Zolpidem tartrate, a controlled substance marketed under the brand name Ambien, is prescribed for sleep disorders and for certain neurological conditions. But this sedative-hypnotic medication has also gained popularity as a drug of abuse among users who are drawn to its tranquilizing effects. Recreational users may take the tablets orally or grind them up into a powder, which may be snorted or injected. If you or someone close to you has been taking zolpidem for non-medical purposes, you should be aware that this central nervous system depressant is potentially habit-forming, and that it can cause serious short-term and long-term side effects.
Signs of Ambien Addiction
Addiction is one of the greatest health risks of Ambien abuse. Because the drug can produce tolerance or dependence, it is usually prescribed for short periods of time. If you take more than the recommended dose or you take the drug longer than it’s prescribed, you run the risk of becoming physically or psychologically dependent. Signs of dependence include:
- Withdrawal symptoms when you decrease your dose or stop using the drug. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions that suddenly quitting Ambien may cause rebound insomnia, extreme fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, muscle cramps, sweating, convulsions or seizures.
- An increasing tolerance for Ambien. If the dose you started with no longer produces the same effects, it’s a sign that you’ve become tolerant. Tolerance in itself isn’t necessarily a sign of addiction, but it indicates that you may be in danger of becoming dependent on the medication to function.
- Repeated failures to stop using the medication. Multiple attempts to stop using zolpidem or to reduce your dose are signs of addiction. You may feel guilty or worried about your drug use, yet you can’t seem to get by without it.
- Continued abuse of the drug in spite of the health risks. If you’re aware that Ambien can have potentially dangerous effects on your health yet you keep abusing the medication, you may be in danger of addiction. The National Institutes of Health warns that Ambien can cause side effects like fatigue, rebound insomnia, dizziness, headaches, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, shaking, skin reactions, depression and suicidal thoughts.
Effects of Long-term Abuse
Ambien is often prescribed for periods of one to two weeks to people who are having difficulty falling asleep. The drug’s manufacturer, Sanofi-Aventis, advises prescribing physicians to evaluate the patient after seven to 10 days if the drug is not effective. The misuse of this sedative-hypnotic may cause users to have confusion, memory problems, depression, agitation, tremors or impaired movement. Some users have reported blackout episodes while taking the medication, in which they drove a car, cooked a meal or performed other activities with no memory of their actions. An overdose may lead to respiratory depression, heart failure, coma or death.
Ambien abuse is especially dangerous if you take the drug with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants, like opioid pain medications (OxyContin, Vicodin) or benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium). These drugs intensify the effects of Ambien, increasing the risk of fatal central nervous system depression. Crushing the pills and snorting or injecting the powder is extremely hazardous and may lead to an overdose.
Ambien abuse is often accompanied by other addictions, such as alcoholism or opiate dependence. If you’ve tried to stop using Ambien recreationally but you haven’t been able to manage your use alone, an addiction treatment program like the one here at Axis could help you regain control over your life. Call us now for more information.