What is Ambien?
Ambien is a powerful, brand-name prescription medication used to treat severe sleep problems, particularly insomnia. It helps adults with pervasive sleep conditions fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night. Ambien is part of the sedative-hypnotic drug class and is known for its incredibly strong calming effects.
Unfortunately, Ambien comes with some serious side effects and potential risks. People may develop a dependence on the medication or a possible Ambien addiction. Since it’s such a strong drug, Ambien addiction is a significant condition and should be addressed accordingly. Overcoming a problem with Ambien use should be done under the care of a medical professional.
Is Ambien a controlled substance?
Ambien is a controlled substance under the Drug Enforcement Administration. It is a Schedule IV drug alongside other prescription medications like Xanax, Soma, Valium, Ativan, and Tramadol. Ambien’s classification as a Schedule IV controlled substance means it has potential for abuse and dependence if not taken as prescribed, or taken recreationally.
Ambien should always be used under the supervision and care of a medical professional. Using it outside of prescribed parameters puts you at risk for developing serious short- or long-term effects. It’s illegal to use Ambien in any way that isn’t prescribed or to use it without a prescription.
What kind of drug is Ambien?
Ambien is the brand name for zolpidem, a sedative-hypnotic prescription medication. It is used to treat individuals with severe insomnia and other sleeping problems that aren’t responsive to alternative forms of treatment. Clinicians should always try less intensive treatment methods before turning to Ambien.
The medication comes in different forms depending on your needs: immediate-release and extended-release. Immediate release helps people fall asleep when they first get in bed. Extended-release helps people first fall asleep and then stay asleep once they’ve fallen asleep. The kind of Ambien you need is best determined by your physician.
Is Ambien a Benzo?
Benzodiazepines (also called “benzos”) are a class of prescription drugs that slow and calm the central nervous system. The depressant medication is mainly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks. It’s also useful for other conditions like depression, seizures, and insomnia or as general anesthesia for surgical procedures.
Ambien was initially formulated to have effects similar to benzodiazepines without the dangerous high potential for abuse and addiction. Both drugs appear to enhance the effects of the GABA neurotransmitter. But ambien is not a benzodiazepine.
Ambien’s active ingredient, zolpidem, differs from the active ingredients in benzodiazepines. Ambien falls into a different medication classification than these drugs do. It is classified as a sedative/hypnotic while benzodiazepines are a central nervous depressant. Some examples of benzodiazepines medications include Ativan, Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax.
Is Ambien an Opioid?
Opioids are a popular class of prescription drugs used to treat moderate to severe pain. They function by blocking the communication of pain signals between the brain and body. These medications are helpful when used as prescribed but dangerous when misused or abused. There is a high potential for abuse and addiction when using these drugs.
Opioids attach to opioid receptors throughout the body to inhibit your body’s sensitivity to pain. They help individuals struggling with pain caused by various conditions such as late-stage cancer, following a surgical procedure, after a serious injury, or chronic pain conditions.
Ambien is not an opioid. These medications are used for pain management, though managing pain often results in better sleep. Some of the prescription medications in the opioid classification include OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, fentanyl, codeine, and morphine.
What is Ambien Used for?
Ambien is used to help individuals who have difficulties sleeping. It is classified as a non-benzodiazepine sedative/hypnotic. It functions by raising the levels of the GABA neurotransmitter (gamma-aminobutyric acid). This slows activity in the brain which allows the mind and body to relax, thus helping you fall asleep.
Physicians prescribe Ambien for short-term treatment of severe sleep problems. The specific length of treatment depends on factors like the severity of your insomnia, previous attempts to treat it, and your overall physical health.
Your doctor may prescribe one of two types of medication. The quick-release form of Ambien helps you if you have trouble falling asleep. The extended-release form helps you both fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
How Ambien Works
Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic medication that offers relief for individuals suffering from insomnia. The powerful sleeping medication works by helping fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. It’s a great option when other sleep aids prove ineffective but should only be used as a short-term solution to avoid long-term health effects.
Many people who suffer from insomnia lay awake tossing and turning all night long. When they are finally able to get some sleep, their sleep is so light that even the slightest noise or disturbance wakes them up again. This inconsistent rest creates many other health problems so addressing their insomnia is crucial.
What Does Ambien Do?
