Ambien Addiction Treatment

Addiction to Ambien

Ambien is in a class of prescription drugs referred to as sedative-hypnotics. Ambien functions by activating the Nero transmitter known as GABA, which slows down the central nervous system in the brain. Ambien is prescribed for the treatment of insomnia with prescribed directions making it intended for short term use. Two forms of Ambien exist, a quick-release form that helps with sleep, and the extended-release form that helps to maintain sleep.

This non-benzodiazepine sleep drug was designed to have the same effect medically as Xanax does but without the same habit-forming properties that antidepressants are known for. The creators of Ambien had marketed the drug as a less habit-forming alternative to benzos for individuals with acute insomnia.

However, while users generally take longer to develop an Ambien addiction than to benzos, withdrawal from Ambien is also usually less severe and uncomfortable than benzo withdrawal. Ambien is such an addictive substance, it is now recognized as having the same potential of abuse taking benzos comes with. 

Physical Dependence on Ambien

The physical dependence on Ambien could form in just a couple of weeks, whether the user is following prescription directions or is abusing them. Ambien dependence will occur through tolerance. 

After using Ambien long-term, more of the drug will be required to feel the same effects as before, and suddenly quitting may cause withdrawal symptoms. Eventually, an Ambien dependence will become a full-blown addiction. Most users won’t realize they have a problem until they suddenly stopped taking the drug and aren’t able to fall asleep without it.

A majority of Ambien addictions will begin with a simple cause of short term insomnia. Most Ambien users will underestimate the addictive potential it has because it’s been prescribed by a doctor, and it is only used to help with sleep. After taking for more than a couple of weeks, though, Ambien becomes much less effective, and a higher dose might be needed. From there, Ambien users aren’t able to quit taking the drug because their insomnia has progressed, and they are not incapable of sleeping without it. That’s when Ambien addiction treatment may be needed.

What Is Ambien (Zolpidem)?

Zolpidem is a medication used to treat chronic and acute insomnia. The most recognizable brand name of zolpidem is Ambien. The medicine is a sedative-hypnotic drug that affects neurotransmitters. It slows brain activity to help users fall asleep

Other Forms of Zolpidem

While Ambien is the most well-known brand name of zolpidem, the drug is also available as Edluar (a sublingual tablet, taken underneath the tongue), Zolpimist (an oral spray), Intermezzo (a fast-acting sublingual tablet), and Ambien CR, a two-layer extended-release tablet with one layer to help an individual get to sleep and another to help them stay asleep. Several companies make generic versions of zolpidem.

Since zolpidem’s introduction to the market, it has been considered a safer alternative to the sleep medications before it, including highly addictive benzodiazepines and barbiturates.

Approximately 85 percent of prescribed sleeping pills are forms of zolpidem, making zolpidem the most commonly prescribed medication for insomnia. This means that almost 38 million adults in the U.S. are prescribed some type of zolpidem for a sleeping problem.

Although zolpidem is generally considered safe when taken as directed, its misuse and abuse may be more common than previously thought, resulting in side effects like memory loss, dependence, and addiction. Ambien has also been connected with dangerous side effects, such as parasomnias.

Treatment for zolpidem addiction may include therapy and medication-assisted treatment. Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, but medical detox can make the process more comfortable.

How Does Ambien Work?

Ambien works by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters act as chemical messengers; they carry, boost, and balance signals between neurons, or nerve cells, in the body. Individual proteins, called receptors, are designed to bind to certain neurotransmitters to release a message to the body, affecting thoughts and behavior.

Ambien binds to specific receptors to slow brain activity. It is believed that the effects of zolpidem are mostly linked to GABA receptors, which primarily inhibit the activity of neurons. This slows and halts action in certain parts of the brain.

This process is believed to cause lower activity levels in the parts of the brain responsible for processing thoughts. Ultimately, it helps individuals to slow their ideas to fall asleep more easily.

One area of the brain that may be affected by zolpidem is the hippocampus, which plays an essential role in the formation of memory. In mice studies, Ambien has been shown to reduce activity in this region, thereby promoting sleep.

Potential Risks & Dangers of Ambien Abuse

Individuals who abuse Ambien should be aware of the following risks and dangers:

  • Memory loss and bizarre behavior: Ambien has become notorious for causing memory loss and strange actions while asleep (as well as while in a sleepy-not-quite-asleep state). Makers of the drug have insisted that these side effects are nearly nonexistent in users who take the drug correctly, and those sleep-related activities while on zolpidem are usually limited to relatively normal activities, such as sleepwalking and conversing while asleep.
  • Contradictions with other drugs: Before beginning zolpidem, individuals should discuss any other medications or herbal supplements they are taking with their doctor. Taking other medicines that affect the brain, along with zolpidem, could be dangerous, leading to breathing problems or other life-threatening conditions.
  • Contradiction with alcohol: Because alcohol acts as a depressant and suppresses the central nervous system and respiratory system, it should not be taken with zolpidem. Doing so could result in slowed or stopped breathing.
  • Issues during pregnancy: Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use zolpidem.

