Sleep disorders are very common among American adults, with between 30% and 50% of the population struggling with insomnia at some point in their lives. Insomnia can be caused by physical conditions such as asthma, arthritis, acid reflux, allergies, or hypothyroidism. However, it’s often attributed to stress, poor sleep hygiene, and erratic work schedules that make it difficult to find time for the rest the body needs.
People with insomnia may struggle to fall asleep, have problems staying asleep throughout the night, or wake up at unreasonably early hours. They may suffer from daytime sleepiness that interferes with their ability to complete everyday activities and negatively affects their mood. Sleep deprivation also weakens the immune system, increases chronic pain, and impairs cognitive function.
While prescription sleep aids can sometimes be helpful for insomnia, they are not without risk. Ambien, in particular, has a high potential for dangerous side effects and addiction.
Ambien’s Hidden Dangers
Ambien (generic name zolpidem) is a powerful sedative that works by activating the neurotransmitter GABA to slow down the brain and the central nervous system. When it was first introduced in the United States in 1992, it was marketed as a safer and less habit-forming alternative to addictive benzodiazepines like Xanax. However, we now know this is not true.
Ambien is generally only prescribed for two weeks or less because the body quickly develops a tolerance to the drug. Ambien is also famous for its unexpected side effect of causing people to engage in activities they don’t remember the next day. There are multiple reports of users driving, sleeping, eating, cooking, talking to others, or having sex while sleepwalking under the influence of the drug. The cases of “Ambien zombies” are so widespread that this phenomenon has been the subject of class-action lawsuits against the drug manufacturer.
Ambien is sold in both quick-release and extended-release tablets. Quick-release Ambien is used for initiating sleep, while extended-release Ambien is for people who find it difficult to stay asleep and maintain sleep. People who are abusing the drug sometimes crush the pills and snort them in search of a stronger and longer-lasting high.
People who abuse Ambien can experience a potentially fatal overdose or risk permanent damage to the heart, brain, and lungs. The risk of an overdose increases if Ambien is taken with alcohol or other drugs.
Signs of an Ambien Addiction
Ambien addiction can occur whenever the drug is taken for an extended period of time, combined with other addictive substances, or deliberately misused in search of a high. Tiger Woods, Lindsey Lohan, Eminem, and John Stamos are just a few of the many celebrities who’ve publicly discussed their struggles with the drug, but Ambien addiction affects people of all ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Some signs that indicate a person might be struggling with an Ambien addiction include:
- Taking Ambien without a prescription or in ways that go against a doctor’s orders
- Buying Ambien illegally or visiting more than one doctor to obtain a steady supply of prescriptions
- Having cravings for the drug
- Declining performance at work or school
- Trouble maintaining relationships with others
- Lack of interest in previously enjoyed hobbies
- Financial problems related to the amount of money spent on Ambien
- Complaints of frequent headaches, heartburn, stomach pain, or diarrhea that appear most severe during the morning hours and have no other identifiable physical cause
- Being unable to quit or regulate Ambien use despite a desire to do so
Breaking Free from Addiction
At Mountain Laurel Recovery Center’s Pennsylvania residential addiction treatment program, our focus is on healing the mind, body, and spirit. Our program is designed to help clients build the foundation for a lasting recovery by addressing the underlying issues that led to the development of their substance use disorder while providing the tools that are needed to live a wellness-focused lifestyle. This includes:
- Dealing with chronic pain or other issues that are affecting sleep quality
- Strengthening relationships with family and friends to provide a strong support system
- Healing from past trauma
- Finding healthy ways to deal with stress and other negative emotions
- Addressing co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression
One of the guiding principles of our program is that recovery is possible for anyone who desires it. If you’re ready to change your life for the better, we can help.