Ambien is a well-known sleep aid that is available only with a prescription. It is very recognizable to those who watch television because it is featured in a number of commercials. Using Ambien to help fall asleep or stay asleep can be effective, if the instructions are followed and it is only taken in the short-term. However, even widely recognized prescription drugs have a risk of dependence and in the case of Ambien, the likeliness of addiction increases with prolonged use. Some patients have reported memory loss when consuming Ambien that causes them to forget when or how much was taken, which often makes them want to take more, putting them at risk of overdosing. That is just one example of how powerful a hypnotic sedative can be when it is underestimated or abused; people who take prescribed dosages for long periods are still running the risk of developing a habit.
Ambien Abuse Warning Signs
Generic versions of Ambien, also referred to as zolpidem, have the same type of risks. Knowing the signs and symptoms becomes vital when identifying abuse or addiction. Currently, over a half-million people use Ambien and other sedatives, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Another survey from the United States Mental Health Department says that over 17,000 emergency room visits each year are connected to the misuse, abuse, or overdose of Ambien.
Recently the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV-TR defined these signs and symptoms of abuse when observed in someone who has taken Ambien for a 12-month period:
- Constant and recurring failure to meet both professional and personal responsibilities, such as skipping work or school, inability to keep up with job requirements or educational studies, and failing to fulfill home or family obligations
- Using Ambien in a dangerous way, such as driving or operating heavy machinery while under the influence and ignoring the potential dangers of a situation
- Legal problems, such as arrest from drug use, suspicion of criminal activity, and frequent talks with law enforcement
- Prolonged use of Ambien after experiencing problems, such as ignoring negative social or interpersonal consequences while continuing to consume the drug regularly
With these warnings, it also helps to understand the main differences between dependence and abuse, yet many people cannot distinguish them and make several false assumptions when diagnosing someone who needs help. Technically, dependence is defined as a maladaptive pattern of substance use that eventually manifests itself as a clinically significant impairment. Ambien users who become dependent normally build up a tolerance for the drug, followed by withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it, and a powerful desire to use it despite efforts to stop.
Ambien Side Effects
Prescription drugs are heavily advertised through commercials on television where lists of “possible side effects” are given alongside the main benefits or selling points. In many instances, these risks include a risk of death, stroke, or a failure of the liver or heart. Common sense questions why anyone would actually consider using any substance that has that kind of risk. However, someone who is struggling to overcome a medical illness or troubling condition is faced with a choice of symptom relief versus consequences of a prescription that might help them. Insomnia is a serious condition that can be frustrating to live with because sleep recharges the human body and is necessary for optional functioning and the prevention of numerous other illnesses. Whether or not relieving insomnia is worth the risks of medication side effects will ultimately be up to each individual person, their doctor, and the specific circumstances of their own situation. But many people seem to rely on popular sleep aids like Ambien routinely as a quick fix without first exploring natural remedies to inspire a good night’s rest, such as a nutrition regimen, changing the atmosphere of the room, and exercise.
Side effects of Ambien can be extensive and include:
- Stomach problems: nausea, vomiting, uneasiness
- Hallucinations: delusions and trouble determining false visions from reality
- Amnesia: slowing brain functions that can cause short-term memory loss
- Euphoria: a relaxing state of escape free from stress or conscious thought
- Coordination problems: noticeable difficulty with simple tasks, driving, or operating machinery
- Fatigue: feeling tired or lethargic in between doses of medication or when it is not in use
- Behavioral problems: changes that contradict a person’s normal personality, including irresponsibility, uncharacteristic behavior, reckless driving, violence, fighting, child neglect, and forgetting other family obligations
- Depression: a rare side effect of Ambien that can cause sudden bouts of depression accompanied with thoughts of suicide
- Allergic reactions: some patients are more sensitive to the medication, resulting in chest pains, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and the inability to swallow (Note: combining Ambien with other depressants like alcohol or cold medications will increase the chance of decreasing heart and breathing rates.)
It is important to remember that for a lot of patients, natural remedies may be ineffective, and medication is required to help them sleep. The real dangers of abuse occur when people without a prescription take Ambien, or when individuals take Ambien outside the parameters of their doctors’ orders.
Ambien Withdrawal Symptoms
Stopping Ambien use abruptly can leave a series of unpleasant effects, otherwise known as withdrawal symptoms, which are particularly experienced after long usage of the drug at a high dosage level. Each situation is different, but in general, these types of withdrawal symptoms last for weeks, depending on the initial usage.
- Irritability. A person becomes agitated, sometimes quickly, from the loss of chemical intervention
- Cravings. These include any desires that are considered unusual or overwhelming.
- Nervousness. This also includes anxiety, tenseness, worrisome, or feeling on edge.
- Delirium. Similar to the delusions or hallucinations that take place as side effects from using Ambien, but these might also include paranoid thoughts.
- Insomnia: Naturally, when a sleep aid is removed, the insomnia or sleep troubles might return temporarily or in some cases, permanently.
- Convulsions. These may include seizures, involuntary muscle movement or twitching.
Ambien works by slowing brain functions, and stopping consumption of it abruptly can cause a dramatic increase in brain activity, which in turn, sends the body into seizures. To lesson or avoid withdrawal symptoms, patients are advised to taper off the medication with a physician’s guidance.
Prevention of Ambien Abuse
Responses to the rising abuse problems with Ambien have sparked the company that manufactures the drug to start coating the pill in order to prevent crushing or snorting. Such an action is a welcome step in stopping abuse. Unfortunately, abusers have found ways around these coatings and still continue to take Ambien without a legitimate reason or illness.
Teen Ambien Abuse
One very disturbing study conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services reveals that approximately 44 percent of 6 million new prescription drug abusers were under 18 years of age. Clearly, there is a rise of drug problems with adolescents and apparently, teens are also resisting sleep after consuming Ambien to achieve a sense of euphoria or to get high. More than ever, there is a huge need for drug prevention efforts that will end the growing trend of abuse in younger generations.
Treatment for Ambien Abuse
There are a variety of options available for anyone who is going through the damaging effects of Ambien abuse. Here at Futures of Palm Beach, we take a highly proven comprehensive approach to all prescription drug recoveries. Quality care is given to all patients and their families while we provide counseling and various forms of therapy. No addiction is irreversible, but there is hope for every situation when our expert staff works to find and address whatever the underlying cause was for using the drug in the first place. If you or someone you know is abusing Ambien, please call us now to learn more about how we can start the recovery and healing process immediately.