Picture this: You had a restful weekend where you did nothing. Now, it’s Monday evening, you woke up early, worked all day, went to the gym, and you’ve finished dinner and put the dishes away. You put on your favorite show that’s recorded as you count down the minutes until your head reaches that pillow. For many of us, this is our reality. We look forward to that moment we can achieve that restful sleep to get us through the rest of the week, but that’s not the case for everyone. 

Now picture this: You’ve gone through a long day after a night of no sleep, and you put on your favorite show, exhausted, and you dread the moment you have to sleep because you know it’ll consist of counting sheep all night and staring at the ceiling. You feel defeated, and you’re at a loss. You’re tired, but you can’t sleep?

Millions of U.S. Adults Struggle to Get to Sleep or Stay Asleep

While you might not take solace in knowing you’re not alone, you aren’t alone in going through this, and many solutions are available to you. According to the American Sleep Association (ASA), an estimated 50 to 70 million American adults are struggling with a sleep disorder throughout the country. The issue has become so severe that 4.7 percent of those reported nodding off and falling asleep while driving at least once in the month prior. Although sleepless nights are certainly an annoyance, it’s more dangerous than you might think. Drowsy driving is responsible for a staggering 1,550 deaths each year and 40,000 nonfatal injuries across the United States. Sleeplessness involves various dangers, which is why many people seek out drugs like Ambien to help them sleep.

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, ranging from mild to severe. Short-term issues make up about 30 percent of cases reported by adults, while chronic insomnia makes up 10 percent. Insomnia and sleeplessness can be dangerous and contribute to severe health conditions. According to the Cleveland Clinic, sleep deprivation increases your chances of developing disease due to impaired immunity, as well as high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes, and stroke. Other problems attributed to sleeplessness include obesity, depression, and a lower sex drive. For those who care about their appearance, the quote about beauty rest is true—sleep deprivation affects your appearance.

Now, you’ve likely heard all the old wives’ tales on how you can sleep, listened to every podcast, or searched tirelessly on Google. Maybe you stood upside down for 20 minutes before bed because it helps with sleep, but you’ve come up short. What do you do? Well, Z-drugs like Ambien were created to treat sleep disorders and not be addictive like benzodiazepines. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, and Ambien addiction is an issue some might face when using the medication. Ambien, similar to benzos, is not meant to be used for more than two weeks at a time due to the development of tolerance, dependence, and eventually addiction. 

If you’re someone who did everything they could to achieve meaningful sleep and now you’ve developed an Ambien addiction, you’re probably wondering what you can do. Let’s take a look below at the signs and symptoms of Ambien addiction and how it’s treated.

What Is Ambien?

Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic medication, also known as a Z-drug. It is used to treat sleep problems like insomnia in adults. If you can’t sleep, taking this medication can help you fall asleep fast and stay asleep longer. It falls under the central nervous system (CNS) depressant class of drugs and should never be taken with opioids, benzodiazepines, or alcohol. Ambien, also known as zolpidem, must be limited to short-term treatment periods of no more than two weeks. 

Since Ambien addiction can occur, doctors typically prescribe the drug for two to six weeks max. Like benzodiazepines, Ambien interacts with GABA receptors in the brain, which are responsible for naturally inducing relaxation. However, many with sleep issues, anxiety, or other overactive nervous system issues have a chemical imbalance. The difference between Ambien and other drugs like Xanax is that it focuses on specific receptors for sleep, making it less addictive than other alternatives. 

Despite it being used to treat sleeplessness, Ambien addiction is possible. Below, we’ll discuss the signs of Ambien addiction. 


What Are the Signs of Ambien Addiction?

When it comes to identifying an addiction to prescription drugs, it’s more of a challenge for the individual because a medical professional prescribed the drug to them for a legitimate purpose. They can’t determine when they’ve crossed the threshold of treatment to addiction. 

The first sign that can help you determine this is tolerance. Tolerance is evident when the initial dosage you took does not produce the same results. This is followed by tolerance, which correlates with using more of the drug for the same effects. At this point, you’ll experience discomfort or withdrawal symptoms when you miss a dose or cut it in half. Ambien withdrawal can be dangerous, so you must speak with a doctor before stopping.

The most common behavioral signs of Ambien addiction include the following:

  • Lying about your Ambien intake
  • Isolating yourself from others to use Ambien
  • Hiding drugs around the house
  • Taking more than you intended
  • Legal issues
  • Unusual sleep patterns
  • Irritability
  • Declining performance at school or work 

If you’ve been abusing Z-drugs like Ambien, you must seek professional addiction treatment. Below, we’ll discuss what you can expect when entering into rehab for Ambien misuse. 

What’s Involved in Ambien Addiction Treatment?

Although Ambien and other Z-drugs were created to avoid potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms and addiction, it’s something that must be looked out for when prescribed these medications. Unfortunately, Ambien withdrawal can lead to delirium, meaning you must go through the full continuum of care and begin the journey in medical detox. 

When entering detox, you’ll spend three to seven days around medical professionals who will monitor your health. They may prescribe medications to manage your symptoms and ensure your safety. If seizures or other severe symptoms occur, they will provide immediate medical care. Withdrawal from any drug is unpredictable, so having all the help you can get can save your life. 

Detox will finish when you’re deemed medically stable. When you finish depends on the severity of your addiction. From there, you’ll move to the next level of care. If you’ve relapsed in the past or have other mental health issues, inpatient/residential care will be your safest option. Those who lost a grip and still used the medication as prescribed by their doctor could benefit from outpatient care. 

No matter where you end up, you’ll go through individual and group therapy geared toward developing tools to manage your sobriety and help you understand why you abuse Ambien. From there, our staff at Summit Behavioral Health will get you in touch with 12-step programs and fellow alumni to safeguard and manage your sobriety long after you leave our facility. 


How Dangerous Is Ambien Overdose?

Overdosing on any drug is dangerous, but when it’s a depressant like Ambien, the odds of it being fatal increase. Ambien overdose can easily become fatal without help and can interfere with your breathing to the point where you suffocate. If you believe you’re witnessing an Ambien overdose, getting help is vital. The sooner you reach out and call 911, the lower the odds of someone developing long-term or permanent damage or death. 

Please look out for the following signs of an Ambien overdose:

  • Drowsiness
  • Altered mental status
  • Irregular breathing
  • Hypoxemia (abnormally low levels of oxygen in the blood)
  • Decreased response to stimuli

You might notice the person can’t stay awake, seems confused, and does not seem like themselves. The individual is also at risk of slipping into a coma. Please listen to the 911 operator and ask them what you can do. Make sure to roll the individual on their side in case they vomit. This helps them avoid choking on it. Try to keep them conscious. If you can, try to determine the dosage they consumed and if they took anything else. Get as much information as you can for the first responders. 

Ambien Abuse Statistics

  • An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans struggle with conditions like insomnia each year.
  • About 100,000 deaths occur each year in U.S. hospitals because of medical errors from sleep deprivation.
  • Nearly 500,000 people abuse Ambien in the United States.
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