It’s hard to imagine anyone getting through life without at least one or two sleepless nights. For people who have occasional trouble falling asleep or those who have been diagnosed with insomnia, there is a wide range of prescribed medications available as sleep aids.
Among the most popular of these medications is Ambien. This drug is classified as a sedative-hypnotic type of medication. It is meant for occasional use to help a person fall asleep; however, as with many drugs that have a powerful effect on the user, Ambien can become an addictive substance. If you are trying to diagnose an addiction – see our signs and symptoms list.
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Ambien Addiction and Abuse Statistics
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is tasked with the authority to classify any type of medication or narcotic. These classifications help determine a particular drug’s use in terms of legality. Ambien or Zolpidem is classified by the DEA as a Schedule IV controlled substance. Among the other trade names for the drug are Ivedal, Nytamel, Stilnoct, Zoldem and Zolnod. It is available in pill form and can only be legally obtained through a prescription.
A study was conducted in 2008, titled The National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Among the findings of this federally sponsored survey was the fact that over 600,000 Americans claimed to have abused prescription sedatives, including the drug Ambien. The survey also found that Ambien addiction is more prevalent among teenage children and younger adults.
Another alarming statistic was uncovered by the Drug Abuse Warning Network. In their survey, they found that in 2006 alone there were over 17,000 hospital ER visits that were directly related to Ambien abuse or an Ambien overdose.
Effects of an Ambien Addiction
When taken as prescribed, the benefits of Ambien are obvious — you’ll get a decent night of uninterrupted sleep. However, when a person crosses over the line and begins taking the drug outside the boundaries of their prescription, they might begin to experience some of the following short-term side effects:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Feelings of fatigue
- Confusion or “cloudy” thinking
- Loss of balance
- Loss of muscle control or twitching
- Reduced breathing or heart rate
When a person becomes addicted to Ambien, there are potentially severe side effects that can occur in the waking hours. In other words, the impact of long-term Ambien addiction can last well beyond extended periods of sleep. Among the typical side effects for Ambien abuse are:
- Ongoing instances of delusions
- Confused judgment and reasoning
- Lack of sexual urges
- Overwhelming sense of dependence
- Increased potential for accidental ove
For some people, Ambien abuse follows a larger pattern of addiction. According to a study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 43% of study participants who demonstrated patterns of Ambien addiction had a previous history of substance abuse.
It’s unclear why Ambien use is problematic in people with a history of substance abuse, but it’s certainly cause for concern. If you’ve struggled with addictions in the past, it might be best for you to avoid taking Ambien.
The number of emergency department visits involving Ambien rose by nearly 220% from 2005 to 2010. Women accounted for nearly 70% of those visits, and the FDA has since lowered the recommended dose for women from 10 mg to 5 mg per day. Abusing Ambien may be especially risky for women.
Questions to Determine If Warning Signs for Ambien Abuse Are Present
When a person has gone beyond the recommended prescribed use for Ambien, they can develop an addiction problem. Here are questions to ask yourself about Ambien abuse:
Q: Are you having problems at school or work?
A: Many Ambien users often experience an Ambien hangover. This manifests itself as persistent feelings of drowsiness or fatigue even after a good night’s sleep. In an Ambien abuser, these feelings can cause you to lose focus on assignments, drift off in classes or meetings, and prevent you from completing tasks on time. All of that can put your schoolwork or job at risk.
Q: Are you experiencing health complications?
A: This is generally simple to assess. Consider how you felt physically and emotionally before taking Ambien and how you feel now that you’ve been taking the drug. Are you experiencing changes in your mood? Are you feeling a rapid heart rate or increased breathing rate? Prolonged use can also affect your liver functions, which can cause problems of fatigue and soreness throughout your body.
Q: Are you having money problems?
A: Supporting an Ambien addiction is going to cost money. If you are going outside of your doctor’s prescription then you might be engaged in illegal purchasing which isn’t going to be cheap. How much money are you spending on your Ambien use? Are you being forced to shuffle around savings to compensate? Are bills going unpaid?
Q: Are you lying to your loved ones about your Ambien use?
A: Any of the above warning signs would be easy to spot by someone you’re close to. If they express concern, do you automatically lie about using Ambien? Are you hiding your prescription or pill stash from your spouse or roommate? Are you dismissive of someone’s concern about your change in habits or behavior?
Q: How quickly are you going through your supply of Ambien?
A: Be honest when you review these warning signs. If you recognize any of these conditions, you should seek out professional help right away. There is no shame in admitting you have a problem; there is only shame in not getting drug rehab help when it is so readily available.
Ambien Addiction Treatment Options
If a person has developed an addiction to Ambien, there are viable options for them to overcome the addiction. A typical treatment problem for substance abuse falls into two phases – detoxification and ongoing therapy via inpatient or outpatient rehab.
Detox is a thorough cleaning of your body of the harmful traces of a drug, alcohol or other toxin. In the case of Ambien addiction, the patient needs to rid their system of any remnants of the drug in order to start with a fresh slate. Depending on the level of the addiction, a drug detox could present certain medical complications. This is why the best results for a detox are found at a clinical rehabilitation center where there will be constant medical supervision.