Although there has not been enough research done in the area, there is some concern that long-term Ambien abuse can lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

ambien addiction

Is Ambien Addictive or Habit-Forming?

While zolpidem is considered a safe and effective drug for combating insomnia and sleep disorders, it can become addictive as well. Users can experience withdrawal when stopping the medication after periods of prolonged use.

Since its FDA approval, zolpidem has been considered a much safer alternative to older-generation sleeping medications, particularly barbiturates. Though they were once commonly prescribed for insomnia, barbiturates are highly addictive and dangerous. Patients can quickly develop a tolerance to these drugs, resulting in independence.

Drug manufacturers insist that when appropriately used, withdrawal symptoms from zolpidem will only be experienced by 1 percent of users. But zolpidem can easily be misused or abused, with recreational use or an “extra dose” becoming normal in user’s lives. Since users often desperately want to sleep, they may double up on doses if sleep still eludes them with regular use.

Zolpidem abuse is most common among teenagers, young adults, and those with substance use problems. Ambien may commonly be combined with other substances of abuse, like alcohol. Combining substances in this manner compounds the effects of the drug and can rapidly lead to adverse reactions, like an overdose.

Ambien Side Effects

  • REM sleep suppression (negatively impacting sleep quality)
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Back pain
  • Irregular heartbeat or breathing difficulties
  • Depression
  • Allergic reactions
  • Flu-like symptoms, sore throat, or sinus problems
  • Rash
  • Dry mouth

More rarely, serious side effects are experienced by those who use Ambien. These include the following:

  • Serious depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Aggressive, out-of-character behavior
  • Memory loss
  • Serious allergic reaction
  • Hallucinations
  • Withdrawal symptoms after discontinuing use
  • Performing unusual activities while asleep (sleepwalking, or talking, driving, cooking, or performing other activities while asleep)

Anyone experiencing severe side effects from Ambien should seek immediate medical care.

Does Ambien Cause Depression?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims that it does. The federal agency has stated the Ambien could cause depression with individuals who have not experienced depression before. For individuals who have a history of depression, using Ambien can make it much worse.

Individuals diagnosed with depression and are regularly using Ambien could experience a worsening of depression feelings, which could affect their job, health, and personal relationships. These individuals could also develop an Ambien addiction. Substance use disorder usually leads to compulsive drug-seeking behavior regardless of the social, legal, and health consequences that come with using.

Using Ambien will not cure anxiety. However, the FDA has suggested that long-term use of Ambien produces anxiety. Most individuals with sleep problems caused by anxiety will start using sedatives like Ambien, but even as a prescription drug, this can prolong their mental health issues.

Link Between Ambien and Suicide

The FDA has stated that using sedatives could increase the risk of suicidal thoughts in individuals with a history of depression.The link between Ambien and suicide is non-reliable because not enough studies have been examined in this relationship. 

Ambien also has shown it causes suicidal ideation‘s with individuals who don’t have a mental illness. In 2013, a story was published a case report of a man at 27 years of age with no psychological disorders who had experienced thoughts of suicide after using 20mg of Ambien. Research has suggested that a link might exist between Ambien use and dangerous mental health behaviors.

Patients should present their complete medical history, which may include any mental health disorders to their physician when they are being prescribed Ambien. Patients who are using Ambien must also carefully monitor their daily feelings. It is crucial to let the doctor know about any unusual thoughts or behaviors that come about while using Ambien.

Ambien Withdrawal

Zolpidem has long been considered a safe and generally less habit-forming-drug, particularly when compared to new alternative drugs that have been used to treat sleeping disorders. For this reason, while zolpidem abuse and dependence are now appearing more widespread than once thought, there has been minimal research on zolpidem addiction and withdrawal.

Reports of withdrawal indicate that the severity of symptoms will likely depend on the individual’s background, as well as the length and intensity of their zolpidem use.

Withdrawal symptoms may include the following:

  • Restlessness
  • Tremors in the hands
  • Headaches
  • Excessive sweating
  • Aches and pains
  • Racing pulse or hyperventilation
  • Aches and pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anxiety or panic
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Sleeplessness

Ambien Addiction Detox

Detoxing from Ambien will usually always involve a tapering down approach. By gradually reducing the amount of Ambien doses over time, the patient’s body will slowly readjust to life without Ambien in the system. A tapered down detox process will help keep the body from becoming overactive, which could lead to panic attacks, high blood pressure, and convulsions.

