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Ambien Addiction and Abuse

Ambien has a somewhat different molecular structure than benzodiazepines – this was intentional in an attempt to decrease its physical dependency potential. Although the drug is often classified with a low potential for dependence, this risk increases if it is misused. When the body builds up a tolerance to the drug, higher dosages may be required to maintain the sedative effect, leading to overuse and overdose. When used correctly, the euphoric effect occurs in only 1% of users and hallucinations affect less than 5% of users. Whether a person abuses it intentionally or inadvertently takes higher doses, this can result in a high, with feelings of euphoria and/or hallucinations.1 People with a history of drug abuse or dependence are at higher risk of dependence. Pre-existing conditions and personal and a family history of psychosis, alcohol or drug abuse need to be taken into consideration when devising comprehensive insomnia assessment and treatment plans.2

Stats and Facts

  • Between 2006 and 2011, sleeping pill prescriptions in the U.S. increased from 47 million to 60 million, with an estimated 38 million of these prescriptions containing zolpidem.3
  • The total number of zolpidem-related emergency room (ED) visits doubled from 21,824 in 2005 to 2006 to 42,274 in 2009 to 2010.3
  • In 2010, an estimated 20,793 zolpidem-related ED visits were attributed to overmedication, 68% of which were in females.3
  • An estimated 57% of zolpidem-related ED visits involving overmedication in 2010 included other pharmaceuticals taken with zolpidem.3

Relapse Prevention

Preventing relapse begins by safely tapering doses until the body becomes less dependent on the sedative effects of the drug. At the Right Step, clients undergo detox supervised by medical professionals around the clock, an essential first step in recovery due to potentially debilitating side effects. During rehab, cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of therapy focus on modifying thoughts, expectations and behaviors to help prevent relapse. If the person took Ambien due to insomnia, it is important to identify and address underlying causes so adequate sleep can be attained naturally.

  1. Does Ambien get you high? Addiction Blog website. http://prescription-drug.addictionblog.org/does-ambien-get-you-high/ Published February 26, 2012. Accessed January 10, 2017.
  2. Eslami-Shahrbabaki M, Barfeh B, Nasirian M. Persistent Psychosis after Abuse of High Dose of Zolpidem. Addict Health. 2014;6(3-4):159-162.
  3. The Dawn Report: Emergency Department Visits Attributed to Overmedication That Involved the Insomnia Medication Zolpidem. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/DAWN-SR150-Zolpidem-2014/DAWN-SR150-Zolpidem-2014.htm Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. Published August 7, 2014. Accessed January 10, 2017.
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