Poor sleep affects every area of a person’s life. It impacts their focus, mood, productivity, and more. Lack of sleep keeps people from living a full, enjoyable life because they’re so preoccupied with their exhaustion. Ambien exists to help these people find a solution to their severe insomnia and inability to get a good night’s rest.
Ambien works by “depressing” the central nervous system which means it slows brain activity. Slowing down brain activity allows people to relax enough that they can fall asleep. The drug causes a drowsy, hypnotic effect that allows people to calm down enough to get some sleep. Ambien not only helps people fall asleep when they lay down but it also helps them stay asleep during the night.
Other medications can help people sleep, such as benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium. Ambien is a more effective drug, though, because its sole purpose is to help people relax and fall asleep.
How Long Does It Take for Ambien to Work?
There are two types of Ambien: short-release and extended-release. The time it takes for Ambien to work depends on the type of medication you have. Short-release Ambien is fast-acting and helps people fall asleep quickly. Extended-release Ambien also acts quickly but releases throughout the night to help people stay asleep.
It takes about half an hour to an hour and a half for Ambien to work. You should always take the medication right before you are ready to go to sleep but never sooner than that. Its powerful effects can cause some adverse side effects if you remain awake while taking it.
Additionally, eating food before taking Ambien makes the drug take longer to take effect. You should never eat before taking the medication to keep it from delaying your sleep. Only take Ambien on an empty stomach so it can function as it’s intended to.
How Long Does Ambien Last?
The length of time Ambien lasts depends on the type you take. Doctors prescribe one of two types of medication: immediate-release and extended-release. Both forms should be taken right before you go to sleep to ensure their effectiveness.
Immediate release is best if your main problem is falling asleep at night. The extended release is best when you have problems with both falling asleep and staying asleep through the night. The extended-release medication has two separate layers. The first dissolves quickly to help you fall asleep, second dissolves slowly to help you stay asleep.
Both the immediate and extended-release forms take about 1.5 hours to reach peak concentration in the blood. The half-life of Ambien (the amount of time it takes for the concentration to decrease by half) is around 2.5 hours. This means that the drug remains in your system for about 8 to 12 hours.
How Long Does Ambien Stay In Your System?
Ambien is still detectable in your system even after you can no longer feel its effects. Residual chemical compounds are left behind and Ambien stays in your system for some time after taking it.
There are different types of tests used to determine the presence of different drugs in your body: blood, saliva, urine, and hair. Blood tests reveal use for the shortest time but the drug is detectable for much longer periods in tests using hair.
How long does Ambien stay in your system?
- Blood: about 8 to 12 hours
- Saliva: about 24 hours (1 day)
- Urine: up to 72 hours (3 days)
- Hair: up to 90 days or more
The amount of time Ambien stays in your system depends on a few factors:
- Food and fluid intake
- Organ function
- Frequency of use
- Other medications
Some people metabolize the medication faster than others. Having other food, fluids, or medications in your system can also affect how quickly your body metabolizes the drug. You might find that Ambien stays in your system for longer than anticipated.
Is Ambien Safe?
Ambien is a powerful sleeping medication that should only be used with a legitimate prescription under the supervision of a doctor. Ambien is safe when used as prescribed but even then comes with some risks and side effects. The potential for misuse is high and its powerful effects can lead to some adverse reactions.
One concerning side effect people note is that they do things that they don’t remember while they were sleeping. These include things like preparing or eating food and driving, all while asleep. Since you’re not aware of what’s happening it may lead to some dangerous or disastrous results.
The FDA also recommends not driving or participating in activities that require your full cognitive abilities and awareness the day after taking Ambien. There may be some residual effects the next morning, particularly when using extended-release Ambien.
Dependence is also a cause for concern when using Ambien, especially if you’re predisposed to addiction. If you struggled with substance abuse in the past, you may want to consider taking another type of medication.
Chemistry of Ambien
Ambien functions by increasing the effects of GABA neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. It binds to GABA receptors at the same location as benzodiazepines. Ambien tends to bind with receptors in the brain as opposed to the spine. This results in sedative and hypnotic effects, leading to its classification as a sedative-hypnotic medication.
The chemistry of Ambien is complicated and requires working with reagents that are difficult to handle. Manufacturing the drug requires intensive safety assessments in regular settings. This makes the illicit manufacturing of Ambien far more challenging than with other popular drugs.
