What is Ambien?
Ambien is prescribed for the management of insomnia, or for short-term relief from trouble sleeping. Its generic name is zolpidem, which is a type of medication called a sedative-hypnotic. Other sedative-hypnotics, under trade names such as Intermezzo, Lunesta and Sonata, can help a patient fall asleep and prevent frequent awakenings. Misuse of Ambien and other prescription sedatives can result in physical dependency, abuse and addiction.
Ambien can be habit-forming, which has led to its controversial role in nationwide prescription medication drug abuse and addictions. Ambien is prescribed to patients for short-term insomnia, and is not meant for chronic use. Reaching for Ambien every time you need to sleep, instead of keeping to your physician’s instructions, can lead to addiction. There are legitimate reasons to treat insomnia with Ambien, but using it as a coping mechanism creates a dangerous relationship that can have severe health consequences. Ambien’s effects have led to it being sold illicitly.
Ambien side effects and dangers
Like any prescription medication, Ambien may cause side effects even when taking it correctly. The following Ambien side effects are common:
Serious side effects include:
- Next-day motor or cognitive impairment
- Memory loss
- Abnormal thoughts and behavior
- More outgoing or aggressive behavior
- Worsening of depression
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- “Sleep-driving” and other complex behaviors while not fully awake
Ambien use crosses the line into abuse and addiction when it is misused. Taking more Ambien than prescribed, or taking it when you are unable to spend 7-8 hours sleeping, is not the correct way to treat your insomnia and is considered misuse. Taking Ambien recreationally, to enjoy the effects with no intention of sleeping, is considered drug abuse. One of the most important aspects about this prescription is its purpose for treating insomnia for a defined period. If you feel you must continue your Ambien prescription past your prescribed treatment length, it is important to talk to your doctor about what to do, instead of self-medicating beyond this treatment window.
There are serious risks to Ambien misuse. Sharing, giving away or selling Ambien is against the law because of its dangerous medical consequences. Prescriptions are filled for specific doses tailored to specific people, and the effects can have adverse reactions in others. Taking an excessive Ambien dose can result in a life-threatening overdose.
Ambien overdose symptoms include:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Low blood pressure
- Respiratory depression (stop breathing)
It is vital to know that drinking alcohol with a normal dose of Ambien can have deadly reactions.
If a person with an Ambien addiction is unable to access the drug, they may look for illegal sources. Because this illegal Ambien is not controlled by a pharmacy, it frequently contains unknown and harmful ingredients.
Ambien abuse and addiction signs
Any use of Ambien outside of a doctor’s instructions is considered drug abuse. This includes tampering with Ambien pills by chewing, crushing, cutting or dissolving them in order to ingest, snort or inject a higher dose than prescribed. Even if the Ambien pills are not tampered with, taking more pills than prescribed is also considered abuse of the drug.
Ambien addiction signs include:
- Taking more than the prescribed dosage
- “Doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions
- Tampering with Ambien before taking it
- Mixing Ambien with other sedatives or alcohol
Ambien withdrawal symptoms and treatment
It is possible to develop a physical dependency on Ambien, which should be discussed with your doctor. A physical Ambien dependency occurs when the body adjusts to the presence of the medication and depends on that medication to function normally. An Ambien prescription can include dosing instructions from your doctor to taper off the medication to reduce and eliminate this physical dependency. This type of medication management is important—those who are physically dependent on Ambien will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop their Ambien prescription too suddenly. If the withdrawal symptoms are extreme, they could drive the patient to continue using the substance despite significant harm—the definition of addiction.
Ambien withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Abdominal and muscle cramps
These problems vary in severity and duration depending on the specific
Ambien dose taken and duration of use. Ambien withdrawal can be deadly without medical treatment.
Physical dependency or experiencing withdrawal symptoms does not mean that you are addicted to Ambien. Addiction also includes a loss of control, cravings and tolerance for the drug.
There are no medications approved by the FDA specifically to treat Ambien addiction. However, certain medicines can be used to help sedative abusers with the anxiety with which they often struggle after they have gone through withdrawal (often a great deal more anxiety than other types of addicts face). Many sedative abusers began using these sedative drugs to relieve an anxiety disorder. Once they are removed safely in the detoxification phase of treatment, their original insomnia and anxiety returns full-blown—and possibly stronger than ever—but they can no longer turn to the medicines they abused for help. Because of this sedative’s toxicity to many areas of the brain, sedative abusers also seem to have significant problems with insomnia, especially early in sobriety. Fortunately, there are non-addicting medications that can treat anxiety or insomnia once the withdrawal stabilization process is complete. These include antiseizure/antiepileptic medicines, atypical antipsychotics, antihistamines and antidepressants. At Enterhealth, we specialize in customizing these non-addicting, effective alternative options for each patient’s unique situation.
