Ambien Addiction

What is Ambien Addiction?

Ambien is a non-benzodiazepine sedative most commonly prescribed for the treatment of insomnia and other sleep disorders. Ambien addiction, however, is becoming more common as Ambien abusers become addicted to its effects. Ambien addicts use the drug because it gives them a sense of euphoria and relaxation that they cannot achieve naturally or through other means such as alcohol or illegal drugs.

Ambien also causes the Ambien addict to feel sleepy and lethargic which can cause Ambien addicts to become very reliant on Ambien. Ambien comes in three forms: an immediate-release tablet that is usually prescribed for initiating sleep, a sustained-release form that is commonly used for maintaining sleep, and a 12-hour extended-release Ambien CR also used for maintaining sleep. Ambien addiction occurs when Ambien addicts cannot function without Ambien and Ambien becomes more important than family, friends, or career.

Ambien is a brand name for Zolpidem Tartrate, a sedative drug that is prescribed to treat insomnia. It is one of the varieties of prescription drugs that can cause severe addiction. In the scientific piece ‘Zolpidem dependence, abuse and withdrawal: A case report, M. Heydari, M. Saberi, published by The Us National Library of Medicine, the authors showed that zolpidem can exert abuse capability, euphoric mood, tolerance, and withdrawal syndrome.

Ambien is in a class of drugs known as Sedative-Hypnotics. It works by activating the neurotransmitter GABA, which slows down the brain and the central nervous system (CNS). Ambien is used to treat insomnia but is only intended for short-term use. There are two forms of Ambien, a quick-release form that helps initiate sleep and an extended-release form that helps maintain sleep. Use of either form can lead to Ambien addiction.

Ambien Addiction
Ambien addiction is becoming more common as Ambien abusers become addicted to its effects. Ambien addicts use the drug because it gives them a sense of euphoria and relaxation.

This non-Benzodiazepine “Z-Drug” was designed to have the same medical effect as Benzodiazepines, like Xanax, without the same hazardous and habit-forming properties those drugs are known for. The makers of Ambien designed and marketed the drug as a less addictive alternative to Benzos for people with acute insomnia. However, while it generally takes users longer to develop Ambien addiction, than Benzo addiction, and withdrawal from Ambien is generally less severe and dangerous than Benzo withdrawal, Ambien is still an addictive substance. It is now recognized that Ambien has a similar abuse potential to Benzos.

The physical dependence on Ambien can form in as little as two weeks, whether the user is following a prescription or abusing the drug. Ambien addiction is characterized by tolerance, whereby the user requires larger amounts of the substance to feel the same effect and withdrawal symptoms that appear if the user stops taking the drug or reduces their dosage. Eventually, Ambien dependence may become a full-blown Ambien addiction; this is characterized by tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, impaired control overuse, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and cravings. Many people don’t know they have a problem until they stop taking the drug and realize they cannot sleep without it.

Ambien Addiction and Other Drugs

Ambien was created to be a less addictive prescription drug than others, but more than half a million people in the United States are currently abusing Ambien and other Sedatives, as estimated by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. This condition can reach very dangerous levels when Ambien is consumed in combination with other drugs, which is a very common practice for people with a Drug Abuse Disorder. 

One of the most common substances used with Ambien is alcohol. Oftentimes when someone’s tolerance to Ambien builds, they need higher doses of the drug to fall asleep. Some people with an Ambien tolerance take alcohol with their pill to amplify the Sedative effects of the drug. This is dangerous because both drugs (Ambien and alcohol) depress the central nervous system.

Some people have also combined Ambien with Benzos, like Valium. This is especially dangerous because Ambien is very similar to Benzos, and they are both Central Nervous System Depressants. When the two are combined, the risks of respiratory failure and fatal overdose are dramatically increased. There is also a risk of damage to the heart, brain, and lungs.

Ambien Addiction
Ambien was created to be a less addictive prescription drug than others, but more than half a million people in the United States are currently abusing Ambien and other Sedatives.

Ambien Addiction Overdose

Overdose is a common danger associated with the abuse of many drugs, including Zolpidem. Overdose may be an accidental consequence of trying to achieve a more intense high or overcome tolerance to the drug. Additionally, an overdose is more likely to occur when an individual has taken Ambien in addition to drinking alcohol or other intoxicating substances.

Another consideration is that sometimes after taking Ambien, patients’ memory and cognition are impaired, causing them to forget having taken the pill. If they do not remember the first dose and ingest more, they are at risk for an overdose. 

