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Ambien Addiction Signs and Symptoms

photo of Ambien drug word use in medicine word in medical backgroundInsomnia is one of the most common health problems, with 1 in 3 people experiencing it in their lifetime. Ambien, a brand name of the sleeping medication Zolpidem, is prescribed to help. And, while Ambien is most often prescribed for the short-term, some individuals with long-term insomnia and sleeping problems receive a longer-term prescription. That puts many at risk of chemical dependence and addiction – because Ambien is tolerance inducing and dependence inducing. That means it’s highly addictive, even over the short term.

In 2018, almost 13 million Americans had an Ambien (or generic) prescription, making it the 60th most prescribed drug in the nation. That’s important, because Ambien can greatly improve quality of life for individuals with sleeping problems. But, if you suspect that you or a loved one has a problem with the drug, it may be important to act quickly to prevent harm to health, psychological health, finances, and career.

While the symptoms of Ambien addiction will naturally vary from person to person, you can normally look for the following signs.

Signs & Symptoms of Ambien Addiction

Most signs of Ambien misuse divide into two major categories; physical signs of heavy drug use and general signs of seeking behaviors. We’ll go over each of these in order. The first simply relates to taking the drug and how someone will react and act when on the drug or “high”.

This is important in the case of Ambien because a normal user will never take the drug during the day. No matter what excuses are given, a sleeping medication is never prescribed for use outside of taking it just before lying in bed. If your loved one takes Ambien during the day they are abusing the medication.

  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Hangover-like symptoms
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Delusions and possible hallucinations
  • Coordination problems (may walk as though “drunk”)
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate

If your loved one has an Ambien prescription and they exhibit these symptoms, chances are high that they have taken a pill. On the other hand, these symptoms could also be a sign of a serious medical condition –so it may be advisable to get your loved one to a hospital.

Seeking Behavior and Addiction

The signs of seeking behavior are much more specific and much more indicative of a specific drug problem. If your loved one is exhibiting these symptoms, it’s important to get them into psychological treatment, such as a rehab program.

You or your loved one:

  • Takes more Ambien than prescribed
  • Takes Ambien on all or most days
  • Always runs out of the prescription early
  • Doctor shops or goes to multiple doctors to get more of the prescription
  • Purchases Ambien (or other illicit drugs) without a prescription
  • Crushes their Ambien
  • Uses their Ambien in any way not prescribed (such as with alcohol, with other drugs, or snorting it)
  • Takes Ambien during the day
  • Takes Ambien before operating heavy machinery or equipment (such as driving)
  • Takes Ambien to destress, or to “not feel”
  • Compulsively uses Ambien
  • Constantly thinks about or talks about Ambien
  • Takes Ambien with them “Just in case”
  • Exhibits withdrawal symptoms (cold and flu symptoms, aches and pains) if asked to go without Ambien for a few days
  • Exhibits compulsive behaviors such as stealing, lying, or manipulating others to continue Ambien usage
  • Attempts to quit Ambien and cannot or quickly relapses

All of these symptoms are a sign of a serious psychological problem. They are a maladaptive behavioral pattern of drug abuse, also known as addiction.

Importantly, if you know your loved one is using Ambien outside of a prescription, it’s important to talk to them, even if they don’t have any other symptoms. Illicit drug use is always bad and can always result in an addiction.

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How Normal Ambien Use Becomes Addictive

photo of a lady taking ambien pillsAmbien is considered a highly addictive drug because it is a) tolerance inducing and b) causes psychological dependence. A normal user will have a small and very controlled dosage, normally for the duration of a few weeks. In other cases, that might extend for as long as a few years, depending on your doctor, their ability to treat your sleep disorder using other methods, and your reaction to other treatment methods.

In most cases, doctors will control Ambien usage by giving out small prescriptions (1-2 weeks of pills at most), frequent checkups, and therapy as part of the treatment.

However, Ambien is heavily tolerance inducing. Some users will find that they need to take more of the drug to get the same results, in as little as 2 months. That means that even if your prescription is just 12 weeks, you can experience physical dependence. This normally results in people attempting to sleep with the original dose, finding they can’t, giving up and taking more. Eventually, taking more becomes a norm and it simply escalates.

Psychological dependence makes that work. Anyone who’s ever had trouble sleeping, especially with responsibilities the next day, knows that it’s terrible. If you can’t sleep, you’re very likely to do anything to get back to sleep if “anything” is as simple as taking a few more pills. Eventually, someone might get to a state where they can’t sleep because they are afraid they can’t sleep without the pills, in which case they literally think themselves into having to take more pills. They run out, and instead of waiting till they can fill their prescription up again, they get desperate and go looking.

Of course, this kind of situation doesn’t happen every time. Millions of people use Ambien regularly without experiencing problems. But people are vulnerable based on factors like genetics, stress, mental health, and health.

Non-Prescription Ambien Abuse

Over 75% of the people hospitalized for Ambien overdose are adults, over the age of 45. This means that most Ambien misuse is by individuals with a prescription. However, the drug is also popular with teens – who often source it by stealing it from parents or purchasing it from other teens who have done the same. Ambien presents a relatively safe and accessible drug in many households – and it’s popular as an alternative to being “stoned” on marijuana. In addition, individuals with another substance use disorder may turn to Ambien when lacking their drug of choice, opting for availability over a specific drug.

Is Ambien Dangerous?

Ambien is a controlled drug, which means that, yes, it can be dangerous. In 2010, 19,000 people were admitted to the ER following Ambien abuse. The drug is especially toxic when mixed with alcohol or another drug – which means that abusing it can cause significant health repercussions.

Getting Help

If you or a loved one is showing signs and symptoms of Ambien addiction, there is help. However, it’s almost always important to seek out medical detox. You should never go cold turkey on Ambien, because the drug can cause severe withdrawal symptoms and even seizures. Contact a medical professional or drug addiction treatment center, discuss a tapering schedule, or get a medical assistance program to prevent serious side effects.

Once you’ve detoxed from the drug, Ambien addiction treatment brings behavioral therapy, counseling, and group therapy together to help you treat underlying problems behind the addiction, to help you deal with cravings, and to offer support for the initial sleep disorder that required Ambien to begin with. Moving forward after an Ambien disorder can be difficult. You’ll struggle to get another sleeping pill prescription – but chances are, you don’t want it. However, you can get the help and support you need to get clean, to move your sleep schedule back to as healthy a place as possible, and to build a happier life for yourself without relying on a drug.

If you have any questions about helping your loved one get into addiction treatment, please contact us today. We are here to help and our experienced addiction advisors are standing by to answer any questions.