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Article Summary


Ambien is a prescription drug in the class of "sedative hypnotics", and is prescribed to patients as a sleep aid. Ambien is one of the top selling prescriptions in the country, and its generic version zolpidem is also a top seller. Since zolpidem was released just a few years ago, nearly 35 million Americans have filled a prescription for the drug. Even though sales of the generic version of the drug now exceed Ambien because of cost, Ambien still accounts for over 10% of all prescriptions sold for this type of sleep aid. Even though Ambien is easy to obtain because physicians so readily prescribe the powerful drug without hesitation, it is a drug with high abuse potential and one which individuals can become addicted and dependent to in very short order. Aside from the risks associated with addiction and dependence, even legitimate use of Ambien and its generic zolpidem can result in unwanted and often severe side effects.

How Ambien Works

Sedative hypnotics such as Ambien work in the same areas of the brain and central nervous system as anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax or Valium for example. Xanax and Valium are in a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, drugs which are known to cause serious dependence in users especially if taken over an extended period of time. The dependence factor enters in when an individual no longer wants to be on Ambien, after having used it for a certain period of time. Once the drug wears off, the individual who is dependent to the effects of Ambien may experience what is known as "rebound" effects and anxiety which will ultimately compel them to continue its use. Just as with any type of drug addiction, the individual will continue using Ambien in an effort to self medicate and stave off unwanted rebound effects which are in effect symptoms of withdrawal. So even someone with a legitimate prescription for Ambien can get caught up in a cycle of dependence which is nearly impossible to end without help.

Some individuals may even start abusing the drug by taking higher doses of Ambien than recommended, either as a result of tolerance which has developed due to extended use or in an effort to achieve some sort of a high. Just as with any other drug of abuse such alcohol, cocaine or heroin, Ambien users may begin to stop feeling the effects of their recommended dose because of tolerance and take two or three tablets instead of one. Two or three tablets may result in some sort of a high that users experience because of the pleasure centers that are affected by Ambien, and this can quickly become a drug habit much like any other street drug habit. This isn't always the case, but is something which could happen if the individual is predisposed to misuse and abuse of drugs in the first place.

Ambien Abuse

Misuse and abuse of prescription drugs such as Ambien occurs every day, and millions of people in the U.S. are doing so with either prescriptions that have legitimately obtained or have ones that have been stolen or obtained from a friend or relative. This is nothing new and is in fact on par with levels of illicit street drug abuse. Although Ambien isn't abused nearly as much as prescription pain killers such as Oxycontin or Percocet for example, its abuse potential should not be ignored; especially when considering the serious side effects which users put themselves at risk of every day when taking the drug other than ways which are recommended or prescribed.

Alcohol only intensifies these risks and dangers, which is often used in combination with Ambien and other sleep aids in an effort to self-medicate and in the course of misusing the drug. Ambien users who misuse the drug in this way often report short term memory lapses and performing normal everyday tasks without even realizing they are performing such tasks while under the influence of the drug and alcohol. This can obviously be dangerous for a number of reasons, due to injury and accidents which can occur as a result. Some individuals may even find themselves having overdosed on Ambien or a combination of Ambien and alcohol or other drugs, which often occurs in the case of misuse. In fact,

Ambien-related visits popping up in emergency rooms around the country more than doubled between 2004 and 2008. A testament to the rising popularity and misuse of the seemingly benign drug and its powerful effects when abused.

Because individuals can become dependent and need to take Ambien to offset withdrawal symptoms even after short term use, it is not uncommon for individuals who want to get off the drug to seek help in doing so. No one should ever abruptly stop taking any kind of prescription drug when such dependence has developed, and should always seek professional help when deciding to do so. So whether someone is misusing Ambien or using it legitimately and wants help getting off of it, there are treatment professionals who know how to do this safely and effectively. To abruptly stop on one's own can result in serious physical effects such as seizures which could be life threatening. Abrupt cessation of Ambien could also cause worsening depression in patients who are already struggling with such symptoms, which could result in suicide. The risks are too great, and the importance of seeking professional assistance when coming off of the drug should never be understated.

Rehab For Ambien Abuse

Overcoming Ambien dependence, even when legitimately prescribed, will not be easy. However, it can be a safe and smooth process for individuals who do seek proper help in doing so. Help for Ambien addiction and or/dependence is available at a number of inpatient and residential treatment facilities, where physicians and treatment professionals can safely oversee Ambien detox and withdrawal and help the individual bounce back from a situation such as this. Treatment often includes developing new methods to promote and encourage healthy sleep patterns and relaxation, as well as other therapeutic techniques which are utilized to resolve any environmental issues which could be an interruption to healthy sleep patterns.

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