Ambien is the trade name for a drug called zolpidem, which is a non-benzodiazepine sleep aid that is commonly prescribed to treat sleep disorders like insomnia. It’s commonly referred to as a Z-drug, both because drugs in this class often start or include the letter Z and as a reference to sleep. They are similar to benzodiazepines but have a different chemical structure. Zolpidem is also in a larger category of psychoactive substances called central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which also includes benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and alcohol.
Ambien works in the brain and nervous system to produce hypnotic and sedative effects. This makes it useful as a short-term treatment for insomnia. It’s prescribed to help people get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. However, it has a relatively short half-life and wears off after about three hours, which makes it less effective in helping people sleep through the night.
Ambien is usually prescribed for two to six weeks at a low dose, so it’s not intended for long-term use. If it’s used in high amounts or for too long, the medication can cause chemical dependence and even addiction as your body gets used to it. Chemical dependence can cause potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms that require medical attention.
If you or someone you know has been prescribed Ambien, you should be aware of the signs and symptoms of Ambien addiction. Addiction can have long-lasting consequences, but spotting some of the early warning signs may help you to avoid some of the most serious symptoms of the disease.
If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, there are signs and symptoms of addiction that you might be able to feel or observe in others. The first signs of a substance use disorder is a growing tolerance to the drug you’ve been taking. Tolerance may feel like the normal dose you take is weakening, and you may feel inclined to increase your dose to compensate. However, the best thing to do when you feel a growing tolerance is to speak to your doctor about switching medications or cutting back. Increasing your dose may result in chemical dependence or addiction.
Dependence occurs when your body starts to rely on the drug to maintain normal neurochemistry. It may even stop producing its own nervous system depressing chemicals and start producing excitatory chemicals to counteract the drug and balance your brain chemistry. If you stop using abruptly, you may experience serious withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, irritability, confusion, tremors, seizures, and delirium tremens (DTs).
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Finally, addiction is characterized by the use of a drug despite the serious consequences. Addiction is compulsive behavior that may be out of your control. If you’ve experienced problems in your relationships, at work, with your health, the law, or your finances and you still use addictive substances, then you may have a severe substance use disorder.
Addiction treatment is a process that is personalized to the individual when a client enters a program. When you first enter treatment, you’ll go through an intake and assessment process that identifies the physical, psychological, and social needs you might have, whether they are directly related to your substance use issue or not. Addiction can have a wide range of underlying factors that need to be addressed, so addiction treatment should be equipped to address biological, psychological, social, legal, and financial needs.
The overall goal of treatment is to get you to sobriety and facilitate a long-lasting recovery. This means stabilizing your physical condition, addressing underlying issues, and helping you form relapse prevention strategies.
Because Ambien addiction can come with some dangerous withdrawal symptoms, treatment usually starts with medical detoxification. Detox is a process that involves 24 hours of medical treatment every day for about a week. During this time, you will be treated by health care professionals with medications to manage your withdrawal symptoms and avoid any dangerous complications. Clinicians will be on staff at your detox center to help connect you to the next level of care that’s appropriate for your needs.
After detox, you may move through an inpatient program if you have higher level needs, or residential service if you need a more supportive, structured recovery environment. Once you are stabilized enough to live on your own, you may go through intensive outpatient or outpatient treatment. Through these steps, you may go through a variety of therapy options including individual, group, and family therapy.
After treatment, your treatment center’s aftercare program may connect you to community resources like a 12-step program, or vocational assistance to help you continue your commitment to recovery.
As a common prescription drug, you may assume that Ambien is generally a safe drug in most circumstances. However, even a common, well-regulated drug can be dangerous if abused. Ambien is less toxic than some other central nervous system depressants like barbiturates. However, it can cause dependence, addiction, overdose, and dangerous withdrawal symptoms when it is taken for too long or when it’s taken in excess. If you take too much Ambien, you may feel symptoms similar to alcohol intoxication, like a staggered gait, slurred speech, drowsiness, and loss of motor function.
The intoxicating effects of Ambien can lead to accidents and injuries, especially if you operate machinery or get behind the wheel of a car. Adverse symptoms may be more pronounced in older people. As we age, we lose the ability to process depressants like Ambien, and it may take longer for the drug to leave your system. Typically, it’s recommended that older patients only use central nervous system depressants as a last resort for sleep disorders.
Ambien can potentially result in an overdose if you take a large amount of the drug, but it’s even more likely if you mix it with other substances like other benzodiazepines, barbiturates, alcohol or opioids. Together, the drug cocktails can cause dangerous nervous system suppression that leads to respiratory depression. This can cause brain damage, loss of consciousness, coma, or death.
As a CNS depressant, Ambien can also be dangerous during withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, mood swings, irritability, tremors, fatigue, nausea, seizures, and a condition called delirium tremens, or DTs. Delirium tremens can cause catatonia, seizures, panic, confusion, and death in some cases. However, your chances of experiencing dangerous symptoms are greatly diminished by medical assistance.
Ambien addiction can become a serious disease if it’s left untreated. Though addiction is a chronic disease, it can be treated with the right help and therapy options. To learn more about Ambien addiction and how it can be treated speak to an Ocean Breeze Recovery specialist. Call 855-960-5341 to hear more about your therapy options and how you can start your road to long-lasting recovery today. Addiction is difficult to overcome, but you don’t have to do it on your own. Call anytime.
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National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016, February). 8: Medical detoxification. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification
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Wolfson, E. (2013, July 08). The Rise of Ambien: Why More Americans Are Taking the Sleeping Pill and Why the Numbers Matter. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/elijah-wolfson-/ambien_b_3223347.html
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