Can you get addicted to Ambien?

Yes, you can become addicted to Ambien with long-term use. In this article we look at how Ambien affects the body and the risk factors for Ambien dependence. More on signs of Ambien addiction here.

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Yes. You can become addicted to Ambien.

Long-term use of the drug can lead to physical and psychological dependence on Ambien.  Not only is Ambien a narcotic drug, Ambien is also addictive. But are some people at greater risk of developing an Ambien addiction than others? And what is the difference between a dependence on a drug and an addiction? We’ll look at these questions in more detail here.

Ambien chemistry and use

Ambien is a prescription medication containing zolpidem, a short-acting, nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic. Ambien is used to treat insomnia, or difficulty in falling and staying asleep. Ambien peak time is relatively rapid (1.5-2 hours) and its effects are profound.  Because of the risk of developing a dependence to the drug, zolpidem is usually only prescribed for short-term use, usually between 2 and 6 weeks. Longer treatments drastically increase the risk of Ambien addiction.

Ambien can be prescribed in tablet form, and there is an extended-release version available as well. Ambien needs to be taken immediately before going to bed, and users are warned not take the medication if they won’t have 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep due to the risk of side effects such as drowsiness and memory problems.

What does Ambien do in the body?

As a sedative-hypnotic, Ambien slows brain activity to allow for easier sleep. Ambien makes users of the medication drowsy and helps them overcome their insomnia. It also works as a muscle relaxant and anticonvulsant, although Ambien has only mild effects in these areas at typical doses.

While Ambien is excellent at helping initiate sleep, it has not demonstrated real effectiveness in helping keep people asleep throughout the night. This may be why some of the negative side-effects of the medication can include hallucinations, sleepwalking, and carrying out daily activities (such as driving or preparing food) during sleep. Ambien is also linked to emotional, behavioral, and psychological changes.

How do you get addicted to Ambien?

Long-term use of Ambien will result in physical dependence. While this isn’t exactly the same as an Ambien addiction, physical dependence means that users will develop a tolerance to the medication and may need to larger doses in order to receive the beneficial effects. However, larger doses of Ambien increase the risk of adverse side effects. People who attempt to discontinue zolpidem abruptly should also expect to experience withdrawal symptoms, which can be serious, including delirium and seizures.

Who gets addicted to Ambien?

People who have abused other drugs in the past are at an increased risk of becoming Ambien addicts. If you have abused prescription medications or used street drugs, you should not use Ambien. People with a history of drug and alcohol abuse may seek out and abuse other substances while taking Ambien.

Signs of Ambien addiction

Ambien users can also develop a psychological dependence on the drug in order to help them relax or sleep at night. But physical dependence on Ambien crosses the line into Ambien addition when users feel driven to use Ambien in spite of harmful or negative side effects or consequences in their lives. Signs of Ambien addiction occur when people:

  • compulsively seek out larger-than-normal doses of Ambien
  • continue long-term use of Ambien against medical advice
  • use Ambien to achieve a high

How to avoid Ambien addiction

The best way to avoid becoming addicted to Ambien is to follow your doctor’s advice on dosing, use, and duration of treatment. Ambien should not be prescribed for use any longer than about 6 weeks. Usually, within the first 10 days, the medication will start to resolve insomnia. This is another reason why long-term course of treatment usually isn’t necessary. Again, Ambien should not be prescribed to patients with a history of drug or alcohol abuse, as they are more likely to develop a dependency on the drug.

How should you stop taking Ambien?

You should talk to your doctor about slowly coming off the drug. You should never stop taking Ambien abruptly. Your doctor will help you develop a plan to take gradually lower doses until you can stop taking the drug completely.

Questions about Ambien dependency

If you’re taking a higher-than-prescribed dose to overcome your tolerance, you may be an Ambien addict. But how else do you know if you are addicted to Ambien? You may:

  1. find that stopping Ambien causes physical illness, even seizures
  2. have developed a drug tolerance, so that taking a normal dose no longer helps you sleep at night
  3. have trouble functioning without the drug

If you have any other questions about taking Ambien, please ask us in the comment section. Or send us an email. We try our best to respond to your questions personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: AHFS Consumer Medication Information for zolpidem
Daily Med drug info for Ambien

National Institute On Drug Abuse For Teens
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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