Ambien is a prescription drug that helps people who have issues falling asleep. Zolpidem is the active ingredient in the drug, which belongs to the sedative-hypnotics drug class. People suffering from insomnia often rely on the drug to help them fall asleep, which in turn helps them avoid fatigue during the day and enjoy regular sleeping patterns.

Many people who regularly rely on Ambien to fall asleep might become dependent on the drug. After a consistent amount of time taking the drug, people might build a tolerance and require a larger dosage to feel the same sedative effects. Increasing the amount of drug taken each time could cause people to become addicted to Ambien due to the associated effects, including a relaxed state.

If you or someone you know takes Ambien consistently, either to fall asleep or to achieve a “high,” it might be time to search for a rehabilitation facility. Treatment for drug addiction often helps people suffering from an Ambien dependence. The Recovery Village could help you or your loved one address sleeping issues and any substance use disorders in a safer manner than just relying on prescription drugs.

What Is Ambien?

Many people have made various inquiries about Ambien to either their primary care physician or in a Google search. Some of the most common questions about this drug are:

  • What is Ambien used for?
  • Is Ambien a narcotic drug?
  • What does Ambien look like?

However, the question most often asked is, “What is Ambien?” Ambien is prescribed to many people and mentioned often, but some people hear about the drug and don’t know what it actually does.

Ambien interacts with the brain to produce a calming effect for the body. This can cause issues for anyone who attempts to operate a vehicle or machinery since the drug can impair motor functions or reactions. Additionally, people who take Ambien might feel drowsy the morning after a dosage and they should be cautious before attempting anything dangerous.

The drug is taken to help people who experience trouble falling asleep at night. This is an illness called insomnia and it is common for people who suffer from substance use disorders or mental illnesses. Taking the drug can help stabilize a person’s sleeping patterns but it can also become addictive if relied on too often.

Ambien is not a narcotic drug, though. The Ambien drug class is sedative-hypnotics, commonly called depressants. Other well-known drugs that fall within this classification include:

  • Amytal
  • Ativan
  • Halcion
  • Librium
  • Valium
  • Xanax

Alcohol is also considered a sedative and often causes people to feel drowsy, making it very similar to Ambien.

What Does Ambien Look Like?

Ambien comes in capsule form and varies in size depending on the dosage amount needed to address a person’s level of insomnia. Some prescription drugs also come in liquid form, but Ambien only can be taken as a capsule.

Ambien typically comes as a small pink peach tablet. Tablets are available in strengths of 5 milligrams and 10 milligrams. Additionally, extended-release tablets are available in strengths of 6.25 milligrams and 12.5 milligrams for people who only stay asleep for a few hours. The hypnotic-sedative also comes in a circular blue tablet with the letter “A” embossed on it or as a white tablet with the signature “amb10” or “5421” in a capsule-like shape.

Zolpidem, the main active ingredient in Ambien, can cause severe allergic reactions. If this happens, people should stop taking the medication and contact a medical professional immediately. Some of the most common reactions include:

  • Hives
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat

Additionally, people should not share Ambien with others if they do not have a prescription themselves. The recommended doses of zolpidem are not the same for men and women — or for people with different physical characteristics or insomnia levels — and children should not take the hypnotic-sedative. Misuse of this medication can result in dangerous side effects, including addiction or even overdose.

Some of the most common ways people misuse Ambien include:

  • Increasing dosage without a doctor’s recommendation
  • Taking the drug longer than a prescription allows
  • Taking the drug without a prescription
  • Taking the drug after recently consuming alcohol
  • Mixing the drug with other prescription drugs that could have dangerous side effects together

Knowing what the drug looks like and how to take it can help people stay safe and avoid an Ambien addiction.

Is Ambien Addictive

When people ask whether Ambien is addictive, the answer is always yes. Ambien can be an addictive drug for people, and common signs of a dependence include:

  • Refilling prescriptions too often
  • Experiencing cravings for the medication
  • Taking larger doses than what has been prescribed
  • Isolating oneself
  • Spending large amounts of money to obtain the drug
  • Engaging in risky experiences without remembering them later

Many people develop an Ambien addiction from short-term insomnia. Since the drug is prescribed by a doctor to treat sleeping issues, many people feel like it is safe to take regardless of the dosage. Prescription drugs can be more dangerous and addictive than usual due to people relinquishing caution they often reserve for more restrictive drugs, such as heroin or cocaine.