Some patients can taper off Ambien within two weeks, while it may take months for others. In both cases, though, the goal of Ambien detox is to minimize the discomfort and eliminate painful withdrawal symptoms.

You may have an Ambien addiction and need medical detox if you show any two or more of the following signs which include:

  • Unable to cut down on the dosage
  • Taking Ambien and more significant amounts
  • Having withdrawal symptoms
  • Higher tolerance
  • Using Ambien in dangerous situations
  • Craving Ambien when not using
  • Continuing to use despite issues caused by the drug
  • Spending a lot of time using and recovering from Ambien
  • Becoming unable to carry out work, home, or school obligations
  • Giving up hobbies and activities 
  • Continuing to use Ambien despite physical or mental health problems

Unfortunately, there is not a lot known about how Ambien addiction affects mental health. Withdrawing from Ambien can lead to anxiety, which could persist after the detox process has been completed.

A medical detox center will evaluate the patient, stabilize her symptoms, and prepare them for entering treatment. Detox is crucial when stopping Ambien due to the potential of dangerous income for withdrawal symptoms that come with it, such as sleep issues and seizures. To detox alone may put the user and an extremely severe health risk

Treatment for Ambien Addiction

Treatment required for any substance use disorder, including one involving zolpidem or Ambien, will depend on the specific needs of the individual. Each individual’s experience with addiction is unique. Their background, behavioral patterns, personal history, relationship with addiction, and level of physical addiction or dependence on the drug will all play a part in designing a treatment plan to guide them through recovery.

Ambien Addiction Treatment Programs

The two most common Ambien addiction rehab options are inpatient or outpatient treatment programs. Inpatient therapy will be for individuals who need hands-on, round the clock care, who are suffering from more severe Ambien addiction symptoms. Outpatient therapy will be more for the individuals who show fewer signs of Ambien addiction and have other obligations to fulfill, like school, work, or somebody depending on them.

Regardless of which route is chosen, most inpatient and outpatient rehab facilities will offer a medically managed detox as a part of the treatment program. However, treating Ambien addiction is much more complicated than just making it through the withdrawal process. To combine the tapering of the process with other therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy will improve the chances of a more successful recovery.

These elements of addiction treatment have been proven effective:

  • Comprehensive therapy: Underlying issues — such as trauma, mental health problems, and unresolved thought patterns — are often at the root of why an individual is misusing or abusing Ambien. Therapy can help to work through these issues and provide the person with new coping and life skills. While some people are wary of psychoanalyzing old events or thoughts, modern therapy is often more focused on solutions-based techniques that will help to navigate the path to recovery as well as to maintain sobriety in the real world. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), for example, can help individuals to react to situations and stressors more effectively and proactively change destructive thought patterns. Treatment comes in many forms. Many programs will use a combination of various types of therapy that work best for the individual.
  • Medication assistance: Depending on the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, medications may be used during the initial withdrawal period to make the experience more comfortable or safe. While there aren’t medications correctly used to address Ambien withdrawal, individual symptoms can be treated as needed. After withdrawal, non-habit-forming medication may be deemed necessary to handle underlying issues, like anxiety or depression.
  • Evidence-based treatment: NIDA recommends care that is based on research evidence. If a treatment doesn’t have research backing it, avoid it.
  • A long-term plan: There isn’t a quick fix for addiction. Recovery requires an ongoing aftercare plan after the initial phase of more intense treatment. Addiction treatment professionals can help you devise a full program that supports your continuous improvement for the long term.
  • Exercise and wellness practices: Regular exercise can positively impact your health and overall outlook. Through methods like yoga or meditation, you can learn helpful breathing and calming techniques that can help you cope with triggers to return to substance abuse.

Both medically assisted therapy and detox are crucial in helping former users quit Ambien for good. If you or a loved one is struggling with an Ambien addiction and or fearful of a relapse, it is vital to contact our team of dedicated treatment specialists here at Footprints to Recovery to learn about your options today.

Taking the First Step Towards Ambien Addiction Treatment

Often, the first step on the journey to recovery is the hardest. But with a quality treatment plan from Footprints to Recovery and our supportive network of specialists, you can finally stop abusing Ambien and all other substances.

As you progress in Ambien addiction recovery, you’ll build a healthy life that supports your sobriety. Though the first step can be hard, it is well worth taking.

Ambien addiction recovery will begin with medical detox. The detox process will help to prevent relapse and other issues caused by Ambien addiction withdrawal symptoms. At Footprints to Recovery, your inpatient and outpatient Rehab clinics provide resources for Ambien medical detox along with counseling to work behaviors that have led to Ambien abuse. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with Ambien addiction and are ready to quit, contact our dedicated treatment specialist here at Footprints to recovery to find out about your Ambien addiction treatment options today.

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