If you’ve been having trouble falling asleep, your doctor might prescribe zolpidem tartrate, marketed as Ambien or Ambien CR, to help you get adequate rest. A sedative-hypnotic drug, Ambien is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance because of its abuse potential. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions that the misuse of Ambien may lead to dependence, a state in which you have an active physical or psychological need to use the drug in order to feel normal. Addiction develops when your need for Ambien causes compulsive, destructive drug-seeking behavior, even though you know the drug is destroying your life.
How Ambien Is Prescribed
Ambien works by stimulating the activity of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes a relaxed mental state and helps you rest. The drug is usually recommended for the temporary treatment of sleep disturbance, although it may be prescribed safely in low doses for chronic insomnia, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Taking the drug for more than two to six weeks, taking more than the recommended dose, or taking the drug in unsafe ways puts you at risk for Ambien dependence and addiction.
How Ambien Is Abused
When used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, Ambien is taken orally in tablet form. Ambien CR, the extended-release form of the drug, acts over a longer period of time, and crushing or cutting the pills is unsafe. People who abuse Ambien have been known to crush the pills into a powder and snort them to intensify their effects. Misusing the medication this way increases the risk of dependency, as well as exposing you to the drug’s potentially dangerous side effects:
- Aggressive behavior
- Memory loss
- Suicidal thoughts
Taking an excessive dose of Ambien, either orally or intranasally, may result in a fatal overdose. Combining Ambien with other medications or drugs, such as alcohol, sedative medications like Valium or painkillers like OxyContin, can increase your overdose risk.
Red Flags of Addiction
The warning signs of Ambien abuse often resemble the side effects of using the drug. You may feel disoriented, sleepy, confused or depressed. Some users have reported driving, having sex or preparing food while they were using Ambien, then forgetting these activities later. You may feel constantly hungover and have difficulty with daily tasks like operating a motor vehicle or doing your job at work. Other signs and symptoms of Ambien addiction include:
- Withdrawal symptoms, such as sleeping problems, agitation or increased confusion when you try to cut back on the medication or quit altogether; according to a clinical case study published in Progress in Neuro-psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, Ambien withdrawal can cause seizures in some dependent users.
- Tolerance to Ambien, or the need for higher doses in order to get the same relaxing effects or to fall asleep in a normal way.
- Consistently running out of Ambien before your prescription is due to be refilled
- Visiting multiple doctors in order to get more of the drug
- Borrowing or stealing the medication from friends or family members
- Continuing to abuse the drug, even though you’re aware of the dangers of misusing Ambien
- Failing to quit or lower the dose, no matter how much you try
If you’ve tried and failed to stop using zolpidem, it’s not because you lack willpower. Addiction is not a sign of moral weakness but a disease that requires professional treatment.
Where to Get Help
Sleeping pills like Ambien are among the most widely prescribed medications in the US, according to the Chicago Tribune. But while these drugs can provide valuable benefits when they’re used under medical supervision, they can be extremely dangerous once addiction develops. At Axis, we provide compassionate, comprehensive recovery services for Ambien users who want to regain control over their lives. Call us at any time of day or night to find out how we can help you recover a true sense of balance and peace.