Ambien (Zolpidem) Addiction and Treatment Options
What is Ambien?
Ambien (Zolpidem) is a sedative-hypnotic that was originally designed as an alternative to benzodiazepines that produced less adverse side effects. The medication has a deeply calming effect and induces drowsiness to help people fall asleep. This function can be very effective for those who suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Though it is considered safer than benzodiazepines and less likely to result in prolonged grogginess in the morning, Ambien still has a high potential for addiction and abuse. Long-term use can also lead to health problems like respiratory issues and reflux. Use of Ambien has also been associated with potentially dangerous sleep behaviors like sleep-walking that can lead to injury.
Is Ambien Addictive?
Ambien’s potential for addiction was underestimated when it was first released, but it has since become a controlled Schedule IV substance according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). It’s classification as a Schedule IV drug means it has a low risk of abuse and dependence while still being federally regulated.
When taken as prescribed by a doctor, it’s unlikely that use of Ambien would lead to addiction. However, excessive or prolonged use can lead to tolerance and withdrawal. Studies have shown that Ambien produces serious withdrawal symptoms if discontinued suddenly. Medically supervised withdrawal can help alleviate these symptoms.
Signs of Ambien (Zolpidem) Abuse and Addiction
- Lying or doctor shopping to obtain Ambien prescriptions
- Combining Ambien with alcohol or other drugs
- Excessive time and effort spent trying to obtain Ambien, like buying it illegally or forging prescriptions
- Using Ambien every night against medical advice
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit
- Powerful and persistent cravings
- Use that has a detrimental effect on work, home, or other responsibilities
Side Effects Of Ambien addiction
- Loss of energy or motivation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mood swings
- Dry mouth
- Abnormal dreams and other sleep behavior
- Allergic reactions
It may be necessary to consult with your doctor if one or more side effects are present.
Ambien (Zolpidem) Withdrawal
- Increased blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration
- Elevated body temperature
- Abdominal pain
Less Addictive Alternatives to AmbienThough Ambien has proven effective at treating sleep disorders, the medication only alleviates the uncomfortable sleep symptoms but does nothing to treat underlying conditions that may be the cause of the sleep disturbances. Various forms of therapy may be more effective at treating disorders that cause insomnia or restlessness without carrying the risk of addiction.
Sleep Restriction TherapySleep restriction therapy is designed to limit the time spent in bed to decrease periods of prolonged awakenings in the middle of the night. The therapy involves initially shortening the time spent in bed to the average time the person sleeps with no flexibility to sleep in or catch up on sleep. For instance, if a person has to wake up at 7 am, but they sleep an average of 6 hours a night, they would be required to go to bed at 1 am. This restriction increases tiredness for a couple of days but ensures that the person spends more time sleeping in bed instead of tossing and turning.
ReconditioningWhen insomnia becomes an ongoing problem, sufferers may develop an maladaptive or negative association with their bed or bedroom. For instance, they may perceive it as a place of frustration or failure to relax. To overcome this, reconditioning therapy uses principles of classical conditioning to change these associations. This requires individuals to move to another room and engage in another activity like reading or watching TV when they’re having trouble sleeping. That way, they only get in bed when they’re truly sleepy and the bed becomes more closely associated with that feeling.
Relaxation TechniquesMany exercises used to treat anxiety or in practices like yoga can help induce a feeling of relaxation and sleepiness. These include mindfulness, deep breathing, or visualizing peaceful and relaxing scenarios or settings. If insomnia is caused by excessive worry, frustration, or anxiety, these relaxation techniques may be a powerful tool to naturally alleviate sleep problems without the use of medication.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)Sleep disorders can sometimes be the result of other underlying mental health disturbances like depression or anxiety. As a result, treating the underlying mental illness can improve a person’s sleep quality. CBT aims to refocus behavior and thought to eliminate problematic patterns that can underlie and maintain mental illness.
Stopping Ambien Use Safely
Ambien use and withdrawal can bring about many adverse side effects. Because of this, it’s important to seek medical advice when discontinuing Ambien use, particularly use that is problematic. Withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and uncomfortable and make it more likely that individuals will start using again to avoid them.
Supervised medical detox can help safely reduce the amount of Ambien in one’s system to limit the severity of withdrawal. Doctors typically recommend gradually reducing dosage instead of quitting cold turkey. At a drug abuse treatment center, this process is supervised by doctors and nurses round-the-clock to ensure comfort, safety, and reduce the likelihood of relapse.
Ambien Addiction RecoverySince Ambien has an important function that allows users to get sufficient sleep, treatment for Ambien addiction typically involves management of sleep disorders without the use of medication. After detox, addiction treatment will typically focus on uncovering triggers and situations that worsen symptoms of insomnia and identifying coping skills that can help. In addition to therapeutic skills, treatment will help develop healthier habits like going to sleep at the same time every night, avoiding stimulating activities before bed, or limiting caffeine use.
Ambien addiction may also be tied to other mental disorders. For instance, individuals with undiagnosed and untreated anxiety disorders may abuse Ambien for its calming effects. Therapy can help identify and treat these underlying issues. Using a multifaceted approach, addiction treatment can target social, psychological, and other practical facets to achieve long-lasting sobriety.
What are the risks of taking Ambien on a long-term basis for a sleeping problem?Long-term use of Ambien is associated with many detrimental effects including: digestive issues, tiredness and fatigue, anxiety, nightmares, dizziness, lack of muscle control, depression, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms. These may come to affect various aspects of life such as employment, relationships ,and social life.
How long does it take to detox from Ambien?Safe detox from Ambien can take up to a week, depending on the severity of the addiction. If Ambien has been taken excessively and for extended periods, the withdrawal period may be prolonged, making it more difficult to complete without supervision. An addiction specialist or sleep specialist may help transition to life without Ambien.
What medications, other than Ambien, can treat insomnia?Some over-the-counter sleep aids and other medications like Benadryl are sometimes used to treat insomnia. However, these may come with their own side effects or include active ingredients that are not necessary. Herbal teas and other natural remedies may help. However, the safest treatment is therapy to eliminate the possibility for addiction.
DEA. 10 July, 2018. Drug Scheduling.
Food and Drug Administration. (2014). Ambien CR Label.
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Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2015). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No 45. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4131. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.
Ambien Addiction Recovery at Riverwalk RanchA Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Area Addiction Treatment Center
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