Sleep medications like Ambien aren’t meant to be taken long-term. They are supposed to help you fall asleep and reestablish healthy sleep patterns. They are short-term solutions because they create long-term problems. Ambien and other sleep sleep medications containing zolpidem have side effects. These side effects begin when drug use begins. They can escalate quickly. You may find yourself dependent on or addicted to the drug after just a short period of time.

Do I Need Ambien?

You and your doctor may determine using Ambien is the best approach to insomnia or other health issues. However there are many non-addictive methods and therapies you can use. These come with less risk of addiction and may be just as or more effective than Ambien. The Mayo Clinic explains, “Relying on a sleep medication generally isn’t the best long-term solution for insomnia. Medications can mask an underlying problem that needs treatment. They can also cause side effects.”2 These side effects include memory loss, strange sleep behaviors, and addiction.

If you take Ambien when you don’t need it, you are more likely to experience side effects. You are more likely to become addicted. Talk with your doctor about alternative methods. If you have been taking Ambien for an extended period of time, this conversation becomes even more important. If you need Ambien to feel normal or to avoid withdrawal symptoms, it’s time to think about getting addiction help. If you take Ambien without a prescription, contact treatment professionals today.

For three years Debbie L. fought insomnia with an Ambien prescription. Then her dad died of a sudden heart attack. “I started abusing the pill to avoid grief, she writes. “I lost my job and most of my friends. I put my family through hell. My life was unmanageable, and my addiction took control. I took the pills all day every day, going from doctor to doctor to get more prescriptions. Ambien has a hypnotic and amnesiac effect. It allows you to function in a complete blackout.” Then one day, she took 8 pills, put her dog in the car and went for a drive.

Read more of Debbie’s HeroesInRecovery story here.

How Will Ambien Use Affect Me?

Man contemplating by windowThere is no set timeline for addiction development. WebMD warns, “This medication is usually limited to short treatment periods of 1 to 2 weeks or less.”1 This suggests that problems can develop quickly. Just how quickly depends on many factors. It depends on how your individual body chemistry interacts with the drug. It depends on how much you use and how often. It depends on how and why you use the drug. Your family history influences addiction development. Your personal history does too. Where you are in life, how you feel, and how you think all impact when and if addiction develops.

Addiction isn’t the only life-altering side effect of Ambien use. Use puts you at risk in many ways. As CBS News shares a report that found, “People who took 18 sleeping pills or fewer per year had more than 3.5 times higher a risk for death than those who didn’t take any sleeping pills. What’s more, people taking more than 132 sleeping pills per year were at five times higher risk for death and 35 percent higher risk for cancer.”3 No matter how long you have been using the drug, continued use puts your health at risk. Addiction makes it seem difficult to stop. Treatment makes it possible.

“Life gets better every year,” says Debbie, who has been Ambien and alcohol free since September 4, 2000.

How Do I End Ambien Use?

Addiction programs like Black Bear Lodge treat you as an individual. We listen to your unique concerns and work with you to come up with real solutions. We help you reestablish healthy sleep habits. We address any co-occurring physical or mental health concerns. Treatment should be integrated. It should be in-depth and comprehensive. We see you as a whole person. We address your addiction as a complex but treatable health concern. Call Black Bear Lodge to learn more about your options for a unique and effective treatment experience.


1 WebMD. “Ambien.” Accessed 6 Jul. 2017.

2 Olson, Eric. “Ambien: Is Dependence a Concern?” MayoClinic. 1 Jul. 2015. Accessed 6 Jul. 2017.

Jaslow, Ryan. “Prescription Sleeping Pills Tied to Increased Risk for Death, Cancer.” CBS News. 28 Feb. 2012. Accessed 6 Jul. 2017.