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How Ambien Is Recreationally Abused

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The drug Ambien, or zolpidem tartrate, is a hypnotic medication used to treat patients who struggle with chronic insomnia. It’s a favorite among physicians for this purpose because it has been demonstrated to work well, and users exhibit low rates of rebound insomnia when the medication is no longer in use.

Sleeping woman with Ambien tabletsHowever, numerous studies have also shown that patients who use Ambien have difficulties with memory the day following use. They are often unable to recall events that occurred while under the influence the night before. If patients using Ambien only slept and slept soundly, this wouldn’t be an issue, but Ambien is a unique substance because it has been shown to cause erratic sleep behaviors in users. That means many who take Ambien will drive, go for walks, cook, shop, talk, have sex, rearrange furniture, and do a number of things while asleep and have no memory of their activities the next day. Because they are not lucid while performing these activities, Ambien users may endanger themselves or others.

Recreational Use and Abuse

While most people would stop taking the medication immediately if they experienced any adverse side effects, others prefer to exploit the drug and use it recreationally. They may take larger doses than recommended or combine the drug with other substances, like alcohol or other prescription medications.

It’s become such a problem that the Drug Abuse Warning Network issued a report stating that emergency room visits related to use of the drug increased 220 percent between 2005 and 2010. About 50 percent of these visits were due to the user combining Ambien with other medications like Vicodin, oxycodone, sedatives, or other sleep medications.

Zolpidem Addiction

Ambien can be habit-forming, and according to the U.S. Library of Medicine, because it is only approved for short-term use of less than two weeks, many people take more and more of the drug in order to experience its effects.[1] Even without an addiction, users of the medication may develop a tolerance after just a few weeks of taking the pills.

Along with physical dependence on Ambien, psychological dependence is also a risk.

Many people feel desperate when they are unable to sleep. When Ambien is a successful tool to helping them overcome the problem – even if that sleep is not solid, long, or restful – they fear being without it and lose confidence in their ability to fall asleep on their own.

Ambien Addiction Treatment

Just like other substances of abuse, people who develop an addiction to Ambien can get help for their problem through professional drug treatment.

Learning how to stop taking the medication safely and effectively is the first step. The next step is learning other ways to improve sleep and acquire coping mechanisms that will allow the user to avoid relapse for the long term. For example, patients may meet with a nutrition counselor, talk to an herbalist, or work with a yoga instructor or personal trainer to improve physical health in order to better achieve a more restful sleep.

If you or a loved one is struggling with Ambien addiction, we are here for you. Contact Michael’s house at 760.548.4032 to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.


[1] “Zolpidem.” U.S. National Library of Medicine. Medline Plus. May 5, 2017.