Typically, Ambien—the common brand name for zolpidem, a pharmaceutical drug—is used to treat sleeping disorders, particularly insomnia. Being a sedative-hypnotic (the class of drug it’s in), Ambien is recommended for short-term use and per a medical doctor’s supervision only. Further, since Ambien is classified as a Schedule IV drug, it has a legitimate medical use, but also presents a hazard for addiction.
Being a fast-acting drug, Ambien’s effects start within about half an hour after taking it, with its “peak” arriving in roughly two hours. For most people, the drug stays in their system for between 1-2 days, depending on one’s age, the quantity taken, how long one has been taking Ambien, and their metabolism.
Although Ambien is most often prescribed to help people fall asleep, there are people who will take Ambien and try to stay awake in order to “get high” from the drug: for many, the effects of Ambien include feeling relaxed, lightheaded and calm. It should be noted Ambien can produce a “hangover” during which one wakes up feeling impaired. Performing activities requiring alertness, like driving, can prove more dangerous under the after-effects of Ambien; hence, extra caution is highly recommended when one is taking Ambien.
Normally, Ambien is only prescribed for 3-7 days (two weeks, at most), because tolerance to Ambien builds quickly. That is, a person needs to take more of the drug to get the same effects.
For some people who take Ambien for the “buzz” it provides (or for those who feel unable to relax without it), addiction can quickly become an issue. One can begin craving it all the time or may try to mix it with other drugs or alcohol to get stronger effects. Similar to when a person is addicted to other drugs, the struggles that often arise with work, school, finances or relationships “take a second seat” to using Ambien, as well as getting more of it, regardless of the consequences.
And since it isn’t a drug that’s intended for long-term use, stopping its use can quickly create intense withdrawal effects, even when one wants to quit. Such symptoms may include:
- Rebound insomnia
- Intense irritability
- Severe mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Stomach pain & discomfort
- Drug cravings
- Suicidal thoughts
If one does want to quit Ambien, the early withdrawal period is typically quite intense and difficult to get through without medical support. He intensity of the initial withdrawal symptoms (both physical and psychological) also make it easier for people to relapse. This is why professional treatment from an addictions-trained medical doctor, in conjunction with a therapist or drug counselor is strongly recommended. With their assistance and care, you can get the support you need to be successful in your recovery.
It bears repeating: Ambien addiction can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms and health-related consequences; therefore, it is highly suggested to those struggling with Ambien addiction to seek help from a medical treatment program.
What does such a program entail? The first stage of the treatment process is usually detoxing (i.e., medically-assisted detox) at a treatment facility or hospital. Having a dependence and tolerance to Ambien, there is no doubt you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms when the drugs are no longer in your system. (See the bullet-pointed list of typical withdrawal symptoms above.)
Detox programs typically last anywhere from three to ten days, depending on the severity of your addiction, and are designed to make the detox process as smooth and comfortable as possible.
Once completing detox, the on-site medical staff may recommend you enroll in a residential treatment program, providing you with time away from drugs, people you associate with drugs or unsafe environments filled with distractions and triggers. Such programs typically last anywhere from 30 days to 90 days and utilize evidence-based methods to effectively treat addiction.
If due to life or work circumstances, outpatient treatment is your only option, it affords an alternative that can still be an effective approach to breaking the cycle of addiction, educating you about the nature of addiction and recovery, and connecting you with a recovery network you can develop as your foundation of recovery grows.
Seeking treatment for Ambien misuse or addiction is essential in order to start on a healthy path towards recovery. If you or someone you know is misusing Ambien, numerous treatment options are available to help you achieve and maintain sobriety. The first and most important step is reaching out for help.