Ambien withdrawal stabilization, also known as detoxification or detox, is usually done in a similar way as other sedative withdrawal treatment. Sedative withdrawal symptoms are similar to those seen with alcohol withdrawal. Potential symptoms include aches and pains, numbness and tingling, irritability, rapid breathing and heart rate, insomnia, tremors, seizures, and changes in brainwave patterns. There is also the risk of suffering the potentially toxic syndrome of delirium tremens. The withdrawal syndrome for may not begin until several days after you stopped using the drug, for it takes a while for these drugs to clear from your body.
With mild benzodiazepine withdrawal, you typically only see restlessness, anxiety, shakiness, and intermittent weakness–but these can often be accompanied by dizziness upon standing, nausea, cramps, and vomiting. These symptoms may be similar to the anxiety symptoms for which the medication was initially prescribed. Oftentimes, the return of significant anxiety during the withdrawal phase causes sedative addicts to relapse early in the process.
The objective of supervised drug and alcohol detox is to stabilize the withdrawal symptoms by giving the patient a long-lasting sedative at a selected dose, then gradually lowering the dose in order to “wean” him or her off the medication. This reduces the withdrawal symptoms by making them less severe and more gradual. Which medicine to use and at what dose and for what length of time will be left to your Enterhealth physician’s discretion.
Ambien addiction treatment options
An evidence-based combination of therapeutic and pharmacological addiction treatment can help those with Ambien addiction regain a stable and productive life. Research shows that integrating both types of treatment is the most effective approach to restoring a degree of normal function to the brain and addressing underlying issues.
Enterhealth Ranch provides supervised drug and alcohol detox (also known as withdrawal stabilization) services for Ambien addiction, which includes science-driven medication therapy and medical staff available at any hour of the day. Ambien detox is so dangerous that it should always be done at an experienced inpatient facility. The detoxification process is a crucial beginning step to recovery and should only be done under the supervision of a physician with formal training in alcohol and drug addiction treatment. Due to the body’s dependency on the drug, stopping abruptly can be life-threatening, because of both seizures and delirium tremens. It is very important to understand that the withdrawal stabilization phase of treatment is not considered treatment. It is only a medically sophisticated protocol to get the alcohol or drugs safely out of the body.
Effective behavioral treatments for Ambien addiction can be administered in a residential or outpatient setting after withdrawal stabilization. A treatment plan may include:
- Psychiatric assessment and treatment
- Psychological assessment and treatment
- Intensive individual counseling
- Group therapy
- Individual and group family therapy sessions
- Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
- Wellness, nutritional and stress management treatment services
- Medication management
After the withdrawal symptoms are stabilized and detox is complete,
Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence offer the full continuum of care including residential and outpatient treatment options, both integrated together for the patient’s individual situation. During the residential phase of treatment, patients live at our 43-acre ranch facility while undergoing treatment. Among many other treatments, patients attend addiction recovery therapy sessions that are specialized to each individual’s addiction challenges. Upon completion of the residential rehabilitation phase, the patient can transition to our outpatient facility, where patients receive continued, medically-supervised treatment while living at their own residence or in a sober living environment.
Ambien addiction treatment, however, goes beyond detox and medication treatment. Through therapy and psychiatric oversight, the psychological aspects of dependency can be better understood by the patient and addiction can be completely overcome. Counseling may be individual or group-oriented, and may also include the family. Long-term continuing care programs are also available, as they are essential to provide counseling and continued support over a number of years.
Ambien addiction recovery with Enterhealth
People suffering from Ambien addiction may feel hopeless, but they are not alone. Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence can help you or a loved one begin recovery at our 43-acre residential Ambien addiction treatment center just north of Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas, and our outpatient Ambien addiction treatment center located in the Preston Center area of Dallas, Texas.
At Enterhealth, our goal is to treat the whole person for a lifetime. We offer a better chance to recover through our advanced, evidence-based treatment approach, designed and administered by board-certified addiction psychiatrists, physicians and other experts, that is proven to be more effective than traditional twelve-step approaches.