People who have trouble falling asleep may turn to prescription medication to help them with their issues. Zolpidem, commonly recognized by the brand name Ambien, is a nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic drug often prescribed to treat insomnia.1 However, individuals sometimes abuse Ambien and end up forming an addiction. Northbound Treatment provides clients with a safe, therapeutic environment to receive treatment for an Ambien addiction.
How Did Ambien Become So Popular?
Before the introduction of Ambien in Europe in 1986, people often took other forms of benzodiazepine medication to help with sleep disorders. Researchers at the time considered it to be a safer alternative that did not produce the kind of grogginess that can be a benzodiazepine side effect.2
Doctors also had concerns about how much traditional benzodiazepine drugs might decrease a person’s central nervous system function. The effects of benzodiazepines can be compounded if people decide to take them with alcohol.
Physicians typically recommend taking Ambien at night before you go to sleep. The drug slows down your brain activity so that you relax to the point where you drift off.3 That can be an appealing idea to people dealing with a lot of stress that may weigh heavily on their minds and prevent them from falling asleep. Because Ambien’s effects kick in soon after taking the medication, doctors recommend that those who take it remain in bed.
Ambien’s popularity expanded even more in 2005 when a new version entered the market. Ambien CR is a two-layer version of Ambien. The first layer is what puts you to sleep. From there, the second layer keeps you under so that you sleep through the night without waking.
However, there are limits to how long you can continue taking Ambien. It’s not intended to be a permanent remedy to sleep issues. The effects of the drug become less potent if you take it for longer than two weeks. For people desperate to fall asleep, it can be hard to give up something that brought some form of relief.
Can You Become Addicted to Ambien?
One of the problems with taking Ambien long-term is that your body starts building up a tolerance to the medication. When people realize that the drug is no longer working the way it used to at one dosage level, they may increase it to try and feel the same effect from before. It can be the start of a cycle of Ambien abuse and addiction.
Ambien is just one of many CNS depressants contributing to an epidemic of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. Other prescription benzodiazepines often abused by those who take them include:
The ease of gaining access to medications like Ambien, stimulants, and other prescribed opioids contributes to the problem.4 There were over 18 million people in the U.S. alone who admitted to abusing prescription medications at least once in 2017.
The profile of Ambien continued to grow. That led to more people developing an Ambien addiction. The concerns about Ambien got to the point where the FDA changed its labeling requirements for all Zolpidem products. That included explicit warnings about not taking part in activities that required a person to be mentally alert, like driving or operating heavy machinery.
Another factor in the FDA’s concern about Ambien is that its effects sometimes carry over to the day after taking an initial dose. Research showed that some patients showed signs of continuing to be under the influence of Ambien the day after taking the drug. That led to further labeling changes by the FDA in 2019.5 Ambien now requires a boxed warning that lets consumers know that Ambien could impact them to the point where they put themselves at risk for bodily injury by taking the medication.
When Should I Become Concerned About Ambien Addiction?
You may not immediately recognize the signs of a possible Ambien addiction. Most people think of addiction in terms of using street drugs like cocaine or meth. The idea of becoming dependent on a medication prescribed by your doctor can be hard to imagine.
It’s important to remember that it’s possible to misuse any drug. You may want to think about getting some form of treatment for Ambien addiction if you start seeing any of the following signs in yourself or someone you care about6:
- Unusually aggressive behavior
- Seeing and hearing things that do not exist
- Not wanting to engage with anyone
- Feeling constantly agitated
- Having stomach pains
- Start having unusual thinking patterns
- Having blanks in your memory
- Changes in appetite
- Feelings of depression
- Start thinking about hurting yourself, including possible suicide attempts
The main reason for concern when it comes to Ambien is the behaviors it’s reported to inspire. Researchers have noted cases where people go on drives, make phone calls, perform yard work, or engage in other tasks around the house. Individuals do not realize what they were doing until they come to with no memory of how they arrived at that moment. It’s essentially as though they are asleep up until the point where they snap back to reality.
There are some long-term risks tied to continued Ambien use, including:
- Constant sinus infections
- Acid reflux
- Sleep apnea
- Increased tolerance level
It is a good idea to contact your physician immediately if you find yourself having these spells. While it may be tempting to stop taking Ambien medication immediately, you should first speak with your doctor and follow their recommendations.
If you stop taking Ambien without proper medical supervision, your sleep issues may become worse. That can be a sign that you have developed an Ambien dependency that requires more in-depth treatment from qualified addiction specialists.
How Can I Treat My Ambien Addiction?
The first step in getting past your Ambien addiction is acknowledging the depths of the problem. Once you accept that this isn’t something you can handle on your own, it can be easier for you to fully commit to a treatment program. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that getting help for your dependency somehow makes you weak. It takes strength to confront the reality of your issue and work toward getting healthy.
If you find yourself having signs of withdrawal when you attempt to wean yourself off Ambien, you may benefit from a medical detox program. There, you have medical professionals looking out for you while you go through the process of withdrawal. They may be able to offer you medications that help with some of the withdrawal symptoms.
Once you are in a better state of mind, you can start thinking about more comprehensive treatment for your Ambien addiction. Below are some of the options you may want to consider as you look for ways to move forward.
- Residential Treatment — Residential treatment programs provide you with 24-7 care as you recover from your Ambien addiction. You live at the facility full-time, eating your meals there and participating in therapy programs several times per day on a structured schedule. It’s a chance to remove yourself from people and situations that contributed to your Ambien abuse.
- Outpatient Treatment — Northbound’s outpatient treatment program offers many of the same benefits of inpatient treatment. You attend therapy sessions that guide you through dealing with your Ambien addiction. You go home each night instead of living at a facility. Outpatient treatment can be a good option for clients who have responsibilities that make it hard for them to enroll in an inpatient treatment program. Attending outpatient treatment is also an option for clients who complete an inpatient stay and want to continue getting help for an Ambien dependency.
Northbound offers clients in our inpatient and outpatient programs the opportunity to participate in various therapy services, including:
What Happens After I Finish Treatment?
Northbound Treatment’s support for its clients doesn’t end when you complete one of our treatment programs. We believe in empowering everyone who comes to us for help. Our Collegebound program assists clients looking to further their education to enroll in school, whether it’s a university or trade school. Northbound’s Careerbound program connects clients with a career counselor who helps them find employment.
Our Recovery Support Services include helping clients form a support network to turn to for the encouragement needed to achieve long-term sobriety. We designed it to offer clients maximum flexibility and support to help achieve long-term recovery.
- 12-Step Meetings
- Sober Living Arrangements
- Family Support
Northbound Treatment Services commits to fully supporting clients in achieving their recovery goals. We understand that it can take more time for some people to overcome their dependency on Ambien and other substances. We are here to cheer on your successes and hold you up when you find yourself struggling to stay sober.
Call Northbound Treatment Services at (888) 978-8649 to learn more about how we can help you or a loved one with an Ambien addiction.
¹American Family Physician. Treatment Options for Insomnia.
²NCBI. Zolpidem dependence, abuse, and withdrawal: A case report.
⁴National Institute on Drug Abuse. What is the scope of prescription drug misuse?
⁵FDA. FDA requiring stronger warnings about rare but serious incidents related to certain prescription insomnia medications.