Ambien Abuse & Addiction

Addiction to Ambien, a popular sleeping pill, can begin sometime after a person has trouble sleeping at night. Ambien is commonly prescribed by doctors because, if taken as directed, it is usually not addictive. Long-term use can lead to dependence, however, and some find that they cannot sleep without taking it after a period of weeks or months.

What is Ambien?

Ambien is the brand name of zolpidem. Ambien is sold as a sleeping aid and is designed to help those with insomnia. The drug is only available with a doctor’s prescription. Ambien should be used as prescribed and only by the person for whom it is prescribed.

How Ambien Works

Ambien is classified as a sedative-hypnotic drug, which works in a similar way to benzodiazepines or barbiturates, while not causing as much susceptibility to dependence and addiction. It works by slowing down the nervous system to induce sleep.

Part of the reason why Ambien can be habit-forming is that there can be a rebound effect, causing even more severe insomnia the night after taking the drug. The rebound effect increases dependence on the drug since it becomes more and more impossible to sleep without it.

It is dangerous to mix Ambien with alcohol, benzos, or barbituates because it may depress breathing too much and intensify the drug’s effects.

Signs of Ambien Misuse

Ambien misuse occurs when Ambien is used in amounts or frequencies beyond what is prescribed or when used for another purpose besides as a sleep aid. An example is those who take Ambien then try to stay awake for the intoxicating effect that it can cause. Signs that someone is misusing Ambien include:

  • Lying or feeling guilty about Ambien use
  • Lying to obtain Ambien
  • Using Ambien beyond how it is prescribed
  • Using someone else’s Ambien
  • Taking Ambien for any other reason than for falling asleep

Many regular users of Ambien find that they become tolerant to the drug’s effects, so that more of it is needed for them to get the same effect, i.e. sleep. Taking more Ambien than prescribed or mixing it with other drugs and/or alcohol can be dangerous and can increase dependence on the drug.

Some users even crush and snort Ambien pills to get a stronger effect from the drug, which is a sure sign that abuse is occurring. Other symptoms of Ambien abuse may look similar to alcohol intoxication and may also include using Ambien recreationally, having withdrawal symptoms, or repeatedly failing to cut back on using the drug.

Some users may have episodes of sleepwalking or eating in their sleep even with normal use. Hallucinations are sometimes reported by those who are abusing Ambien.

Is Ambien Addictive?

Many people wonder, “Is Ambien addictive?” The drug’s manufacturer advertises that it is a non-addictive sleeping medication and a good alternative to other sleeping medications that are known for being addictive. But while it is true that Ambien may not be addictive for most people when taken as prescribed, it can be addictive when misused.

Most people who misuse Ambien do so by taking a dose several times stronger than prescribed to obtain a high. There are cases, however, of people who initially became addicted by using it as directed. While rare, this can occur, and typically occurs with people who have previously experienced a substance misuse disorder.

Ambien Withdrawal & Detox

Withdrawal symptoms from Ambien use include mood swings or uncontrollable crying, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, flushing, seizures, and of course, trouble sleeping.

It is important to be monitored when stopping the use of Ambien because of the possibility of seizures and other dangerous effects. In many cases, the Ambien is tapered off slowly to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms, and sometimes a drug with similar effects but less severe withdrawal symptoms is given in place of the Ambien and then tapered off.

In the case of an Ambien overdose, flumazenil has been used to block the dangerous depressant effects of the drug and reverse the overdose.

Finding Help for Ambien Addiction

Treatment for Ambien abuses includes therapy methods like cognitive behavioral therapy and lifestyle changes like exercise, which can help reduce stress levels so that sleep will come more naturally to those affected. Having a sleep routine, avoiding caffeine later in the day, and avoiding alcohol and smoking are also recommended for those with insomnia after Ambien abuse.

Dual diagnosis treatments for co-occurring mental health conditions that may have contributed to insomnia and Ambien abuse are also part of treatment.

If you or a loved one live with Ambien addiction, help is available. The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake offers treatment programs that address addiction and co-occurring disorders. You deserve a healthier future, call today.

Medscape. “Zolpidem RX.” October 2018. March 28, 2019.

Heydari, M., Mohsen S. “Zolpidem Dependence, Abuse and Withdrawal: A Case Report.” Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, November 2013. March 28, 2019. “Can You Become Addicted to Ambien?”. December 2018. March 28, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.