Zolpidem, or as it is more commonly known under its brand name, Ambien, is a treatment for insomnia and other sleeping disorders. According to one study, the use of the drug and similar sleep aids has exploded from a few million prescriptions to over 20 million over the last couple decades. This drastic increase in prescriptions has led to Ambien earning a place as a more commonplace household drug, but the medication can be misused. It is intended to help people with sleep problems get a healthy amount of rest, and it is crucial for anyone taking it to closely follow their prescription and their doctor’s instructions.
Some individuals take Ambien exclusively to misuse it, though. Taken in a high enough dose, it can result in a type of high. However, it can also lead to withdrawal, dependence, and potentially overdose.
While following a doctor’s orders and having a prescription is unlikely to result in dependence, it can still sometimes cause negative side effects. Most of the time, however, it will be harmless. Most of the danger results when individuals actively seek out Ambien to misuse it, which can lead to addiction and withdrawal.
Why do people misuse Ambien?
Most of the time, people take Ambien to experience its primary purpose. Whether or not they have a prescription for the drug, Ambien helps individuals get to sleep easier, and it is often prescribed to help treat sleep disorders. Individuals who are struggling to find rest may underestimate Ambien’s potency and take too much, thinking that more medicine will mean better sleep. Other times, someone may misuse it specifically to get high. Either way, Ambien is a strong medication, and its abuse is often serious.
There are a number of legal medicines that can be taken to experience a high, and Ambien is included in that group. Most of the time, these medications are carefully prescribed so that patients don’t unexpectedly experience a high. However, people sometimes seek out sleep drugs specifically to relieve stress or experience euphoric feelings. Ambien is classified as a sedative-hypnotic. Effectively, its sedative properties are what help people sleep when they take it. This being said, Ambien-assisted sleep is different from natural sleep, which may be a reason why some people misuse it.
In a strong enough dose, this altered, sedated sleep state can cause someone to experience a high. People who use Ambien report experiences that come with many sedatives, such as decreased anxiety, mild euphoria, short-term memory loss, and even hallucinations. Individuals who abuse it are likely hoping to experience these effects. While they may end up experiencing an Ambien high, they may not realize the serious dangers that are associated with abuse.
Ambien can result in a number of side effects, ranging from unpleasant to outright bizarre:
- Strange Dreams
- Poor Balance
- Out-of-Body Experiences
These are just a few of the more common side effects. Anyone who experiences lasting side effects should consult their doctor. Also, because Ambien interferes with regular brain function for a significant time period, individuals should always consult a doctor if they plan to drive or operate machinery while taking it.
Ambien withdrawal symptoms
Since Ambien is potentially addictive, patients should always consult with their doctor when they are starting or stopping use. The medication’s potency makes it work, but the opportunity for abuse or negative side effects should also be taken into consideration. Taking it for long periods of time or abusing it can put the user at risk for dependence. Individuals who rely on Ambien to sleep may eventually find themselves unable to get to sleep without it. Similarly, people who regularly abuse it for its side effects may find themselves struggling to stop. While dependence on Ambien is uncommon, it is a serious problem when it does happen.
Individuals who suddenly stop taking Ambien may experience a variety of negative side effects:
- Muscle cramps
Ambien can cause memory issues, and people who abuse it may not even remember taking it, or they may not remember how much they took. This leads to a risk of overdose. Since people under the influence of Ambien experience an altered mental state, they may be at a higher risk of taking another dose of Ambien, and overdosing. The side effects of an overdose manifest as stronger forms of the drug’s original side effects:
- Slow heart rate
- Slow breathing
If you notice yourself or another person experiencing these side effects, call emergency services immediately.
Ambien prescriptions are meant to be short-term solutions to persistent sleep problems. When people don’t follow the prescription, or take Ambien without a prescription, they risk abuse and overdose. While it is rare, it isn’t impossible for individuals to develop an addiction. In any case of addiction, it is important to reach out for professional help. Our caring clinicians and therapists work with people on an individual level to identify and treat the root of addiction, not just its symptoms. Overcoming addiction is a difficult process, but you can make the first step by reaching out for help. If you think you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, please contact us today.