Ambien is known generically as zolpidem tartrate. It is used to treat problems with insomnia and a known sedative. To improve the efficiency of the medication, it should be taken without a meal and only if one is about to sleep for 7-8 hours per night. Those who take Ambien and don’t sleep the full 7-8 hours could face problems, such as memory loss, and could have a decreased ability to perform tasks that necessitate concentration and focus, such as driving or operating machinery.
According to WebMD, Ambien is taken for treatment periods of 1-2 weeks, and no more than 10 milligrams should be taken at a time. Gender, age, medical condition, and other medications one is taking factor into the dosage levels of Ambien prescribed by a physician. The medication is also habit-forming, and a past history of drug abuse could increase the likelihood that addiction will form due to use.
Ambien can cause various withdrawal symptoms if is used in high doses or for a long time. Some symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, shakiness, or nervousness. It is also typical to experience rebound insomnia — trouble sleeping — for 1-2 nights after discontinuing use of Ambien.
When Dependence Is a Concern
Ambien is still less likely to cause dependence than medications such as Xanax (alprazolam), Ativan (lorazepam), or Restoril (temazepam). Treating insomnia with medication is not the ideal situation. Research from Mayo Clinic shows that using medication to treat insomnia on a long-term basis could hide other problems. It is also best to use other long-term plans and therapies to combat sleeping problems.
Those who have had a past drug abuse history or psychiatric diagnoses are at an increased risk of becoming addicted to Ambien. One way doctors can help manage addiction is to gradually reduce the use of Ambien until a person can safely stop using it. This is because a quick decrease in dosage has been known to cause seizures, uncontrolled crying, discomfort in the abdominal area, nausea, panic attacks, tremors, and severe anxiety.
One must differentiate between dependence and addiction. Addiction is psychological in nature, while dependence is more physical. Some symptoms of Ambien addiction include:
- The use of Ambien for reasons other than what it is prescribed to do, such as recreational use
- An increase of dosage that is not suggested by a physician
- Experiencing cravings for Ambien
- Repeated use even if Ambien is having a negative impact on one’s personal relationships or profession
- Purchasing Ambien illegally to maintain one’s habit
If a doctor observes a patient who is addicted to Ambien, the treating doctor can choose the best way to deal with withdrawal symptoms by mitigating them as they progress or dealing with them through a gradual reduction in Ambien dosage. It is important to deal with issues being masked by addiction and work with doctors, psychiatrists, and other qualified professionals so that the root causes of addiction are dealt with. In this vein, detox from Ambien does not constitute addiction treatment in and of itself. Comprehensive therapy must be given to address the issues that led to the drug abuse in the first place.
There are also prescriptions one can use to deal with withdrawal symptoms, such as barbiturates or other hypnotics. These medications do potentially pose the risk of switching one addiction for another, and one must be aware of that risk. The key to successfully getting rid of an Ambien addiction is to change behaviors and engage in counseling, as well as creating motivational actions that can help a person get through the hurdle of addiction.
Those struggling with Ambien addiction are often best served in a comprehensive inpatient treatment program that can address the addiction from all angles of life – physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual. This kind of care embraces the entire person, not just the addictive behaviors.
Side Effects and Risks
As with any prescription, there are potential side effects with Ambien use. Some common and less severe side effects include:
- Decreased energy
- Nausea or vomiting
- Weakness and fatigue
- Dry mouth
- Abnormal dreams
- Urinary tract infection
- Eyesight problems
- A feeling of lethargy
- Changes in mood
- Some more severe side effects include:
- Loss of breath
It is important to let a physician know about any side effects one feels while taking Ambien. In addition to these symptoms, some people experience an allergic reaction to Ambien. This is rare, but should be immediately taken care of. Signs of an allergic reaction include hives, trouble breathing, and facial swelling. Seek prompt medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.
It’s Not Too Late to Get Help for Ambien Abuse
Increased Risk of Death
A 2012 study published by the British Medical Journal made a correlation between prescription sleeping pills such as Ambien and early death. The study also concluded that even people who used a low amount of the medication were at risk. Even when factoring in age, health condition, race, and alcohol and tobacco use, those who used sleeping pills were at a higher risk of death than those who did not use sleeping pills.
Stopping Ambien Use Safely
If you, or someone you know, are addicted to Ambien, or have used the drug for a sustained period of time, it’s important to seek medical supervision prior to stopping use. Suddenly stopping use of the drug can lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as extreme irritability, insomnia, anxiety, delirium, and even seizures. In addition to being uncomfortable and potentially dangerous, the presence of withdrawal symptoms often leads individuals to use the drug again in an effort to make the withdrawal symptoms disappear.
Oftentimes, medical professionals will slowly lower the dosage of Ambien over time, allowing the body to become accustomed to lower doses. Eventually, the dose will be low enough that the person can safely stop taking the drug altogether.
A comprehensive addiction treatment program will include medical detox. This ensures that clients can safely and comfortably withdraw from substances of abuse, including Ambien. Therapeutic treatment must follow Ambien detox to ensure the best chances of a full recovery.