A patient who is enrolled in a rehabilitation facility will be able to focus on the underlying problems that created the conditions for Ambien abuse. Inpatient treatment provides a structured environment that offers private and group therapy sessions designed to help the patient delve into the origins of the addiction and help them develop coping mechanisms.
Outpatient rehab is a continuation of the work that begins as an inpatient. Depending on the severity of the addiction, a person can actually enroll in an outpatient treatment program without an initial extended stay at an inpatient facility. This allows the addict to engage in important therapy work without a disruption to their life responsibilities.
Ambien addiction is an expensive habit to maintain. The average cost of a month supply is around $120. If you are buying the drugs on the black market, they will be even more expensive. Multiply that amount by several times over and it’s easy to see how this addiction can become a serious drain on your finances.
If you get into a situation where you are hiding your Ambien addiction from your family and friends, it can begin to cause fractures in those relationships. Help can be found for those with Ambien addiction issues. There are many addiction treatment programs available to help patients overcome addiction and reclaim their lives.
Ambien is prescribed by doctors to help people with insomnia or other sleep issues; however, it is only prescribed for use in the short term. This is in part because Ambien can be incredibly addictive. The body develops a physical tolerance to Ambien as well as a psychological reliance upon the medication. Many Ambien addicts fear that they will not be able to ever sleep if they stop taking the drug.
Consider these drug-free sleep tips from the U.S. National Library of Medicine:
- Avoid alcohol, coffee or caffeinated tea four to six hours before bedtime.
- Skip spicy dinners and opt for bland meals instead.
- Do not exercise right before bed.
- Get out of bed if you’re unable to sleep and try reading or relaxing to quiet music.
- Get up at the same time every morning.
- Do not nap during the day if you find it makes falling asleep harder.
- Don’t read, watch television or eat in bed.
- Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.
Talk to your doctor about alternative, non-addictive medications or about non-pharmacologic interventions that may aid with insomnia.
Do I Have an Ambien Addiction?
If you take Ambien regularly and have developed a tolerance for the drug, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re addicted. A tolerance simply means that your body has grown accustomed to what you’re putting in it, and you need a higher dose of the medication to feel its effects. Tolerance in and of itself does not equal addiction; however, since Ambien is only supposed to be used in the short term, a tolerance may be a sign that you’ve been taking the drug longer than prescribed – taking a medication outside a doctor’s instructions can be indicative of addiction.
A psychological dependence upon Ambien – feeling like you need it to fall asleep or can’t make it through the day without it – is a sign of addiction. Ambien addiction is not something to be taken lightly. In fact, according to the New York State Department of Health, overdose is a serious concern for those who abuse Ambien.
Some people, however, develop a reaction to the drug that runs counter to these expectations.
For example, a study published in the French journal Encephale found that some people who abuse Ambien do so because the drug does not make them feel sleepy or tired. Instead, the drug seems to cause them to feel euphoric and better able to handle the stresses of life, and they never do feel sedated, even when taking very high doses of the drug.
Unexpected reactions like this can be very addicting. If you took the drug and expected to fall asleep, and instead you felt powerful, loved and in charge, your surprised brain might perceive that experience as incredibly positive. Due to the reinforcing properties of that positive experience, you will be physiologically compelled to return to the drug again and again. An addiction might quickly follow.
What Are the Side Effects of Ambien Insufflation?
Ambien is available in immediate-release or extended-release tablets (Ambien CR), which should be taken by mouth. The manufacturer, Sanofi-Aventis, cautions that Ambien CR should be swallowed whole, not chewed or crushed. Ambien is a fast-acting drug, and when it’s taken for legitimate medical reasons, the medication is usually taken right before bed to prevent daytime drowsiness. Snorting zolpidem accelerates its actions in the body and could cause severe sleepiness, impaired motor function, heart problems and respiratory depression, especially when it’s taken with alcohol.
Snorting Ambien and other drugs can harm the tissues of the nasal cavity. These drugs contain active ingredients and additives that can irritate the delicate mucosal linings of the nose and damage the sinuses. Damage to these areas can cause bleeding, irritation and inflammation. Because these tissues help block germs and debris, damage can also increase your risk of a respiratory infection.
According to the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, snorting drugs creates a risk of transmitting blood-borne diseases like hepatitis C. If you share drug paraphernalia with someone who has a contagious condition, you are in danger of catching the disease if you have open areas in your own nasal linings.
Signs of an Ambien Overdose
When taken as directed under a doctor’s care, Ambien is generally considered to be a safe sleep aid. But when Ambien is snorted, especially in large doses, the risk of an overdose is much greater. If you notice these signs of an Ambien overdose, seek medical help immediately:
- Sudden sleepiness
- Cognitive impairment
- Slowed heart rate
- Slow or erratic breathing
- Loss of consciousness
Get Help Today
If you suffer from an addiction to Ambien, it’s time to get the assistance you need to heal. You can find Ambien addiction help in the following forms:
- Inpatient rehab centers. You’ll live at a treatment facility 24 hours a day and wholly focus on your recovery.
- Outpatient treatment. You’ll attend counseling sessions during the day but return home at night.
- Holistic rehab. These programs focus on a natural approach to recovery.
- Support groups. Regular attendance at 12-step meetings or other support group meetings has been shown to bolster sobriety.
- Help hotlines. If you need help locating a treatment center, or are unsure what the next step is, contact us today at our toll-free number. Our counselors are ready to help.