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How to Help an Ambien Addict

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Ambien is a brand name for zolpidem, a medication prescribed for the management of insomnia. A few other formulations of same medication with differing delivery methods are marketed under the names:

  • Edluar and Intermezzo – Sublingual zolpidem tablets that melt under the tongue.
  • Zolpimist – An oral zolpidem spray delivered into the mouth to be absorbed on the tongue.

As a sleep aid, Ambien is frequently preferred over medications like benzodiazepines and barbiturates because it is seen to have fewer negative effects. Unfortunately, Ambien can still lead to abuse and addiction.

Help for Ambien Addicts

family-intervention-ambien-treatmentPeople addicted to Ambien alone or in combination with other substances will benefit from specialized treatment to end their addiction and return to a healthy lifestyle. Various therapeutic approaches and other components to treatment will be utilized for someone addicted to Ambien. These may include:

  • Behavioral therapy.
  • Sleep hygiene training.
  • Family therapy.
  • Support groups.

Is Ambien Addictive? 

Yes. Ambien, when taken for a period of time, can be addictive. With prolonged use, you may first develop tolerance to its effects, and soon thereafter experience an unpleasant withdrawal syndrome when you haven’t had the drug in a while.

Tolerance. With Ambien, you will need more of the substance as time goes on to achieve the same sleep benefits that you experienced when you first started taking the medication. This phenomenon describes tolerance. Prescribing practitioners are aware of the potential for tolerance development. It is one of the reasons that Ambien is designed to be taken for short periods of time and then stopped. If someone continues use for more than two weeks, effects will almost certainly diminish and dosing will need to increase to get the same effects.

Withdrawal. Another signal of Ambien’s addictive quality manifests in how the regular user may feel the first few nights without the substance. They will no doubt have increased trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, in addition to experiencing a range of other effects of acute withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms illustrate the body’s dependence on the substance. When the user is unable to take ambien, withdrawal symptoms can surface, which include:

  • Anxiety.
  • Sweating and feeling flushed.
  • Abdominal cramping.
  • Increased insomnia.

Similar to the dangers of benzodiazepine withdrawal, there have been some reports of seizure activity in cases of sudden Ambien cessation—an ominous development that may require vigilant medical monitoring as a longer-term Ambien user attempts to quit.

What Are the Signs of Addiction and Abuse?

teen-experiencing-abdominal-cramping-ambien-side-effectsMisuse of Ambien can give rise to some significant health effects that include:

  • Hallucinations.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea.
  • Unexpected behavior changes.
  • Irritability.
  • Sleepwalking and sleep driving.
  • Depression.
  • Suicidal ideation.

Am I Addicted to Ambien?

Knowing if you are addicted to a substance like Ambien can be challenging if you’ve been legitimately prescribed the medication. It is important to realize that even legal, prescription medications can lead to addiction. To assess for addiction, take an honest look at your life and reflect on:

  • Relationships. People struggling with addiction are likely to experience increased conflicts with friends and loved ones.
  • Finances. Have you been spending more money on Ambien and less on paying your bills or caring for your other responsibilities?
  • Interests. Addiction to Ambien may lead to having less energy and motivation, which may result in decreased participation in previously enjoyed hobbies or other healthy activities.

Perhaps the most telling sign of addiction is the desire to continue using the substance even when it leads to unwanted consequences. If you use the medication despite the potentially dangerous and life-threatening side effects and other negative consequences, you may be addicted to Ambien.

Other signs that you may be addicted include: 

  • Taking more of the medication than prescribed.
  • Taking the substance without a prescription.
  • Taking the medication for nonmedical reasons.
  • Seeking multiple prescriptions from different doctors or not being honest with doctors regarding use.

Ambien Addiction Treatment

Ambien addiction will be treated based on individual needs and the magnitude of addiction of the person involved. First, the user may need to undergo a period of detoxification from Ambien. Detox is the body’s act of processing and removing the substance. Supervised detox can help minimize the discomfort associated with withdrawal symptoms.

Specialized Ambien treatment may utilize aspects of:

  • Behavioral therapy. In addiction treatment, behavioral therapy can come in forms like cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interventions, contingency management, and others. The goal of each will be to find ways to end use, enter a period of recovery, and avoid future relapse.
  • Sleep hygiene training. Since poor sleep is a motivating factor in Ambien abuse and addiction, sleep may continue to be a problem during recovery. By addressing these issues, poor sleep can be less of a trigger in the future. Sleep hygiene training can be completed by a physician or a therapist and will provide helpful measures to improve quality and quantity of sleep in healthy ways.
  • Family education and therapy. Often, addiction is a family-wide problem. With friends and family of the person in recovery active in treatment, better outcomes are possible. Family can become aware of relapse signs while learning how their own actions may be enabling or triggering.
  • Support groups. Whether used alone or in combination with other treatments, support groups are helpful for many. They allow someone with addiction to meet with others in similar situations to discuss experiences and options to extend recovery.

Call Our Hotline Today

Ambien is a prescription drug, but it does not mean it comes without risks. Call  to receive more information on Ambien abuse and possible treatment options.

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Amanda Lautieri is a Senior Web Content Editor at American Addiction Centers and an addiction content expert for DrugAbuse.com. She holds a bachelor's degree and has reviewed thousands of medical articles on substance abuse and addiction.
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