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Ambien Addiction


What is Ambien?

Ambien, also known as Zolpidem, is a sedative used to treat insomnia (sleeping problems). It acts on the chemicals that may be imbalanced in the brain, causing the insomnia, and trying to set it right. There are two kinds of Ambien tablets. The first one has one fast acting layer that puts you to sleep immediately. The other one, also known as Ambien CR, is an extended version with two layers – the first dissolves fast and puts you to sleep immediately and the next dissolves slower and helps you to remain asleep. Ambien is only to be taken before a continuous sleep cycle of 7 – 8 hours for smooth functioning of the drug without severe side effects.

The dose prescribed differs from person to person, therefore it is not advisable to use Ambien without it being prescribed to you by a doctor. It can also cause some allergic reactions such as difficulty in breathing and swelling of the various organs it comes in contact with – lips, tongue, face or even throat. The tablets also have a chance of containing lactose, so potential users who are lactose intolerant need to get it verified before consuming it.Ambien is known to get addictive and so only the prescribed dosage is to be taken. It can affect babies through breast milk and possibly cause them harm, so women who are pregnant and plan to get pregnant during the course of taking Ambien should clarify it with their doctor. In older adults, the effect of sedation possibly will be stronger. That coupled with their general forgetfulness can lead to potential for overdose. Therefore care must be taken regarding the intake of Ambien by older adults.

Ambien is a drug that should only be used for a short period, mostly 1- 2 nights in succession. If insomnia persists after consuming Ambien for 10 nights in a row, it is advisable to consult the doctor before continuing intake. If the drug has been consumed for a long term, help will be required for dealing with the withdrawal symptoms, once off the drug. Ambien is not a medicine that needs to be taken regularly, it is taken on a need-basis.Therefore the users have the ability to stop themselves from overdosing on it or being too dependent on it. The drug should be avoided if alcohol has been consumed anytime in the day, or just before eating the pill. Taking Ambien and not getting 7- 8 hours of sleep may result in Amnesia (forgetfulness), therefore avoid it during travel or any situation where you could be awoken abruptly. The forgetfulness caused by the drug may cause users to engage in normal physical activities such as eating, walking or even sex without having any recollection of it. Most of the times overdose happens due to the forgetfulness.

Signs and Symptoms

Ambien possesses some common side effects. The first is drowsiness during the day (this is caused by the slow ingestion of the second layer of Ambien which is prolonged through the night), weakness, dizziness or light-headedness. Feeling very tired and losing coordination is another possible side effect.Experiencing stuffy nose, dryness in mouth and/or nose, and throat irritation is also familiar. Apart from this, common symptoms are nausea, constipation, upset stomach, headache and muscle pain.

However symptoms such as depression, anxiety, aggression, confusion, hallucinations, memory loss or suicidal thoughts, are an extreme reaction to the drug. Severe allergic reactions to the drug demands immediate medical care. The allergic reactions include chest pain sometimes accompanied by irregular heartbeat or dyspnea (shortness of breath). Breathing and/or swallowing can be painful. Dizziness leading to fainting is also a possible severe reaction.

There are some medicines that react with Ambien and hinder the capability of the drug or cause severe reactions. The doctor must be well informed of the medicines that are being taken by the potential user of Ambien. Some of the notable drugs that don’t react well with Ambien are chlorpromazine (which is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD among other diseases), itraconazole or ketoconazole (which are used to treat fungal infections), rifampin (which is used to treat bacterial infections), or imipramine or sertaline (which are antidepressants).

Effects of Ambien Abuse

Abuse of Ambien stems from it being addictive and also from rising toleranceto the drug due to regular intake. Ambien overdose has a lot of negative effects.

  • The primary one is addiction. Addiction can be noted in users when they take the drug in more quantity, longer than they were supposed to. Addiction leads to uncontrollable desires to get and use the substance and continue using it despite the toll it takes socially, financially or personally. In case of Ambien, the users feel the need to consume Ambien before sleep, it becomes an addictive routine.
  • Dependence stems from addiction. This stems from prolonged abuse of the drug. It can be seen when the user shows increased tolerance (needs more and more drugs to feel the effect), withdrawal symptoms when not on the drug and futile efforts to stop using the drug. Here, the user cannot sleep, or stay asleep without the use of Ambien. The user feels that it is impossible to sleep without the drug. Further, after long term use, the user may not be able to sleep merely using one tablet because of high tolerance.
  • Overdose of Ambien is caused due to high dependence on the drug and thus the high tolerance. To get a high above the tolerance level, or to get a more powerful and intense high, the drug is over used. Taking Ambien along with alcohol and other intoxicating substances also lead to overdose. Sometimes, due to impaired memory, the consumption of more than one pill is not registered. Symptoms of overdose are excessive drowsiness, very slow breathing, slow heart rate, and in extreme cases even a coma.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms often persist when the drug is stopped after a long term use or after over usage. The symptoms may include agitation, irritability, insomnia, cravings, nervousness, or in worst cases seizures. Users cave in to using the drug again, while going through these symptoms, thus being unable to quit Ambien. The users are driven to intake more drug to stop the painful symptoms in the serious phases of withdrawal.

