Ambien Addiction

Lack of sleep can negatively affect your ability to concentrate, make decisions, drive a car, and much more. It’s no surprise that lack of quality sleep will result in adverse consequences. This can lead to poor job performance, tardiness, relationship issues, and many more problems in your professional and personal life. Many Americans are now turning to their doctor for relief from sleepless nights, but is there a need for Ambien addiction treatment?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 50 to 70 million adults in the United States suffer from sleep deprivation or a sleeping disorder. What’s more alarming is that close to 38 million of these adults take a sleep aid. With so many people turning to medication in pursuit of a good night’s sleep, we may want to ask ourselves if we’re developing a sleep aid addiction.

What is Ambien?

Ambien (brand name for zolpidem) is a sedative-hypnotic medication, meaning that it works by slowing down the brain’s essential functions. Ambien was developed as a safer alternative to benzodiazepines like Xanax for patients suffering from insomnia. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Ambien to treat sleeping problems (primarily insomnia) in adults in the early 1990s.

Ambien is available in two forms:

  • An immediate-release tablet that’s designed to help a person fall asleep
  • An extended-release formula, Ambien CR, that helps a person fall and stay asleep

Ambien is designed to be prescribed for a short duration of time, usually one to two weeks. Although Ambien isn’t commonly considered an addictive medication, studies show that there’s a risk for Ambien addiction. This is due to the medication’s effectiveness. In addition to potentially developing a dependency on the medication, patients have reported many disturbing side effects, making the drug’s safety questionable.

How Does Ambien Affect the Body and Brain?

Ambien is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, which slows down brain functions, as mentioned earlier. It latches on to receptor cells in the brain that bind with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which influences neurological activities like sleep. This slowing down brings a sense of calm and, eventually, sleep. Ambien is meant to be taken right before bedtime. You shouldn’t take it until you have time for about seven to eight hours of sleep.

Doctors developed Ambien as a safer alternative than benzos with less potential for addiction. Despite this being true for the most part, it’s still possible to develop a dependence on the drug. When used at higher doses, Ambien can produce a feeling of euphoria and a rush of energy, which can be addicting.

Although Ambien has helped millions of people overcome insomnia, it also holds the possibility of dependency. Over time, patients prescribed Ambien can develop a tolerance to it, requiring more and more to feel the same effect. This can lead to Ambien addiction.

Side Effects of Ambien

Taking Ambien can produce several side effects in the body that include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nightmares
  • Loss of pleasure
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances


Sleepwalking is a common side effect of Ambien addiction. Some patients who take Ambien have been reported to sleep-eat and even sleep-drive under the influence, the last of which can be extremely dangerous. People who do these sleep-induced activities (also known as parasomnia) usually don’t remember them later on; this is referred to as an “Ambien blackout.”

Ambien Addiction Statistics

Between 2006 and 2011, doctors wrote about 38 million Ambien prescriptions, and today more than 500,000 Americans abuse Ambien and other sedatives. Between 2005 and 2011, hospital emergency rooms saw almost 20,000 Ambien-related visits, an increase of 220%.

Young people tend to be likely candidates for Ambien addiction. In 2005, 7% of high school students admitted to abusing Ambien, compared to 2.8% of students in 1992 when the drug went on the market.

Signs of Ambien Addiction

Signs of Ambien addiction include:

  • Having cravings for Ambien
  • Frequently taking larger doses of Ambien than prescribed
  • Crushing up Ambien and snorting it for a stronger effect
  • Isolating oneself from loved ones
  • Spending too much money on Ambien
  • Practice risky behavior under the influence with no memory of it later on

Detecting early signs of an Ambien addiction can help you prevent it from getting worse. Ambien addiction can develop in a short time, despite its brief prescription duration.

People with an Ambien addiction also tend to combine the drug with alcohol or a benzo such as Klonopin. Since these are all CNS depressants, these combinations are highly dangerous and can lead to heart, brain, and lung damage. Combining these substances can also result in respiratory failure and even a fatal overdose.

Symptoms of Ambien Addiction

The side effects of Ambien use can be even more serious when you’re addicted to it. Symptoms of Ambien addiction include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Decreased alertness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Memory loss

Ambien Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

Ambien addiction alone can be a problem, but having a co-occurring mental health disorder on top of that can be extremely frustrating. People who suffer from anxiety and depression are likely to turn to Ambien to calm down. About 63 percent of adults said that their anxiety or depression was the main reason for turning to drug abuse.

If you have both an Ambien addiction and a mental health disorder, Harmony Ridge offers dual diagnosis treatment for you. Dual diagnosis involves both conditions being treated at the same time to determine the root cause of your addiction. Your mental health disorder will also be treated properly, with medication and therapy.

If you’re taking Ambien and you have an existing mental illness, make sure to ask your doctor if this is the proper medication for you.

Get Quality Ambien Addiction Treatment at Harmony Ridge

At Harmony Ridge, we offer a multitude of approaches to Ambien addiction treatment that will help you overcome your substance abuse, including medical detox. Whether you enroll in outpatient, partial hospitalization, or residential treatment, we can provide you with the tools and life skills to begin living a sober existence. We can already see your potential. If you would like more information about our Ambien addiction treatment programs, contact us today.

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