Interactions With Other Substances
Ambien is such a powerful drug on its own that it causes severe interactions with other substances. Combining substances always comes with some risks but those risks increase when taking this medication. Your doctor will always ask if you’re taking other medications before prescribing Ambien to avoid complications from interactions.
You should never drink alcohol while taking Ambien. Prescription painkillers and other opioids can also cause potentially dangerous reactions. They may increase your risk of developing dependence on Ambien. Drinking alcohol or using opioids while taking Ambien may cause respiratory depression that could be fatal.
Ambien also has interactions with other substances such as antipsychotics and antidepressants. Both antipsychotics and antidepressants, as well as other sedatives, anxiolytics, and antiepileptic drugs worsen the feelings of next-day sedation. Some have also reported experiencing visual hallucinations when they take Ambien while on antidepressants.
Side Effects of Ambien
There are many side effects of Ambien even when taking the medication as prescribed. Aside from its primary effect of sedation, most side effects are mild to moderate. Some severe side effects that require medical attention may occur in certain cases.
Mild to moderate side effects of Ambien include:
- Changes in appetite
- Stomach pain
- Loss of strength
- Muscle aches, pains, or cramps
- Difficulties balancing or moving
- Blurred or double vision
- Prickling or tingling sensations
- Joint pain
- Chest discomfort
If you experience any of the following side effects of Ambien you should seek immediate medical attention:
- Excessive, unusual excitement, nervousness, or irritation
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Difficulties breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations
- Skin rash
- Swelling in the face
Can You Overdose on Ambien?
If you take too much of the medication you can overdose on Ambien. This dangerous side effect is potentially fatal if not treated immediately. Ambien overdose occurs when you take more of the drug than your body can process, or when you mix it with other substances. Your body cannot handle the amount or mixture of substances and starts shutting down.
The typical prescribed Ambien dosage is somewhere between 5 and 10 milligrams. It is generally safe within this range and you should experience few to no adverse effects. Taking more than this amount can create serious problems, though.
Dangerous side effects begin when you take around 70 milligrams or more. Doses this high can result in an overdose on Ambien. You may also overdose if you combine even those lower milligram doses with other substances such as alcohol or opioids. If you or someone you’re with shows signs of an Ambien overdose seek medical help immediately.
Can You Become Addicted to Ambien?
Ambien is a medication associated with tolerance and substance dependence. It’s only recommended for short-term use because you can become addicted to Ambien if you take it for long enough. Developing dependence on this powerful medication can cause a range of problems, often creating more sleeping problems than you initially experienced.
Ambien addiction is a serious concern because it is such a powerful medication. Taking Ambien and staying awake can cause you to behave in erratic, unpredictable ways. If you’re concerned about a potential Ambien addiction, consult with your physician.
Ambien Addiction and Abuse
When your doctor prescribes Ambien, it’s recommended that you take it for only a short period of two weeks or less. Not everyone experiences problems but some find it hard to control their use. Ambien is a powerful medication and developing dependence may be a concern. If you have a history of substance or alcohol abuse, or you choose to use it recreationally, Ambien addiction and abuse is something to be wary of.
Is Ambien Addictive?
If you use Ambien beyond two weeks or you use it recreationally, Ambien can be addictive. The powerful sedative calms your mind and body so you feel at ease and relaxed enough to fall asleep. Physical tolerance forms when you realize you need to take more of the drug to feel the same effects.
Once you develop Ambien tolerance, dependence is the next stage. Dependence forms when you cannot function effectively or feel okay without taking the medication, usually due to lack of sleep. Ambien is addictive and addiction occurs once you develop tolerance and experience withdrawal symptoms when you aren’t using the drug.
Why is Ambien Addictive?
Ambien is addictive because it is such a strong medication. It helps people with severe sleeping problems fall asleep. Someone who has trouble getting enough rest without medication may turn to anything that helps them get the restful sleep they need. What starts as a case of short-term insomnia treatment may become far more than anticipated.
Ambien is also addictive when people use it for recreational purposes. Combining the medication with other drugs creates an intense and dangerous high. If you mix it with other substances like alcohol or drugs, Ambien addiction can become an even greater problem.
Controversy exists over whether Ambien is addictive or not. Some professionals insist Ambien addiction is not possible but others are positive that addictive properties exist. Research published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology backs up the idea that Ambien dependence and abuse are very much possible.
