Ambien is a benodiazepine derivative medication, zolpidem tartrate, often used as a sleep aid. Most people are well aware of the more well known benzodiazepine drugs like Valium, Xanax, Klonipin, and Librium. These drugs have long been known to be extremely addictive, even when taken as prescribed, and are therefore often bypassed in favor of various alternatives. One frequently used drug for insomnia today is Ambien (Zolpidem), which is has generally the same effects as these “previous generation” benzodiazepines as an aid in sleep, yet is “supposedly” safer and less addictive. Ambien is nevertheless indicated for short term use only, not to be taken longer than approximately 5 weeks. Long term use however may and often does result in ambien addiction, which has the same general effects as benzodiazepine addiction, and requires medical detox to stop taking.
Ambien is Addictive
Ambien is habit forming in spite of the FDA rating it as a Schedule IV drug meaning it has a relatively low potential for addiction. Ambien is recommended by the manufacturer as a short term remedy for insomnia. However, it is often prescribed on a long term basis, and long term patients have a tendency to eventually need to take more than prescribed as they develop tolerance, an inevitable byproduct of the entire benzodiazepine class of drugs. Once the drug is stopped, the poor sleep pattern returns, leading to continued use of Ambien. The signs of addiction include: the inability to stay asleep with a low dose, or inability to fall asleep without it. Mood swings, preoccupation in regards to not having a large enough supply. Drug seeking behavior such as obtaining multiple prescriptions by going to more than one physician, and not being able to sleep at all without it.
Withdrawal from Ambien should be supervised by a physician, through a weaning regimen. The withdrawal symptoms include: stomach cramping, hallucinations, leg cramps, agitation, suicidal ideations, panic, and aggression to name a few. Like any other addiction, treatment is available. Due to the severity of both benzodiazapine and Ambien withdrawal, it is necessary to withdrawal in a monitored environment where immediate medical care can be provided in the event of an emergency. Ambien withdrawl can cause seizures if not properly monitored and medicated if necessary, just like benzo withdrawal. Ambien addiction should be taken VERY seriously.
It is difficult for an addict to admit to themselves or to anybody else that they have lost control of their lives to a substance. It can be even harder for those who have become addicted to a prescription drug due to the fact that society has a tendency to equate “drug addiction” to illegal drugs, which has a certain stigma. Programs at drug addiction rehab centers (following medical detoxifcation) can be anywhere from short-term (30 days) to long term (many months). Many such centers don’t have medical care immediately available for those who may react violently to withdrawal (such as with seizures), so it’s VITALLY important to be properly medically detoxed from Ambien addiction prior to entering a drug treatment program. Certified drug addiction counselors provide the tools necessary to help the addict realize how they got to this point, and will teach them the tools they need to live a better life, free from the bonds of addiction. Often this is done through group and individual therapy sessions, where the addict can begin to get their life back in order, can begin to become a productive part of society, and eventually return to their family as a whole person again. There’s little argument that drugs can give the illusion of actually relieving emotional pain, even if only on a temporary basis while the drug high lasts. Those who have become addicted benzodiazepine-related sleeping aids such as Ambien can learn to live drug free and learn alternatives for coping with emotional pain, sleep disorders etc..
Drug addiction, Ambien included, is often quite expensive to treat on an inpatient basis. A person with medical insurance may still face high out of pocket expenses, if their health insurance will even provide coverage for inpatient drug rehabilitation. Those without insurance usually have little recourse due to tough economic times resulting in cutbacks to many government funded programs. Sometimes the only option for those without the funds to pay for expensive inpatient treatment may be to seek help on their own from a local Free Clinic, Church, or other community organization. Some public Mental Health clinics provide therapy on a sliding fee scale basis, however, the waiting list for these programs is often many months and sometimes even years long. Many communities are starting up their own Faith Based 12 step programs, and even their own drug rehab centers, often found related to local religious organizations. Although these programs have great success stories, there is usually a long waiting list. A last resort to obtaining treatment, is sometimes through the assistance of local clergy, who have a tendency to be able to help those in need gain admission to community programs, or to shorten the waiting time. Drug addiction, whether to illegal drugs, or prescribed medication like Ambien, is often followed by a lifelong battle for sobriety.
As crime rises, we see signs on pharmacy doors stating they will no longer fill prescriptions for a specific drug; we watch neighbors lose their lives to addiction. And the downward spiral can easily start with Ambien addiction We cannot avoid the prevalence of prescription drug use and prescription drug abuse in our society. Few people stop and think about the dangers surrounding sharing prescription drugs or that one pill may be the beginning of the drug addiction process. Ironically, in the face of a national prescription drug abuse and drug addiction epidemic, it has become uncommonly easy to obtain prescription drugs like Ambien. Our nations children scarcely have to look beyond mom and dad’s medicine cabinet, or the medicine cabinet at their friend’s house. Unfortunately, our society looks for a pill for everything, no doubt exacerbating our nation’s epidemic of prescription drug addiction, and Ambien is one of the most prevalent.