Substance abuse is a serious issue in the United States. More than 24 million Americans use illicit drugs.
Some of these medications are legal. They come in the form of opioids, antidepressants, and sleeping pills. They’re used to treat an initial illness but at some point, a dependency develops.
Ambien is one of these medications. Between 50-70 million people suffer from a sleeping disorder. Nine million of them take sleeping pills to help them sleep.
Sadly, they become dependent on the chemicals found in Ambien.
Addiction is a disease. That means that it’s treatable. You may not even realize you’ve developed an addiction.
This article will walk you through what Ambien is and why abusing it can be dangerous.
What Is Ambien?
Ambien is one of the most common sleeping pills on the market. It’s a prescription medication that when used as directed is safe.
The DEA classifies Ambien as a schedule IV substance. This designation means it has a low risk of dependency and is at a low potential for abuse. Like many prescription substances, its misuse is growing.
The active ingredient in Ambien is zolpidem tartrate. This is a GABAA receptor. GABAA stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid A.
GABA is a neurotransmitter that sends chemical messages through the brain and the nervous system. It regulates the communication between the cells in the brain.
Zolpidem is a white to off-white powder. It’s semi-soluble in water, alcohol, or propylene glycol.
Along with zolpidem tartrate, Ambien includes the following chemicals:
- Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose
- Magnesium stearate
- Microcrystalline cellulose
- Polyethylene glycol
- Sodium starch glycolate
- Titanium dioxide
As far as classification, Ambien is a nonbenzodiazepine sedative-hypnotic of the imidazopyridine class.
How Is It Taken?
Patients suffering from insomnia take 5mg tablets once per night. Usually, they’re instructed to take the pill right before bedtime. Users should take Ambien when they have seven to eight hours available for sleeping.
If 5mg isn’t effective, a doctor may prescribe 10mg tablets. It’s not recommended that a patient exceed 10mg in a 24-hour period.
Ambien has a very short half-life. It only lasts for a few hours and doesn’t have harsh side effects. It’s also milder than benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium.
This makes it attractive for those who want to get high. It’s also misused as an anti-anxiety drug.
This usually happens when someone starts to self-medicate with Ambien. They may begin taking it because of the sedative-hypnotic effects. Over time, this causes addiction.
Who Takes It?
Both adult men and women take Ambien. But, their dosages are different.
Because Ambien clearance is lower in women’s bodies, they’re prescribed 5mg. If this dosage isn’t effective, the dose may increase to 10mg tablets. Typically, men start off taking 10mg pills.
Children do not take Ambien. Elderly patients may be more sensitive to its effects and aren’t prescribed more than 5mg. Most physicians don’t recommend prescribing Ambien for elderly patients.
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A Brief History of Ambien
Zolpidem was first used in Europe in the late 1980s. Its manufacturer, Synthalabo, collaborated with Searle to bring it to the United States.
In 1992, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Ambien for treating insomnia. Sanofi-Aventis is the pharmaceutical company that manufactures Ambien.
For many years, physicians and patients considered it a “miracle pill.” It worked within 15 minutes and didn’t leave users feeling groggy in the morning.
As time progressed, patients began reporting adverse side effects. Without warnings posted about these side effects, users filed class-action lawsuits against Sanofi-Aventis.
In 2015, the American Geriatric Society added Zolpidem to its updated list of Beers Criteria. This means they feel it’s a potentially inappropriate medication for elderly patients.
Consequences of Ambien Misuse
The side effects of Ambien are well-documented.
Effects on the Mind and Body
The most common side effects of Ambien are:
But, there are rare cases in which the side effects are quite extreme. These include:
- Abnormal dreams
- Abnormal thoughts
- A feeling of being drugged
- Strange behavior
In a few alarming cases, patients went into a “zombie-like trance.” During these bouts, users found themselves in inexplicable situations. Some committed heinous crimes while others harmed themselves.
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Short-Term Health Effects
The price of taking Ambien doesn’t stop there. The short-term health effects include the side effects listed above along with:
- Back pain
- Chest pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Flu-like symptoms
- Heart palpitations
- Lack of muscle coordination
Long-Term Health Effects
These effects can continue into the long-term. Other long-term effects include:
- Acute hepatocellular (liver injury/failure)
- Chronic rash
In the most extreme cases, patients taking Ambien fell into a persistent vegetative state (PVS). This is a condition that patients aren’t expected to recover from.
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Using Ambien With Other Drugs
As Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic, taking benzodiazepines along with Ambien is dangerous. Other sedative-type and depressants like alcohol also aren’t recommended while taking Ambien.
Which Drugs Are Commonly Used With Ambien?
People who used stimulants like cocaine take Ambien to “come down” from their high. Mixing Ambien with alcohol or other sedative-hypnotics has the most severe interactions. Yet, one report stated 60 percent of people who drink alcohol didn’t stop when they were on Ambien.
Serious interactions involve taking opioids, tranquilizers, and other sleep aids. Combined with Ambien, these drugs can cause very serious and harmful effects.
Treating Ambien Addiction
While most agencies consider Ambien at a low potential for abuse and dependency, misuse or abuse of Ambien is dangerous.
If you need treatment for an Ambien addiction, we can help. Contact us today to speak with an addiction specialist.
We will work with your insurance provider to find you the best care possible. Visit our insurance information page to view our process.