The medication Ambien is designed to assist people who struggle with sleep. For some, the medication allows them to fall asleep quickly. For others, the drug allows them to sleep through the night without awakening multiple times. People with longstanding sleep disorders may find intense relief with the help of this drug, and when it was released into the medical marketplace, it was considered safe.

Since then, a significant amount of evidence has come to light that suggests that Ambien isn’t quite as safe as it seems. For example, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) suggests that emergency room visits attributed to Ambien have risen a remarkable 220 percent between 2005 and 2010. Other studies have found a link between Ambien abuse and addiction.

While substance abuse and addiction are personalized problems that develop differently in different individuals, there are some aspects that tend to remain the same in most people who develop a problem with Ambien. The timeline, in other words, can look much the same in all people who struggle with this medication. This article will outline the steps that typify an addiction, as well as the ways in which withdrawal and healing tend to take hold.

Understanding Abuse

Ambien is a prescription medication, so it isn’t the sort of drug a user could buy in a grocery store or supermarket. Instead, people must visit a doctor and display a significant set of symptoms relating to sleep that just won’t abate with standardized care. People like this might walk out of a doctor’s office with a tiny slip of paper that could work as a gateway to their drug use.

In the beginning, people might take their Ambien pills appropriately, using only the pills they’ve been provided in the hour or so before bed. If people use the drug in this manner for a period lasting less than four weeks, they typically don’t show signs of drug abuse or dependence, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They’re taking the drug properly, and their bodies are responding appropriately.

Some people, however, have an unusual reaction to the drug, and they might feel elated and happy when they’re under the influence, rather than sleepy and sedated. It’s not clear why this takes place, but research conducted for the Journal of Psychopharmacology suggests that it often plays a role in the addiction process. These people like the way the drug makes them feel, and they may begin taking the drug at unusual times in order to seek out those feelings. Instead of taking the drug at night, they might take it during the day. Instead of taking the drug just once per 24-hour period, they may take it multiple times.

There are some people who move from appropriate use to abuse rapidly, rarely taking the drug in the way it was intended. But there are some people who creep up on addiction in slow and steady increments that remain undetectable to almost anyone. These people might be capable of explaining away concerns and claiming that they really have no problem at all. Meanwhile, the addiction might move forward.

Since Ambien is associated with addiction, physicians are typically careful to provide only a small amount to clients in need, and they might not even approve refills when asked to do so. Those who have addictions may find, in time, that they can no longer get the drug they want on a visit to the pharmacy, and they might resort to nefarious means, including:

  • Buying the drug online
  • Seeking out drug dealers
  • Stealing the drug from family or friends
  • Looking for new doctors who will prescribe the medication

In time, these behaviors might become harder and harder to hide, and soon, people might be caught by their family members and friends. At this point, they might readily admit to a growing problem, and then, they might be willing to enter a treatment program and get the help they need.

Withdrawal and Detoxification

It’s not uncommon for people addicted to Ambien to take huge amounts of the drug on a regular basis. In a case study of the issue in the journal European Psychiatry, for example, researchers found that a woman with an Ambien addiction was taking 300 milligrams of the drug on a regular basis, rather than the few milligrams that are recommended for her use. High doses of Ambien can do subtle damage to brain cells, and if people like this attempt to quit using the drug, the brain can respond with intense seizures that could be life-threatening. That’s why a formal program is so important, as facilities that specialize in this care can provide treatments that can keep people safe as they allow their bodies to heal.

In a typical detoxification program, a replacement medication for Ambien is provided. These replacement drugs work on the same receptors used by Ambien, but they tend to have a slower onset and they might not be associated with euphoria. A high dose at the beginning of treatment is common, but that dose begins to taper soon after. Each day, the person might get just a little less, providing a slow and steady slide down until the person isn’t taking any drugs at all. This process can be completed in as little as 10 days, according to a study in the journal Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, but it’s not unusual for people to take yet longer.

As the withdrawal process goes forward, medical practitioners are certain to monitor the person for any ill effects, such as:

  • Hand tremors
  • Nightmares
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety

Any of these signs might indicate that the tapering process is happening just a bit too quickly, and that the person needs a little more help in order to get through the process safely. Rushing is never a great idea, since health is at risk, so being cautious has definite merit here.

Help for Abuse

ambien abuseWhen the detox process is complete, the person might be taking very low doses of a replacement medication, but it’s not uncommon for people to be completely free of Ambien at this point. This doesn’t mean that the addiction has been cured, as there is much work yet to do, but it does mean that the physical link to the drug has been broken by treatment. The mind might be clear, and as a result, this might be an excellent time in which to fight back against the addiction.

A drug addiction treatment program for Ambien might be quite similar to the program provided for any other substance of abuse. People might work with a counselor, identifying the reasons that they began to take this drug inappropriately, and they might develop skills they can use to resist the temptation in the future. Individual sessions, family sessions, group sessions and more might dot the person’s days, and as the time passes, the person’s ability to fight back can grow stronger and stronger until the addiction seems like a distant memory.

Learning how to get a good night’s sleep might also be a part of the healing for people with Ambien addictions, as this problem may have been the catalyst that started the addiction in motion. Sleep therapies that teach people how to prepare their room for sleep and calm their minds in the evening hours might be vital as people work on their addiction issue.

Some people get Ambien care in residential facilities, working with counselors around the clock on their concerns and their path to healing. Others choose outpatient care, hoping to stay home while they heal. As long as people have a strong family at home that’s willing to pitch in and provide support during therapy, an outpatient program could be helpful. But if the person has no such support group at home, or if past outpatient programs haven’t helped, a residential program might be a better bet.

No matter what setting the person chooses, the treatment tends to take place over an extended period of time. In fact, according to SAMHSA, treatment that lasts for three months or even longer is most often associated with success, and those who stay enrolled in treatment tend to do better in the long run than those who drop out of care. Some people even need to spend months in support group meetings when their formal treatment programs are through, as their communities are filled with the sorts of triggers that could lead them back to substance use and abuse, and some people never really do consider themselves fully healed, as they always feel an urge to use drugs when they’re under stress or in pain. It’s a terrible problem, but there’s no shame in keeping the title of “addict” for life, as long as that word is followed with the words “in recovery.”

Help Is Available

If you’d like to work on your own treatment program and begin healing from your own Ambien addiction, please call us. At Black Bear Lodge, we provide a full suite of services that can help you to understand how you got here, and what you’ll need to do to move forward in the future. Our admissions coordinators are experts at customizing Ambien programs to meet your needs, and we can schedule an intake appointment right over the phone. Please call to get started.