Ambien is a prescription medication that is typically used for the treatment of acute insomnia. However, you can develop a substance use disorder if you have been taking it for more than 2 weeks or at higher doses than your doctor prescribed.
A brand name drug for Zolpidem, Ambien is widely known across the world for its sleeping mechanisms. Doctors often prescribe it for short term use in the treatment of insomnia and other sleep disorders.
If you have a prescription for this medication, you should take it by mouth. It appears in the form of an extended release tablet as well as a small and oblong tablet. However, you may also start abusing it by crushing up your pills before snorting the resulting powder to experience stronger effects.
Today, the DEA - the Drug Enforcement Agency - lists Ambien as a schedule IV drug under the Controlled Substances Act passed by the federal government. This effectively means that it has a relatively low potential for substance abuse and addiction. Even so, you may find yourself abusing the drug due to its hallucinatory and euphoric effects.
Since it is a short acting hypnotic drug that is not classified as a benzodiazepine, Ambien is quite effective at initiating and eventually maintaining sleep. For this reason, it is also classified as a sedative hypnotic.
The drug works by activating the GABA neurotransmitter that will slow down activity in the central nervous system and the brain. However, its nature is such that you only need to use it in the short term to reduce your risk of substance abuse and addiction.
In fact, if you start abusing the drug, you could become physically dependent on it in about 14 days or less. This is whether or not you have been taking Ambien following your doctor's prescription or you decided to abuse the drug.
Dependence is often characterized by tolerance. This effectively means that you will get to a point in your Ambien use where you will have to take the drug in higher doses or more frequently than you used to before you can experience its pleasurable effects.
Over time, dependence will be replaced by full blown addiction. This condition will often be characterized by impaired control over your Ambien use, compulsive use of the drug, and continued use in spite of the harm it causes, ongoing cravings, tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it.
Other Names for Ambien
On the streets, people refer to Ambien by a wide variety of names to avoid being detected by law enforcement officials and other authorities. Examples of these street names include but are not limited to:
- No-go Pills
- Zombie Pills
Signs and Symptoms of Ambien Addiction
Even though Ambien is quite effective in dealing with sleep disorders, it can also lead to substance abuse and addiction. Once you become addicted to this drug, you may start displaying the following signs and symptoms:
- Altered reasoning
- Chronic fatigue
- Coordination problems
- Drowsiness the day after taking the drug
- Engaging in dangerous actions without having memory of them
- Experiencing cravings
- Feeling like you have been drugged
- Isolating oneself from your friends and family
- Lack of muscular coordination
- Overwhelming drowsiness
- Poor judgment
- Problems with coordination
- Refilling prescriptions for the drug too often
- Short term memory loss
- Slowed breathing
- Slowed heart beat
- Somnambulism (or sleepwalking)
- Spending large amounts of time and money to acquire the drug
- Taking the drug in larger doses than your doctor prescribed
- Uncontrollable body shaking
- Unexplained nausea
Short and Long-Term Effects of Ambien Abuse
There are also various effects that you will experience as a result of Ambien abuse. Examples of these effects include but are not always limited to:
- Appetite changes
- Being drowsy during the day
- Chest pain
- Feeling light headed
- Gastrointestinal disturbances
- Issues with digestion
- Joint pain
- Memory loss
- Muscle pain
- Persistent drowsiness
- Persistent fatigue
- Physical dependence
- Problems with balance
- Problems with your muscle control
- Redness of the eyes
- Skin rash
- Stomach cramps
- Suicidal thoughts
- Trouble breathing
- Trouble walking
- Weak feelings
- Withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug
Ambien is one of the substance of abuse that is commonly associated with drug overdose. You may overdose on it as an accidental result of trying to overcome your growing tolerance or because you were trying to achieve a better experience while on this medication. The risk of overdose would also be heightened if you mixed Ambien with any other addictive substance like alcohol.
While taking this drug, your cognition and memory might be impaired. As a result, you may forget that you already had your dose of the medication. If this happens and you accidentally ingest more Ambien, you could also increase your risk of suffering a drug overdose that could be accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Blue fingers or lips
- Blurry vision
- Dangerously slowed breathing
- Excessive drowsiness
- Slow heart rate
- Slowed breathing
- Small pupils
- Stopped breathing
If you experience any of these overdose side effects, you should call 911 or your local poisons control center as soon as possible. This is because it is critical you receive emergency medical assistance as soon as possible. In fact, you need to realize that Ambien overdose is considered to be a medical emergency that can only be managed in a clinical or hospital setting.
Ambien Withdrawal Symptoms
If you are addicted to Ambien and you suddenly stop abusing it or you significantly reduce the usual dose that you were used to taking, there is a high risk that you could suffer some withdrawal symptoms. This is particularly true if you have been using this drug in high doses. These withdrawal symptoms may last anywhere between a couple of days to several weeks. It will all depend on the severity of your substance abuse and addiction.
Some of these withdrawal symptoms include but are not always limited to:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Cravings for the drug
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Rebound insomnia
- Stomach cramps
- Uncontrollable depression
If you experience seizures while withdrawing, it could turn out to be a medical emergency. It is for this reason that you should consider going for medical evaluation before you attempt to detox from the drug on your own. In fact, you need to receive medical detox to ensure that you do not harm yourself or others while suffering from Ambien withdrawal.
The Best Options for Ambien Addiction Treatment
The best way to recover from Ambien is by checking into a professional addiction treatment and rehabilitation program. There are many such programs and they can provide you with the medical detox services required to monitor and manage any withdrawal symptoms that you present during the first few days and weeks of your early recovery.
Through these detox services, you can potentially lessen and manage the severity of your Ambien withdrawal symptoms. They will also keep you as comfortable and pain-free as possible while ensuring that you do not suffer any fatal or life-threatening symptoms.
After the detox process has been success, you should seek further addiction treatment. This would typically be offered on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Inpatient treatment is recommended if you have a long term and severe Ambien addiction or you have also been diagnosed with other additional co-occurring mental health and medical disorders.
Outpatient treatment, on the other hand, would be ideal if you have a relatively short term or mild Ambien abuse problem that has not been lasting long enough for you to require residential services.
The important thing to keep in mind is that you need to get help for your Ambien abuse and addiction as soon as you realize that you have a problem with this drug. Doing so could potentially save your life - and the lives of others - due to the reduction and elimination of the Ambien addiction risk and its associated problems.