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Article Summary

A Guide To Ambien Addiction

Among the people who are addicted to or dependent on Ambien, some started using it according to the prescriptions their doctors wrote. As a prescription-only sleeping aid, this medication was designed for short term use. However, if the patient continues taking it over the long term, the chances of getting hooked are quite high.

Once you become dependent on Ambien, you will feel that you have no choice but to keep on using it. As a direct result, the singular thing about the drug is that those who abuse it eventually develop a serious addiction.

Read on to learn more about Ambien addiction:

Understanding Ambien

At its most basic, Ambien is part of the group of drugs referred to as sedative-hypnotics. As a nonbenzodiazepine z-drug, it works in the same way as other benzodiazepines, including Xanax, but without similar habit-forming and hazardous properties.

That said, the drug was created and has been marketed as a perfect alternative to benzodiazepines. In particular, manufacturers and retailers target it at people suffering from acute insomnia.

As a brand name, Ambien stands for Zolpidem Tartrate. The other products that contain Zolpidem include, but are not limited to:

  • ZolpiMist, which is an oral spray formula
  • Edluar, which is a sublingual tablet
  • Intermezzo, another sublingual tablet prescribed in different doses

Working as a hypnotic (at least in the short term), the drug is also effective in helping people fall and stay asleep. This makes Ambien a proper prescription medication for people suffering from insomnia. However - as you will soon learn - anyone who abuses it ends up suffering undesirable side effects.

Ambien Uses

As we mentioned earlier in this guide, Ambien was created to treat insomnia in the short term. Most of the people who take the drug develop the condition as a reaction to such significant sources of stress including:

  • The passing on of loved ones
  • Loss of employment
  • Serious conflicts with loved ones
  • Withdrawal from drugs and/or alcohol

When you take Ambien, therefore, you will be able to fight insomnia. Doctors prescribe it because of the relaxing effects that induce sleep, and which will provide relief from the long nights you have gone without sleep.

However, some users will develop reactions to the drug which are contrary to these expectations. For instance, a recent study published in Encephale, a French journal, uncovered the fact that some Ambien abusers start on the path to addiction once they realize that the drug doesn't make them feel tired or sleep. Instead, the drug creates euphoric feelings and allows the abusers to improve their ability to handle the typical stresses that arise on a daily basis. Others never feel sedated even after taking high doses of Ambien.

Not surprisingly, these unexpected reactions are behind the addictiveness of the drug. Therefore, after taking your prescription, you would expect to fall asleep. Instead, you will feel in charge, loved, and powerful - all positive feelings.

Once your brain reinforces these positive experiences, you are more likely to feel compelled to continue using the drug repeatedly. With time, you will become dependent on and addicted to Ambien.

Ambien Effects

Most of the effects that Ambien causes are negative. In fact, the reported negative consequences that come about after taking the drug include:

  • Physical dependence
  • Severe withdrawal symptoms
  • The risk of an overdose, which arises when you use Ambien in conjunction with other substances like alcohol
  • Addiction
a) Dependence

In most cases, dependence to this drug arises from prolonged use. This refers to the maladaptive pattern of drug use that significantly impairs and distresses you clinically. The signs and symptoms of Ambien dependence include withdrawal, tolerance, and continued desire to take the drug. You might also try to quit the habit but to no avail.

Eventually, you will start spending more time, energy, and money trying to get the drug.

b) Addiction

Once you become dependent, you will have met all the diagnostic criteria for addiction or substance use disorder. According to the DSM-V by the American Psychiatric Association, a couple of the symptoms of anxiolytic, hypnotic or sedative use disorders include:

  • A compulsive desire to get the drug
  • Abandoning activities that you used to enjoy so that you can focus on getting the substance
  • Continued use even after you suffer the financial, legal, interpersonal, and social consequences arising from your addiction
  • Continuing to take the drug longer than you intended
  • Trying to cease or cut down use unsuccessfully
c) Withdrawal Symptoms

If you stop taking Ambien abruptly, you will suffer withdrawal symptoms - especially after you've already become addicted to it, used the drug over the long haul, and started taking higher doses of it.

Depending on how you've been using, and the extent of such use, these symptoms might last for several weeks. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Agitation
  • Convulsions and/or seizures, but in severe cases
  • Cravings
  • Delirium
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness

If you experience seizures, such as during withdrawal, the chances are high that you will need to get medical attention immediately. Therefore, before you try to stop using Ambien, it is imperative that you seek medical evaluation.

In case there's a risk of seizure, you should never try withdrawing on your own. Instead, check into a rehabilitation center so that trained medics can monitor your condition closely and supervise your detox, withdrawal, and complete treatment.

Ambien Side Effects

So, what are some of the common side effects arising from using Ambien? Although this drug was created to provide relief from insomnia without the side effects that come about when you take barbiturates, it causes the following side effects:

  • Addiction
  • Aggression
  • Allergic reactions
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Emotional blunting
  • Impaired vision
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Memory loss
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Nightmares
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sedation
  • Slow breathing rates
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Vomiting
  • Withdrawal, which might prove fatal

On the other hand, if you have already started abusing Ambien, it is highly likely that you will start behaving and reacting differently. As a direct result of using this drug, you will probably experience the following:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Hallucinations
  • Inability to coordinate your muscles
  • Lethal Sleepwalking
  • Memory loss
  • Unexplained nausea
  • Vomiting

Although the Huffington Post has hailed Ambien as the no.1 prescription sleeping aid, they have also warned users of strange behavior and abnormal thinking - which are both specified in the fine print.

