Ambien is one of the most prescribed prescription sleep aids. Advertising for the drug has been ubiquitous in print and broadcast media for years. But despite this familiarity, Ambien is also sought out by abusers and addicts. Here are four facts about Ambien addiction that may be surprising.
1. Ambien Addiction Is Dangerous
Doctors prescribe Ambien readily. Users may not think twice about sharing a few spare pills with a friend who can’t relax or get to sleep. According to a 2006 survey from The Partnership at Drugfree.org, 40% of teens believe it is safer to abuse prescription drugs, like Ambien, than illegal drugs.
Of course, Ambien, like other prescription drugs, had been rigorously studied and shown to be safe before it was released onto the market. But safety is only expected within specific limits. Keeping the dose moderate (10mg is typical), using it no longer than two weeks at a stretch, and avoiding other central nervous system (CNS) depressants are key restrictions to observe in order to stay safe. Addicts routinely exceed recommended doses by several times, combine the drug with CNS depressants like alcohol or opioids, and may use it continually for years. These use patterns can cause dangerous motor impairment and even deadly overdose.
2. Ambien Doesn’t Just Cause Sleep
The effects of Ambien are varied and sometimes unpredictable. A common problem for habitual users is something called “paradoxical effects,” in which effects occur that are the opposite of those expected or intended. After countless nights of relying on Ambien to calm nerves and bring on sleep, for example, the very same dose can instead bring agitation and restlessness.
The manufacturer warns Ambien users to go to bed and stay there when using the drug. Those who stay awake, as many addicts try to do, may hallucinate, talk incoherently and drive erratically. Later, in a phenomenon called anterograde amnesia, they may not retain any memory of their actions while on Ambien.
3. Ambien Is a Club Drug
A sleeping pill would not seem to hold much appeal for young people intending to dance all night. But instead of sleepiness, feelings of euphoria, confidence and energy may be the result of high doses of Ambien. Young people take “Special A” or “Amees” to breeze into parties they may have been too shy to enjoy otherwise.
4. Prescription Ambien Use Does Not Necessarily Lead to Addiction
A prescription for Ambien is not required to get addicted to it. In fact, using Ambien as prescribed is unlikely to lead to addiction.
Because Ambien is so commonly prescribed, there is plenty of opportunity to divert some of that supply to those intending to get high. A 2007 article in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine surveyed the prescription drug habits of over 1000 students in a Michigan high school. Of those with prescriptions for sleeping medications like Ambien, 20% reported that had given away some of their medication. Aided by this free flow of medication, more than 3% of students had abused sleeping medication within the previous year.
Experienced drug users seek out Ambien to mix with other drugs for an extended high or for relief from the crash of another drug’s high.
Waking up from Ambien
Help for Ambien addiction is available. Call our 24 hour helpline to learn about options for addiction treatment and recovery. The call is toll-free.