Ambien Side Effects and Recognizing Ambien Abuse

Ambien, a medication primarily prescribed to treat insomnia, can be a helpful solution for individuals who struggle with falling asleep or staying asleep. However, it is essential to use Ambien as directed by a healthcare professional and be aware of the potential side effects and risks associated with its misuse.

Because of its sedative nature, the risk of misuse and addiction is also present. In fact, approximately 6.4 million people aged 12 or older misused prescription sedatives, including Zolpidem products in 2018.

This article aims to provide you with a thorough understanding of the effects of Ambien and the importance of recognizing the signs of abuse.

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Ambien is the brand name for zolpidem, a sedative-hypnotic medication commonly prescribed to treat insomnia. Its primary function is to help individuals fall asleep more easily and stay asleep. It targets the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain, promoting relaxation and sleep.

It belongs to the class of drugs known as Z-drugs, which have a similar mechanism of action to benzodiazepines. While medical professionals prescribe Ambien to treat insomnia, it is essential to be aware of the potential side effects that may accompany its use, especially when taken outside prescribed doses.


How long does it take for Ambien to work?

The time it takes for Ambien to start working can vary depending on the individual, but it usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour. The peak effects of Ambien are usually felt within 1-2.5 hours. The drug can stay in your system for a long time. It is normal to experience lasting side effects, such as feeling drowsy the next day after taking Ambien.

Short-Term Side Effects of Ambien

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Daytime Drowsiness

One of the most common side effects of Ambien is daytime drowsiness, which can persist into the following day. Avoid activities that require mental alertness, such as driving, while under the influence of Ambien.

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Some users may experience dizziness, increasing the risk of falls, particularly in older individuals.

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Dry Mouth

Ambien can lead to dry mouth, causing discomfort.

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Nausea is a potential side effect, though it is less common.

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Headaches may occur as a side effect of the medication.

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In rare cases, Ambien may lead to hallucinations or unusual behaviors during sleep.

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Allergic Reactions

Although uncommon, allergic reactions to Ambien can occur. Symptoms may include rash, itching, swelling, severe dizziness, or difficulty breathing.

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Memory Problems

Ambien use has been associated with memory issues and impaired cognitive function, leading to difficulties in thinking clearly or making decisions. This effect is more pronounced in older adults and at higher doses.

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Parasomnias are abnormal behaviors that occur during sleep, such as sleepwalking or sleep-eating.

Long-Term Side Effects of Ambien

Prolonged Ambien use may lead to dependence, with individuals becoming Ambien addicts. Over time, an Ambien addict may experience worsening side effects and a higher risk of overdose. It can also result in changes in behavior, including mood swings, agitation, and even erratic behavior during the night.

It is crucial to use Ambien only as prescribed and explore alternative treatment options for long-term insomnia management.

How Long Does Ambien Last?

A dose of Ambien usually lasts for 7-8 hours. The duration of its effects can vary depending on several factors. These include the specific formulation of the drug and individual differences in metabolism. Here is the average duration of Ambien in the body:

Short-Term Side Effects of Ambien

The effects of immediate-release Ambien typically last for about 6 to 8 hours. This is usually enough to help a person fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.

Extended-release Ambien is designed to help you fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Its effects may last longer than immediate-release Ambien, generally up to 7 to 8 hours. Some people may experience a longer duration of action.

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Recognizing Ambien abuse is crucial to prevent its detrimental effects from spiraling out of control. Here are some signs to look out for:

Increasing Dose

One clear sign of Ambien abuse is when an individual starts taking higher doses than prescribed or using it more frequently than directed.

Doctor Shopping

Some individuals engage in “doctor shopping,” visiting multiple healthcare providers to obtain multiple drug prescriptions.

Craving Ambien

An overwhelming desire or craving for Ambien, especially when it is not needed for sleep, can indicate a problem.

Social and Occupational Impact

If drug use begins affecting an individual’s social relationships, work performance, or daily functioning, it may be a sign of abuse.

Risky Behavior

Misusing the drug can lead to engaging in dangerous activities while sleepwalking or driving under the influence of Ambien.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, or insomnia when attempting to stop using the drug can be indicative of dependence.

Understanding Prescription Use

It’s important to note that not everyone who takes Ambien is abusing it. Many individuals use Ambien responsibly to manage their sleep disorders. Medical use involves taking the prescribed dose as directed by a healthcare provider.

However, some factors may increase the risk of addiction such as:

  • History of substance abuse
  • Co-occurring health disorders
  • Environmental factors

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Can you overdose on Ambien?

Yes, it is possible to overdose on Ambien (zolpidem), just like with many other medications. Abusing Ambien significantly increases the risk of overdose, which can have life-threatening consequences.

Ambien Overdose Symptoms

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Extreme drowsiness

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Impaired coordination

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Slurred speech

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Slow or shallow breathing

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Death in severe cases

Risk of Overdose

The risk of overdose is higher when Ambien is taken in larger quantities than prescribed or when it is used inappropriately, such as for recreational purposes. Combining Ambien with other substances like alcohol or other central nervous system depressants can also increase the risk of overdose and its severity.

If you suspect an overdose or witness someone experiencing symptoms of overdose, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling 911 or going to the nearest emergency room.

If you or someone you know is struggling with Ambien addiction, there are treatment options available. Seeking professional help is essential for overcoming Ambien dependence and its associated challenges. Treatment may include therapy, detoxification, and addressing any underlying sleep disorders.

Here at The Hope House, a residential treatment center in Scottsdale, Arizona, we pride ourselves on compassionate professionals who are committed to providing high-quality and evidence-based treatment programs. By providing a luxurious and nurturing environment, we help individuals to fully recover.

If you are ready to take the first step, contact The Hope House today.

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