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Ambien Addiction

Zolpidem, otherwise known by its brand name Ambien, is a nonbenzodiazepine sedative used to treat sleep disorders. With only a third of adults in the U.S. getting the right amount of sleep, the pull toward drugs like Ambien is strong. Although Ambien is effective in aiding in sleep, it also poses a serious threat to those who use it for long periods. Typically, Ambien is prescribed for short-term use. However, Ambien addiction can occur if you use Ambien longer than suggested or if you abuse it for its sedating effects.

What Is Ambien?

Ambien addiction is associated with a heightened tolerance, dependence on the drug, rebound insomnia, and negative effects on the central nervous system. When Ambien is used, it affects the activity of the gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitters in the brain. Ambien is one of three in the class of “Z-drugs,” which are agonists binding to the same receptors as benzodiazepines but only acting on one subtype receptor. 

Although Ambien is deemed safer than benzodiazepines, the medication can have adverse psychological effects such as hallucinations or result in psychosis. The sedative-hypnotic effects of Ambien are dangerous, especially for people who abuse the drug. Using Ambien for long durations at high doses can ultimately end in highly undesirable consequences.

Some of the adverse side effects of Ambien include memory loss as well as rapid changes in one’s mental state, including a person’s regular mood or behavior. This can lead to depression, thoughts of suicide, confusion, aggressive behavior, irritability, and even hallucinations.

Although Ambien is most commonly prescribed, it can be found on the street. Alternative names for it include:

  • Tic Tacs
  • Sleepeasies
  • Zombie pills

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What Are the Signs of Ambien Addiction?

If you or someone you know is struggling with Ambien addiction, then they will already have a dependence and tolerance to the drug. Signs of dependence include:

  • Taking Ambien for longer than prescribed
  • Unsuccessful attempts at quitting or cutting down
  • Withdrawal from not taking Ambien
  • A compulsive desire to obtain Ambien
  • Continued use despite the consequences of Ambien use

Dependence does not necessarily mean you are addicted to the drug; however, if you are dependent, then there is a high chance you will develop an addiction. Signs of Ambien addiction might be difficult to detect, but it is possible to do so, especially if you or someone you know has been using a large amount of Ambien for a long time.

Signs and symptoms of Ambien addiction generally consist of:

  • Euphoria
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Psychosis
  • Stuffy nose
  • Weakness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of coordination 
  • Drowsiness in the morning after taking the drug

Aside from these, Ambien causes you to develop a tolerance, meaning you might need more of the drug to achieve its initial effects. This can result in issues within the family as well as at work or with friends. It can also lead you to “doctor shop” or buy Ambien off the street, which can result in criminal consequences. If you or a loved one are taking more Ambien than was prescribed, using the drug in a way that was not recommended, hiding Ambien use, or using the drug with other substances such as alcohol, then you may have an addiction, and you should seek treatment immediately.

What Is Involved in Ambien Addiction Treatment?

Ambien addiction can lead to severe consequences which is why it is imperative for those struggling to attend a medical treatment program. 


The first stage of the treatment process is usually a medical detox facility. If you have developed a dependence and tolerance to Ambien, you will experience withdrawal symptoms when the drugs are no longer in your system. This process can be extremely uncomfortable and lead to severe complications. Detox programs typically last anywhere from three to 10 days, depending on the severity of one’s addiction, and are designed to make the detox process as comfortable as possible.


After detox, medical professionals may recommend that you attend a residential program. Inpatient programs held in a residential setting are highly effective as they allow you time away from drugs or unsafe environments filled with distractions and triggers.

These programs last anywhere from 30 days to 90 days and consists of proven methods known to treat addiction. Residential treatment raises the success rate of sobriety because it offers effective techniques such as:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Relapse prevention
  • Addiction education
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Medication if you are suffering from co-occurring disorders or non-narcotic medication
  • A safe environment surrounded by constant support from professionals and peers who struggle with the same issues


Outpatient treatment is administered off campus. Clients participate in weekly therapies and sessions while having the freedom to live at home. This is ideal for people who have completed residential treatment or those who can’t put their outside obligations on hold to enter a residential program. 

Rather than living at home, many people choose to live in sober living homes, which are safe, drug-free environments that allow clients to readjust back into everyday life free from Ambien addiction. Sober living, or transitional living, will help you handle stress and responsibilities without substances and will help you find employment and volunteer work.

Because relapse is always a possibility with the right trigger, outpatient treatment is essential to maintaining long-term sobriety if you are suffering from Ambien addiction. 

How Dangerous Is Ambien?

Some studies suggest that Ambien addiction can lead to adverse side effects, the most dangerous of them being sleepwalking. Although unusual, there are several reports regarding somnambulism (sleepwalking). It represents arousal in the brain, even if a person is asleep. This can become a problem due to an inability to decipher what actions are being taken while in this state. According to some reports, people will drive cars, cook, partake in sexual activities, and walk around their homes or outside all while under the influence of Ambien.

Another danger when taking Ambien in excess is nocturnal eating syndrome, which can result in negative consequences, especially if you have allergies. Not to mention, Ambien has a high risk for abuse, which, in turn, leads to tolerance, dependence, addiction, and withdrawal; all of which are highly unpleasant, but they can be treated.

Although there is a small number of teens who abuse Ambien, the risks associated with teen Ambien addiction or use are much more severe than those of an adult.

Ambien pills in a person's hand

This is because of a lack of development in the brain. Because Ambien affects certain parts of the brain, it can lead to adverse and sometimes permanent brain complications.

Ambien Abuse Statistics

  • Ambien use occurs more in females than males by about 50%.
  • The age of people who use Ambien is higher in ages 40 and up.
  • Nearly 330,000 people reported nonmedical use of Ambien.

Start Your Journey to Recovery Today

Ambien addiction can be difficult to overcome. However, there is help available. If you or someone you know is struggling with Ambien addiction, do not hesitate to ask for help. Pathway to Hope can help you find the right program that suits your individual needs.


(February, 2018). Sleep and Sleep Disorders. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved September, 2018 from

Inagaki, T, (January, 2010). Adverse Reactions to Zolpidem: Case Reports and a Review of the Literature. US National Library of Medicine. Retrieved September, 2018 from

Hedden, S, (September, 2015). Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. SAMHSA. Retrieved September, 2018 from

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