Ambien Abuse Treatment

Ambien users are advised not to immediately stop the drug, but to reduce dependency on it slowly before stopping. This is because Ambien is used to slow down the brain activity and the sudden stop to the intake of the drug makes the brain go from slow to fast, sometimes causing seizures. Since this is an addictive drug with serious withdrawal symptoms, the treatment requires supervision and a medical setting. The process of stopping the drug use/ abuse is also called detoxing (getting rid of toxins and impurities from the body, in this case Ambien). When supervised, the withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping the usage of drug can be controlled and reduced.

Treatment for drug abuse happens in two ways: inpatient and outpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment requires the patient to stay at the rehab facility for the length of the treatment. This warrants intensive treatment for the problem. Outpatient treatment requires the patient to check in with the doctors every day of the week, except for weekends and holidays. In the inpatient treatment chances of relapsing are very low due to lack of access to drugs within the facility. Further the distractions of day-to-day life is lesser in the facility. 24/7 care is provided in the inpatient treatment, which could help long term users. Before choosing the kind of treatment, the history of the user needs to be taken into account. For a long term user who has suffered from multiple instances of relapses, it is best to choose the inpatient treatment. For a short term user less vulnerable to serious withdrawal symptoms can opt for the outpatient treatment.

The treatment for the abuse alsodeals with helping the user and the people around him to understand Ambien, what it does and why it is abused. The different kinds of treatments are

  • Behavioral Therapy: Behavioral therapy maps out ways to help end the use of Ambien, reach a recovery period, and outlines ways to avoid future dependence on it. One form it takes is the Cognitive Behavorial Therapy, which is a psychotherapy treatment that aims at changing patterns of thinking or behavior that underlie the habit or addiction. Sometimes Motivational Interventions are used to improve the user’s motivation towards change, i.e., away from dependency of drug. Another kind is the Contingency Management which works with conditioning (the user to change), using stimuli (to establish the change) and finally consequences (that deals with the user having to adapt to change).
  • Sleep Hygiene Training: The reason why users get into usage of Ambien is insomnia, i.e., the lack of ability to fall asleep or stay asleep. This training helps overcome the problems they have which inhibit them from sleeping. Insomnia is one of the withdrawal symptoms, and if the user is not able to overcome insomnia, they might go back to (relapse into) using Ambien. A physician or a therapist can help improve the sleeping problems the user faces in much more healthier ways.
  • Family Education: Often users relapse due to certain triggers. In order to provide a better environment for the users getting into de-addiction, their family and friends need to educated on the problems, the triggers and the solution. The user’s family and friends can also be made aware of the relapse signs so that necessary measures can be taken to prevent the user from going back into Ambien abuse.
  • Support Group: Support groups allow the users to share experiences and their stories with other users. Knowing that there are other people who have suffered from Ambien usage and have successfully gotten over it, helps the users currently undergoing treatment to develop a positive approach towards detoxing. This can help raise the motivation for users to undergo the change.

Teen Ambien Abuse

A study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse state that teen abuse ofprescription drugs like Ambien comes second in number after only Marijuana. Users can abuse Ambien to give a high by resisting the urge to sleep after taking the drug, which is exactly the opposite of why the drug is taken. Overdose of the drug occurs when teens intake Ambien along with intoxicants like alcohol.

Another concern with teens abusing Ambien is when they alter the way the medicine works. In Ambien CR, the extended version of the drug, the two layers exist so that you fall asleep quickly with the first layer and stay asleep for a while with the slow ingestion of the second layer. Teens are known to crush the extended tablet before ingesting or inhaling it causing only the slow reaction and not the first falling asleep part. There are many negative consequences to abusing Ambien, but the teens feel a variety of delightful symptoms such as relaxation and happiness. For teens dealing with depression or stress, this is a way to feel happy and relaxed.

For most teens, the introduction to Ambien begins at home, either through their family members’ prescriptions or their own. While it is not advisable to share prescription of pills such as Ambien, the main source of getting the drug for the teens remains that.This is why family and friends of Ambien users need to be aware of the drug and the potential harm it could cause.

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