What is Ambien?

Chances are you have probably heard of the drug Ambien, and you may have found yourself in a situation where you’ve wondered if someone close to you is on Ambien.

Ambien is a prescription sleep medication used to treat adults with insomnia.  The generic name of Ambien is zolpidem, and this drug is classified as a sedative-hypnotic. It creates a calming effect on the brain of the person using it, and it’s intended to help people fall asleep faster and also stay asleep.

Medical guidelines recommend Ambien be prescribed for short treatment periods of one to two weeks because of the potential for abuse and dependency.

How Common Is Ambien Use?

Many people wonder what the signs of being on Ambien are because it’s such a commonly prescribed and also abused drug.

A study released in 2013 showed that since it was first introduced in 1993, Ambien has become one of the most popular prescription sleep aids, and for many people, it has become part of their everyday life. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that the number of people seeking emergency room care because of negative reactions to zolpidem had risen 220 percent in five years by 2013.

According to the CDC, anywhere from 50 to 70 million adults in the U.S. have some type of sleep disorder, and the use of prescription sleeping pills is pervasive.

There is also the belief that while sleeping disorders are a real problem, Ambien and drugs like it such as Lunesta are being overprescribed. There is the tendency of people to not even view Ambien as a drug, leading to sharing of prescriptions among friends and family, and simply visiting doctors to receive the drug on-demand.

So with the casual approach to Ambien, people wonder if it is dangerous, and if so, what are the potential adverse side effects of using Ambien?

Side Effects of Being on Ambien

Every person’s body chemistry is unique, so they may react different to being on Ambien, but in general, the following are some possible side effects of using this prescription sleep aid.

  • Sleepwalking
  • Sleep eating
  • Strange nighttime behaviors
  • An extreme sense of drowsiness or confusion

People who are on Ambien may exhibit not only strange behaviors and side effects at night after they take it but also the next morning, Many people on Ambien describe the next morning to feel somewhat like a hangover. This can include memory loss, particularly about the events of the night before, persistent fatigue or drowsiness, headaches, and gastrointestinal issues.
Other signs someone is on Ambien may include:

  •  Dizziness
  •  Unexplained mood changes including depression and anxiety
  •  Confusion
  •  Poor coordination
  •  Lack of balance
  •  Odd dreams
  •  Pain in the joints and muscles
  •  Changes in appetite
  •  Red, bloodshot eyes

One of the biggest problems of being on Ambien is the fact that people may perform dangerous activities while they’re on the drug, such as walking, driving or cooking. There is the danger of being in that state and having no idea what you’re doing, and people will often have no memory of it when they wake up.

Also, when people do things like crushing up Ambien so they can snort it, it tends to intensify the effects of the drug, and it takes effect very quickly. It’s often described as a feeling similar to being drunk, and snorting Ambien can increase the likelihood of an overdose.

How Do You Know Someone Is Abusing Ambien?

It is possible to use Ambien as it’s prescribed for medical sleep issues, but Ambien can also be abused. First, if someone is on Ambien without a prescription, that is always considered abuse. Also if someone is taking more than what’s directed by their doctor, they’re also regarded as having an Ambien abuse problem.

People may also try to use Ambien recreationally to take advantage of the sedative and relaxing effects it can have. There is the possibility of euphoria when taking large amounts of Ambien as well, although this is rare.

When someone abuses Ambien and takes high doses, they may actually end up staying awake rather than falling asleep, and they may experience side effects such as hallucinations.

Ambien can also be deadly when it’s combined with other substances including drugs and alcohol.

When someone is on Ambien and abuses it, it can lead to physical dependence, addiction and an increased risk of an overdose.

With physical dependence of Ambien, someone who is on this prescription sleep aid will start taking higher amounts of the drug as it has less of an effect over time. That prolonged use leads their body to become dependence on it, and when they stop taking it, it can result in negative health consequences.

Some of the signs someone is on Ambien but in the withdrawal phase include agitation, irritability, insomnia, cravings, nervousness and anxiety, delirium, and in very serious cases, convulsions or seizures.

How Do You Know Someone Is Addicted to Ambien?

If you know someone is on Ambien, but you wonder if they’re addicted to it, for an addiction to be established, certain criteria must be met. These criteria are outlined by the American Psychiatric Association.

Some of the common signs a person is addicted to Ambien include:

  • Taking the drug for a long period of time other than what’s directed by a doctor or attended
  • Unsuccessfully trying to stop using Ambien or lower use
  • Having the compulsive urge to take Ambien
  • Avoiding activities that were once pleasurable to instead secure and take Ambien
  • Continuing to use Ambien in spite of negative consequences

A lot of people who are addicted to Ambien will also start to feel guilty about the effects of their use of the drug, but they’re unable to do anything about it. That can lead to a sense of depression, particularly when the individual isn’t on Ambien.

Ambien isn’t just a simple sleeping pill. It’s a drug with the potential to be habit-forming and to lead to abuse. If you see the signs that someone is on Ambien and even worse, abusing the medication, it can be time to contact an addiction specialist before that person hurts themselves or someone else.

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.