Is Ambien addictive?

Yes, Ambien can be addictive. In fact, Ambien addiction can develop after only two weeks of regular use.

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Dependence and addiction are different

Yes, Ambien is addictive.

However, addiction and physical dependence ARE NOT the same medical conditions. Ambien dependence is formed withing two weeks or regular use, which is why doctors don’t recommend treatment to last longer. Further, Ambien has an addiction potential for people who take it chronically and long-term. Addiction can also develop in individuals who abuse it by:

  • taking larger doses
  • taking it more frequently than recommended, or
  • mixing it with other substance to feel heightened relaxation and calming effects

But, how can some people use Ambien without becoming addicted while others get ‘hooked’? How do you know that you’ve become addicted to Ambien? Here, we review the psychoactive ingredients found in Ambien and how you can get addicted. We invite you to continue reading and learn more about the addictive properties of this medication. Then, at the end, we welcome your comments and questions in the comments section. In fact, we take the time to answer all real life questions personally!

What is Ambien used for?

Ambien is one of the brand names for a generic medication called “zolpidem”. It is medically prescribed for people who have difficulties with regular sleep. Ambien belongs to a drug class of medications called non-benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotics. Since it is intended to help people with insomnia, Ambien works by slowing the brain’s activity and thus allows you to fall asleep.

Ambien can be prescribed in tablet form. An extended release tablet form of the medication is also available, with one layer to help you go to sleep and another to help you stay asleep. Due to its powerful sedating and hypnotic properties Ambien needs is recommended to be taken immediately before going to bed. Doctors warn against using the medication if you can’t have a period of 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Waking up before Ambien’s effects have warn off, you risk experiencing side effects such as drowsiness and memory problems.

What is Ambien made of?

Ambien’s main active ingredient is zolpidem tartrate, but other chemicals can also be found in this medication, including:

  • hydroxypropyl
  • magnesium stearatelactose
  • methylcellulose
  • micro-crystalline cellulose
  • polyethylene glycol
  • sodium starch glycolate
  • titanium dioxide

How addictive is Ambien?

Ambien has a relatively medium addiction risk potential. In fact, zolpidem is classified as a Schedule IV Controlled Substance. According to the Controlled Substances Act, this means that Ambien is not intended for recreational use. In other words, when Ambien is used in ways OTHER THAN PRESCRIBED, there is a possibility of developing addiction.

Q: Can you get addicted to Ambien?


Ambien’s chemical formula is designed to attach to specific brain receptors. People who use it may experience feelings of peace, relaxation, amnesia, and calm. According to a French study people abuse Ambien because of its euphoric effect, and for self-medicating psychological issues such as the stress in everyday life, past trauma, or emotional difficulties.

Ambien is prescribed for short term treatment of sleep disorders, usually in the period of two to six weeks – tops. As a medication, Ambien is more effective in the treatment of sleep-initiation problems rather than for maintaining sleep. One recent NIH study has shown that the effectiveness of Ambien is mostly psychological, which should be a sign for clinicians to increase the focus on psychological interventions for insomnia.

Ambien dependence vs. addiction

The word ‘dependence’ is usually associated with physical dependence. It is characterized by the symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal. Tolerance to Ambien means that Ambien becomes less effective over time as you take it regularly. This happens because of the body’s natural tendency to adapt to chemical changes in order to maintain balance. On the other hand, withdrawal symptoms occur when you abruptly stop using Ambien or significantly lower your dose.

By comparison, the term ‘addiction’ is associated with a set of changes in people’s behavior. The behavioral changes come as a result of biochemical changes in the brain after long term Ambien abuse. You can be characterized as an Ambien addict when you:

  • disregard negative effects despite being aware of the risks
  • have tried to quit Ambien many times, but without success
  • need to use Ambien just to feel normal
  • obsess over obtaining and using Ambien
  • take Ambien to stop the withdrawal discomfort

Ambien addiction can be recognized when a person starts acting in irrational ways, especially when s/he does not have Ambien in their system.

Can you get addicted to Ambien if you take it as prescribed?

One of the biggest problems patients face is the over prescription of Ambien. Many are disappointed in their prescribing doctors who kept them on the medication for months, and sometimes even years. So, if you are currently experiencing insomnia and your doctor prescribes Ambien, or you have a friend who is currently prescribed, it is important to know that this medication is not recommended to be used for longer than 2 weeks. Taking it chronically and for a prolonged period of time can have many negative consequences on your health, including physical and psychological dependence, and addiction.

On the other hand, some Ambien users enjoy the medication’s ability to calm them down and abuse it voluntarily. There is a possibility that a person may feel the psychological need to take it on a regular basis whenever they feel stressed. Moreover, when taking larger doses, a person can experience sedation that is similar to drunkenness. Abusing Ambien greatly increases the chances of becoming addicted, especially if a person has previously had a problem with substance use.

How does Ambien abuse lead to addiction?

Ambien addiction can start with the symptoms of short-term insomnia and a prescription from your doctor. Some users underestimate its addictive potential, because it’s medically directed and they only use it to help them sleep. After several weeks of Ambien use, it becomes less and less effective as tolerance grows. When Ambien cannot produce the same powerful and sedative effects as it used to, some users can’t stop taking it.

One of the biggest misunderstandings is that Ambien users start to believe they need it continuously. You see, a common Ambien withdrawal symptoms is insomnia – the same condition it should treat. So, when you try to quit, your insomnia increases and you end up incapable of sleeping without the medication.

Signs of Ambien addiction

If you or someone close to you behaves in ways similar to the situations mentioned below, maybe you should consider getting help. Signs and symptoms of Ambien addiction should raise red flags. Here is what you should be looking out for:

  • Taking increased doses of Ambien than the ones prescribed.
  • Using Ambien during the day.
  • Feeling that a habit for Ambien is developed.
  • Going to different doctors to get more Ambien (doctor shopping).
  • Stealing Ambien from friends or family who have a prescription.
  • Looking to buy Ambien illegally from other people or online.
  • Feelings of fear and panic when you think about quit using Ambien.

Ambien addiction potential questions

Do you have a better understanding of the addictive potential of Ambien? Wondering if you’re addiced? If you still have questions regarding Ambien’s addiction potential, we’re here to help. Simply leave your questions and concerns in the comment section below. We’ll do our best to provide a personal and prompt answer, or we’ll refer you to someone who can help.

Reference Sources: Medline Plus: Zolpidem
NHTSA: Zolpidem
FDA: Ambien
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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