference is that you return home or to a sober living facility when you complete your daily clinic-based appointments. It includes the same inpatient programs such as individual or group counseling, psychiatric care, and education.

Depending on the treatment program, you will attend outpatient treatment in one of two ways. Clients who are transitioning out of inpatient rehab or who need a more intense program may spend their weekdays at the center from early morning until mid-evening — about eight hours — attending individual and group sessions. Those who are further along in their treatment journeys will go to work or school during the morning and early afternoon, attend meetings and counseling sessions from about 5 p.m. until 8 or 9 p.m., and then return home to sleep.

Individual Counseling and Therapy

Individual counseling involves one-on-one therapy sessions that help the psychiatrist diagnose the root of the problem. It also involves analyzing the psychological issue that caused the addiction and providing techniques to modify their behavior for abstinence.

Group Counseling and Therapy

Group counseling involves the same programs as individual therapy. The only difference is that therapy sessions are conducted in a group, and individuals can learn from and support peers struggling with the same addiction. It’s a great place to develop a sober network that you can turn to when you can’t sleep or when you’re having cravings.

Comprehensive Therapy

Ambien addiction can be caused by mental health problems such as trauma, depression, anxiety, or mental illness. Therapy is among the best ways of working through these issues and zolpidem misuse. You are taught about life skills and self-care since therapy is based on providing techniques that will help you recover and maintain sobriety in the outside world.

An example of comprehensive therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps you respond to situations and stressors more effectively and positively. CBT is accompanied by other types of therapies that work best for you.

How Do You Recover From Ambien Addiction?

When you have completed all the above treatments, you must practice active recovery. It simply involves applying the therapy lessons taught in the facility treatments to live a sober life. This means that you have to manage the insomnia-related symptoms without using sleep-inducing aids.

Ambien addiction recovery also includes learning about your diagnosis, the symptoms related to your addiction, and how to cope with them for a better life. During this period, living without Ambien can be stressful and difficult. You may experience intense Ambien cravings, restlessness, or lack of sleep. You can, however, overcome these problems.

One of the best ways to get sleep without drugs is to engage in regular exercise. Regularly exercising improves your physical and mental health. You can try meditation or yoga, where you can learn breathing and calming techniques that can help you overcome relapsing into addiction. Meditation helps reduce stress and quickly makes you fall asleep. You can also add occasional massage to loosen your muscles and get you to sleep.

Another great way to avoid slipping back into Ambien use is to go to bed at the same time every night. By doing this, you are adapting your body’s internal clock to the right time to sleep. You will eventually naturally sleep when you follow your sleep schedule. A cool and dark room is a sleep-inducing environment. Ensure that you block the outside lights using dark curtains and put a fan on to cool the room.

Avoid caffeine, exercise, or electronics immediately before going to bed. Quit drinking caffeine after lunch, and set a “sleep alarm” so that you put down your phone or tablet at the same time every night. Cancel out any distractions so that you easily fall to sleep.

When you have completed treatment, it’s a good idea to attend 12-step programs or other support groups. They are similar to group therapy since you get to open up your challenges and progress with peers recovering from drug misuse or abuse. Ambien addiction recovery is a leap to building a healthy life and remaining sober for the rest of your life.

Ambien abuse is a serious addiction that should be treated if you or your loved one displays the above symptoms or effects. As serious as it is, you can recover from it when you seek help quickly. Want personalized treatment programs that can help? Call today and speak with someone who can direct you to the center in your area.

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Reviewed By:

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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