Warning Signs of Ambien Addiction
If you’re concerned a loved one may be abusing the drug, there are some warning signs of Ambien addiction to look for. Ambien addiction is characterized by having troubles controlling substance use and continuing to use despite experiencing consequences. But it’s not always as clear as addictions to other substances are so it’s good to know what to keep an eye on.
Warning signs of Ambien addiction include:
Refilling their prescription more frequently than necessary
Taking larger doses or taking it more often than prescribed
Engaging in dangerous or harmful behaviors or activities without any memory of them
Spending excessive amounts of money on the drug
Disappearing with no explanation or half-hearted excuses
Isolating from friends, family, and other loved ones
Slowing down on or stopping activities they used to love to use drugs
Trying to cut back on or quit using Ambien but not being able to
Experiencing Ambien withdrawal symptoms
Ambien Withdrawal Symptoms
Once you develop a tolerance for the medication, you’ll experience Ambien withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using it. You can experience withdrawal symptoms from Ambien even when you’re using it as prescribed. Once your body adapts to the presence of the medication, you’ll experience withdrawals.
Withdrawal symptoms are physical and psychological reactions to the lack of a substance in the body after dependence develops. Ambien withdrawal symptoms are mild to moderate in most cases but severe in certain situations.
Withdrawal symptoms from Ambien include:
- Ambien cravings
- Panic attacks
- Mood swings
- Abdominal cramps
- Increased heart rate
- Fast breathing
- Rebound insomnia
Some symptoms are more intense and life-threatening but are far less common than the symptoms listed above. For example, less than 1 percent of Ambien withdrawal symptom cases include seizures. Severe withdrawal symptoms are more common for those who mix Ambien with other substances.
How Do You Treat Ambien Addiction?
Ambien addiction is a serious issue. Once a problem develops, you may need to look into more intensive ways to treat Ambien addiction. Addiction treatment facilities help individuals separate from drugs and alcohol and then learn to live clean and sober. They provide services like individual counseling, group therapy, medication management, activities, and more.
Most facilities offer different levels of treatment to provide services to everyone who needs them. Addiction recovery doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. If you’re looking to treat Ambien addiction, learning more about the levels of treatment will give you an idea of which is the best fit for you.
Medical detox is the first step for many people looking to treat Ambien addiction or other substance problems. Treatment isn’t effective until your body is cleared of all substances. Detox oversees and ensures your safety throughout this process. But when you’re dependent on the substances you use, you’ll experience drug withdrawals during the first few days of treatment.
Inpatient rehab is the next step in the addiction treatment process. These are residential programs that provide treatment services during the day while you live at the facility. Inpatient rehab provides the most intensive level of care for those who cannot stay drug-free in their home environments. You learn to set a solid foundation for your ongoing recovery during inpatient rehab before moving onto the next level of care.
Partial Hospitalization Program
Partial hospitalization programs provide similar treatment services to inpatient rehab but on an outpatient basis. You attend the same number of programming hours during the week but are allowed to live either at home or in an off-site sober living facility. Partial hospitalization programs serve either as the next level of care after inpatient rehab or as a more financially feasible treatment option.
Outpatient treatment is the most adaptable of all the levels of Ambien addiction treatment. Some people transition into outpatient care after completing an inpatient or a partial hospitalization program. Others aren’t able to commit to the full-time programs offered in higher levels of care. Outpatient treatment meets the needs of the widest range of people, allowing anyone who needs help to receive it.
Where Do You Treat Ambien Addiction?
You can treat Ambien addiction at a qualified addiction treatment facility. Once you have an idea of the level of care that works best for you, you can reach out to facilities that offer the programs you’re looking for. Each facility offers its unique programs and services to its clients.
Hawaii Island Recovery understands that the moments before deciding to attend treatment are challenging and confusing. Even when you have an understanding of the different levels of care, though, it can be difficult to determine which is right for you. If you’d like some help deciding which type of treatment you need, or you have some questions about how to treat Ambien addiction, we’re here to help.
When you attend Hawaii Island Recovery, you can trust you’re receiving the best possible care in the most beautiful place. Call us or submit an online request form to speak with one of our admissions specialists today. We’re happy to clear up any concerns you may have or help you figure out which treatment approach is best for you. You never need to handle your addiction alone again; let us walk you through the stages of early recovery.