Ambien is a short-acting sedative often prescribed to treat sleep problems. When taken as directed, the drug is relatively safe. When misused and taken in higher doses or for long periods of time, the risk for developing Ambien dependence increases.
How Ambien Dependence Develops
People suffering from sleep issues, such as falling or staying asleep, may be prescribed Ambien to remedy the problem. After a while, the body tends to build up a tolerance to the drug, which reduces the drug’s intended effects. Some people may try to achieve the original effects by taking more of the drug than is prescribed. When the body requires a higher dose of a drug to achieve a certain effect from it, this is usually because a dependency has developed. The brain triggers cravings or feelings of withdrawal when the drug isn’t taken right away, causing the person to continue taking the drug. In addition to potential health concerns, the fixation of taking the drug can interfere with other activities, such as work, school or family obligations.
Who Is at Risk of Dependence?
Some people who become dependent on Ambien have a family history of substance use disorders. Others are at risk if they’ve abused alcohol or drugs in the past. The prescription is fairly easy to obtain from a doctor, so anyone living with someone who’s prescribed the drug or has other kinds of access to it may begin to misuse it as well. Most people, however, become addicted simply through self-medication. They’re usually trying to avoid insomnia or other issues and lose control of the response to the drug.
Though Ambien is the most commonly abused sleeping pill, addictions of this type fall behind the prevalence of prescription opioid and stimulant addictions. Nonetheless, consequences of an Ambien addiction can be serious. Signs of an Ambien use disorder may include uncontrollable shaking, intense drowsiness, slow breathing, decrease in heart rate, difficulty with coordination and short-term memory loss. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Ambien abuse is rising in some groups, particularly in adolescents.
Someone who suddenly stops taking Ambien may experience withdrawal symptoms. Such symptoms might include agitation, a relapse of insomnia, convulsions and seizures. Ambien slows the brain’s activities. Thus, repeated stopping-and-starting use of the drug could trigger seizures from the back and forth effects.
Anyone addicted to Ambien should stop the drug under professional supervision so the drug can be tapered off and symptoms can be monitored. Treatment centers also offer the person recovering a safe place to receive emotional and psychological care in addition to physical treatment. Staff are trained to help teach ways to cope with the circumstances that created the Ambien dependence in the first place.
If you’ve developed a dependency on Ambien, contact the helpline at 800-447-9081. Caring professionals have experience in Ambien dependence and abuse. They can provide the support and guidance you need to safely break the addiction and keep your health a priority.