After a few weeks, Ambien becomes less effective and some individuals are unable to stop taking the drug. An additional side effect of taking the drug over a long period of time are worsening insomnia when the dosage is decreased or stops completely.

Although Ambien usage has a smaller potential for overdose  compared to other benzodiazepine sedatives, it can be more challenging to detect an Ambien overdose because the signs of the overdose are similar to general symptoms of using the drug. Ambien can slow a person’s heart rate to the point of failure, or breathing to the point of a fatal injury. A slow heartbeat or slow breathing is also an indication that the person taking the medication may be in serious trouble. When someone builds up a tolerance to Ambien, they will typically need larger and larger doses of the medication in order to maintain its effectiveness.

Ambien addiction can easily develop and it’s important to take necessary steps to curb a dependence under the guidance of a doctor. Do not attempt detoxification cold turkey because withdrawal symptoms can be severe.

Ambien addiction may also be influenced by environmental factors like homelessness, poverty or peer pressure. It can also co-occur with other disorders, such as alcohol abuse. There are several different symptoms and signs that can happen due to Ambien abuse, including:

  • Weakness
  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Coordination problems
  • Slowed heartbeat or breathing
  • Altered reasoning or judgement
  • Uncontrollable shaking

An overdose is essentially a poisoning. When a person takes a high dose of Ambien that the body cannot metabolize it fast enough, the drug essentially poisons the body and begins to cause serious adverse side effects, including:

  • Small pupils
  • Blurry vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Blue lips or fingers
  • Fainting
  • Death

If you or someone you know experience these side effects due to an Ambien addiction, it is critical to get medical attention as soon as possible. Overdosing is considered a medical emergency. Although there is no cure for drug addiction, rehab is a proven treatment method. After therapy and medical attention, it is possible to live a long and healthy life free of Ambien addiction.

Ambien Dosage

Ambien is extremely addictive and caused the Food and Drug Administration to address the potential for misuse. In 2013, the FDA lowered the recommended dose for this medication.

Treatment periods of Ambien are often recommended for up to two weeks. People should always take Ambien exactly as it is prescribed by their doctor and follow any instructions that are listed on the prescription label. People should never take the medication for longer than prescribed, or in larger amounts than what was recommended by their doctor.

For example, the recommended dosage for women is 5 milligrams, and either 5 or 10 milligrams for men. Patients should only take this medication once each night, not during the day, and at least 7 hours before they plan to wake up.

If a person takes a 5-milligram dose and it either doesn’t put the person to sleep or only works for a few hours, they may be recommended to increase dosage to 10 milligrams. Individuals who are either handicapped or elderly may be sensitive to reactions from taking zolpidem. People suffering from hepatic impairment do not have the same side effects or won’t clear the drug from their system the same as other people. Due to this, the dosage of Ambien prescribed might be limited to 5 milligrams to avoid addiction or severe side effects. If Ambien is combined with other central nervous system depressants, side effects could include addiction. Mixing other prescription drugs with Ambien should be avoided if possible.

Misuse of Ambien and other hypnotic-sedatives has been on the rise in the United States. A few statistics showing how and why people should be weary of Ambien addiction are:

  • According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2013 more than 250,000 individuals living in the United States were misusing Ambien as well as other sedatives.
  • More than two-thirds of patients visiting the emergency room as a result of a zolpidem-related events are women.
  • People who are at least 45 years old are most likely to be involved in a critical healthcare event associated with Ambien misuse.
  • Up to 74 percent of emergency room visits related to Ambien misuse were for individuals over age 45.

A report from the Drug Abuse Warning Network identified that there were serious increases in overdose or misuse in Ambien-related events in emergency rooms between 2005 and 2010. Half of all emergency room visits associated with zolpidem involved interactions or combinations with other medications, especially anti-anxiety, sleeping medications or narcotic analgesics. Since Ambien addiction can easily develop, people should always follow the doctor’s orders when taking this drug, or when discontinuing use.