However, you don't necessarily have to be abusing the drug to experience these troubling and disturbing side effects.

At times, your behavior will seem innocuous - such as when you get out of bed in a sort of limbo state between sleep and wakefulness. In other instances, you will perform certain activities unconsciously, like sending text messages and preparing meals.

This sort of behavior might prove to be fatal. For example, you might have sex, or operate a vehicle in the same unconscious state. Consider the Robert Stewart case, a patient on Ambien who visited the nursing home where his ex-wife worked and ended up killing eight people.

Ambien Addictive Qualities

The effects derived from Ambien are so pleasant that most people who started out on the drug as a prescription eventually start taking higher doses. As you get used to these increased amounts, your brain and body will feel like you have to continue taking the drug. Simultaneously, you will develop serious cravings whenever you go for short spells without it.

This is what is referred to as dependency - one of the steps towards any addiction. When you abuse Ambien, you run a risk of becoming dependent on it. Over time, you will preoccupy your mind with getting and using the drug.

Self-Testing for Ambien Abuse

Addiction refers to any behavior that is controlled by a substance, as well as its repeated use. In case you are worried that you might be addicted to Ambien, use the following in examining yourself:

  • I have been taking higher doses of the drug than the physician recommended
  • I have started using Ambien for fun, and not just to get to sleep
  • I have visited different doctors or stolen the drug to continue feeling the habit
  • I panic whenever I fear I won't be able to get Ambien
  • I usually take it during the day
  • I was unsuccessful when I tried to quit

Once you are addicted to the drug, these statements - at least a vast majority of them - will be true. If that's the case, then you need to understand the dangers you are facing and seek help before it is too late.

Ambien Dangers

Ambien calms the body and mind, thereby inducing sleep easily among insomniacs. As such, it is quite effective as long as you use it according to the prescription written out by your doctor.

If you decide to take higher doses, you will experience serious side effects, some of which might prove to be fatal and dangerous. Not only will you put your life and well-being in danger, but you could also hurt or even kill others, inadvertently.

In most cases, Ambien prescriptions are supposed to last for a maximum of two weeks. However, those who continue taking the drug after this time frame will accidentally or intentionally start abusing it.

The disturbingly strange and dangerous side effects arising from using the drug will most have you shifting from sleep to engaging in seriously complicated activities, which you might remember later on. These activities include:

  • Sleepwalking
  • Making food
  • Eating food
  • Having sex
  • Driving
  • Talking on the phone

Further, if you try to stop using the drug after you've become hooked, you will experience aggravated withdrawal symptoms. For instance, you will feel unable to cope with losing the drug, crave more of it, and experience depression, seizures, anxiety, and agitation.

Signs And Symptoms Of Ambien Abuse

Not unexpectedly, addiction to Ambien forms within a fortnight. For most people, the realization that there's a problem only occurs after you decide to quit using the drug - at which point you discover that you need it to continue functioning normally.

The following signs should point out that your addiction is highly advanced:

  • Asking for prescription refills more often than you should
  • Craving Ambien
  • Engaging in dangerous activities, with no recollection after that
  • Isolating yourself from friends and family
  • Spending an innocuous amount of money on this drug
  • Taking higher doses than the doctor prescribed

Ambien Overdose

One of the dangers commonly associated with addictive substances is overdose. Taking Ambien carries the same risk. In most cases, overdose happens as an accidental result of taking more of the drug to achieve the level of intoxication the drug causes.

Most of the people who overdose on Ambien do so after taking it in conjunction with alcohol and/or any other intoxicating drug or substance.

After you take the drug, your cognitive capabilities and memory will be seriously impaired. This might cause you to forget that you already took the pill, leading to an overdose.

Common symptoms of overdose include:

  • Coma
  • Dangerously slow breathing
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Slow heart rate (bradycardia)

Treatment For Ambien Addiction

Like with other substance addictions, you need to seek treatment as soon as possible after you realize that you are hooked to Ambien. Treatment varies from one person to the next.

It is vital that you only try to withdraw from this drug under a controlled environment and with the supervision of a medical team. This is because Ambien is often accompanied by withdrawal symptoms that are as dangerous as they are uncomfortable.

You can also sign into an inpatient facility or enroll with an outpatient addiction treatment facility. In most cases, the doctors will also try to address the problem that led to your addiction.

Today, there are many Ambien rehabilitation centers where you can check in for treatment. At the facility, the experts will facilitate group and individual therapy, train you on new skills, and help you recover your life.

Some of the methods that these addiction and dependence facilities adopt include contingency management, motivational interviewing, and cognitive behavioral therapy, among many other interventions.

With the rising cases of drug use, abuse, dependency, and addiction, many rehabilitation programs exist to treat the conditions in controlled environments. If you (or people you know) require treatment, seek help as early as possible.

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