Symptoms of Ambien overdose include:

  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Dangerously slowed breathing
  • Bradycardia, or slow heart rate
  • Coma

Ambien Addiction Effects

The potential for misuse, tolerance, physiological dependence, and withdrawal with Ambien is higher than initially thought. Side effects can include:

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Doing things you can’t remember
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired driving
  • Lack of coordination
  • Nightmares
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Suicidal thoughts

People with insomnia find it difficult to fall or stay asleep. If someone has been using Ambien long-term and tried to stop using the drug, insomnia can worsen. Some additional long-term risks may include worsening sleep apnea, reflux, chronic sinus infections, coughs, and laryngitis. Since people can develop tolerance to the effects of Ambien, they may find themselves taking larger doses to get the same results from the drug. Instead of feeling sleepy, some people report feeling euphoric when they take Ambien.

Ambien Addiction Signs of Abuse

If you or someone you love is currently taking this medication, and there is a concern about a potential Ambien addiction, these are the potential signs of abuse to be aware of:

  • Buying Ambien illegally
  • Combining it with other substances
  • Driving under the influence of Ambien
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop
  • Forging prescriptions
  • Taking it differently than prescribed
  • Sleeping through important events because of Ambien
  • Strong cravings
  • Trying to cut down or stop without success.
  • Using Ambien every night
  • Visiting multiple doctors for prescriptions

Ambien Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms

Abrupt cessation of Ambien can cause withdrawal symptoms, especially after using the drug for a prolonged period of time and at high dosages. Withdrawal symptoms may last for weeks depending on the degree of use.

Withdrawal symptoms in someone abusing Ambien may include:

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Cravings
  • Nervousness
  • Delirium
  • In severe instances, convulsions or seizures

Seizures, if present during withdrawal, can present a medical emergency. Evaluation by a qualified medical professional is highly recommended before attempting to detox from Ambien. Withdrawal shouldn’t be attempted on one’s own if the risk of seizure exists–a period of closely monitored, or medically supervised detox/withdrawal will be necessary.

Factors Determining Ambien Withdrawal Side Effects

How Much of The Substance Was Taken

If a person takes more of the drug than prescribed, he or she is more likely to have Ambien addiction side effects, in turn, develop a resistance to the drug, requiring more Ambien to feel “normal.” This can increase physical and mental withdrawal symptoms.

How Long the Person Took Ambien

When a person takes it as prescribed for a short time, withdrawal symptoms are less likely to occur, and they are less intense and extreme.

If the Ambien Was the Extended-Release Version or Not

Compared to non-extended-release drugs, extended-release medications have a higher dose of the medicine. However, this ensures that it is released slowly into the bloodstream when the drug is administered correctly. Addiction allows people to circumvent the chemicals that delay the release and take a heavy dose of Ambien all at once. Withdrawal symptoms can become even more severe as a result of this.

If the Person Used Other Drugs in Addition to Ambien

Other medications, alcohol, or illegal drugs may amplify the effects of Ambien, potentially enhancing the “high.” In addition, if a person abruptly stops using all drugs, withdrawal symptoms are likely to worsen.

Medically Assisted Ambien Detox and Treatment

Help for Ambien addiction and its withdrawal may be necessary for those who abuse Ambien along with alcohol or other drugs, and who are physiologically dependent on one or more substances. Those who have been abusing or addicted to Ambien, and especially those experiencing polysubstance dependence, may have more severe symptoms. They may require a period of medical detox prior to initiating inpatient treatment.

Medical detox is when you decrease the use of Ambien in a facility while under the care of trained medical staff because of a potential risk of withdrawal seizures. For this reason, medical management of Ambien withdrawal could be beneficial as this is potentially a life-threatening complication. Staff at a treatment or detox facility can provide medication and constant monitoring to ensure safety.

Ambien Addiction
Those who have been abusing or addicted to Ambien may require a period of medical detox prior to initiating inpatient treatment.

Sedative-hypnotic addiction is not treatable with detox alone. Addiction treatment involves much more than overcoming physical dependence. Through rehabilitation, particularly inpatient treatment, the person will learn the skills needed to live in recovery and work through the issues that may have led you to abuse Ambien in the first place.

Reclaim Your Life From Ambien Addiction

Ambien addiction is a condition that can cause major health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up Washington center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from Ambien addiction with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.


[1] FDA– Ambien Addiction

[2] SAMHSA – Ambien Addiction