  • Visit the following websites to learn about The Recovery Village’s network of drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities. Call today for admissions. Each center is ready to help people learn how to cope with their addiction and uncover the root causes for their substance use disorder.
  • Orlando Recovery Center: A premier rehabilitation facility in Orlando, Florida that helps individuals recover from addiction and substance use disorders. The center also offers the opportunity to treat co-occurring disorders.
  • The Recovery Village Columbus: Located in Ohio, this facility provides inpatient, outpatient and aftercare treatment for people looking to begin detox. The center provides individualized plans to help patients through recovery while addressing their unique co-occurring disorders or any setbacks that may happen during recovery.
  • The Recovery Village Palmer Lake: In Colorado, this facility offers inpatient, outpatient and intensive outpatient treatment for individuals looking to kick-start their journey to recovery.
  • The Recovery Village Ridgefield: Located right in southern Washington, this facility provides patients with outpatient and aftercare programs. Just 20 minutes outside of Portland, this facility assists individuals who are ready to begin treatment.
  • The Recovery Village: In Umatilla, Florida, this is a rehabilitation facility that provides resources for individuals seeking drug and alcohol treatment. There are inpatient, outpatient, intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization treatment programs available for those suffering from Ambien addiction.
  • IAFF Center of Excellence: Specializes in assisting firefighters who struggle with behavioral health problems and addiction. Members can enter the recovery process sooner so they can return back to work as quickly as possible. Inpatient, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs are all available at this facility, where patients can address their Ambien addiction in a safe, supportive environment.
  • Denver Mental Health & Counseling: Denver Mental Health and Counseling by The Recovery Village is a physician-led outpatient center specializing in evidence-based addiction and mental health treatments, offering services such as TMS, IOP, and personalized care for both ongoing and new patients, dedicated to fostering long-term recovery and overall well-being.
  • The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health: The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health is a premier physician-led treatment center in South Florida, offering a comprehensive spectrum of services from medical detox to outpatient programs for alcohol, drug, and co-occurring mental health conditions, with a commitment to rejuvenating lives, families, and communities, and facilitating same-day admissions.
  • The Recovery Village Atlanta: Located in Roswell just outside downtown Atlanta, is a 62-bed physician-led treatment facility offering a comprehensive range of services, from medical detox to outpatient care, specializing in alcohol, drug, and co-occurring mental health conditions, dedicated to transforming lives, families, and communities throughout Georgia.
  • The Recovery Village Kansas City: The Recovery Village Kansas City, an 80-bed facility in Raytown just 10 miles from downtown, offers a comprehensive range of evidence-based treatments for addiction and mental health conditions, overseen by physician leaders, and is dedicated to revitalizing lives, families, and communities throughout the Midwest.
  • The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper Health: The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper, situated just 20 minutes from Philadelphia, is a leading rehab facility in South Jersey providing comprehensive, evidence-based addiction and mental health treatments, ranging from medical detox to teletherapy, with a dedicated team committed to guiding adults on their path to lifelong recovery.

If you or a loved one suffers from Ambien addiction, there is no reason to wait before addressing this illness. Call The Recovery Village and discuss with an intake specialist the best facility to help begin the rehabilitation process. Addiction to this prescription drug is becoming more common in the United States, and it can lead to serious injury, even overdose-caused death. The Recover Village has the staff and resources to help you or your loved one move on from relying on Ambien to be happy or comfortable.


What is Ambien used for?

Ambien is mainly prescribed to treat insomnia. There are two types of this medication — immediate-release and extended-release.

  • Immediate-release tablets release the medication all at once and are often prescribed for those who have trouble falling asleep.
  • Extended-release tablets release the medication over time and are given to those who have trouble staying asleep.
Is it possible to overdose on Ambien?

Yes. Symptoms of overdose are similar to that of other central nervous system depressants and include:

  • Being unable to wake up
  • Coma
  • Cardiovascular collapse
  • Problems breathing
  • Death

If you suspect someone has overdosed on Ambien, you should seek emergency medical attention immediately by calling 911.

Does Ambien have serious side effects?

Ambien does carry an FDA Black Box Warning for complex sleep behaviors. Some of these behaviors can be dangerous. In addition, people typically do not remember these activities the next day. They include:

  • Sleepwalking
  • Sleep driving
  • Sleep eating
  • Sleep talking
  • Sleep sexual activities
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.