The lack of sleep can affect every aspect of your life, from your physical health and safety to your job performance, personal relationships and emotional well-being. Insomnia, or the absence of sleep, is extremely common in the United States. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 22 percent of Americans have insomnia on a regular basis, and that 48 percent experience insomnia from time to time.

Chronic sleeplessness has been associated with an increased risk of depression, accidental injuries, illness, heart problems, absenteeism at work, and a lack of satisfaction with life in general. For many people who can’t sleep, zolpidem tartrate (sold as Ambien) provides much-needed rest. But because Ambien use can also lead to dependence and addiction, this medication is classified as a Schedule IV drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Taking zolpidem without a prescription, or using the drug for recreational reasons, is not only dangerous, it’s against the law.

Ambien as a Sedative

Ambien is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of insomnia. It is intended to be taken on a short-term basis, typically for up to four weeks. Clinical trials have shown that Ambien is effective at promoting sleep for a period of 35 to 40 days, according to Drugs.com.

The immediate-release form of this prescription medication can help you fall asleep more easily, but it won’t necessarily keep you from waking up at night. The extended-release version of Ambien may be more effective at ensuring a full night’s sleep.

Other Uses for Zolpidem

Ambien is only approved for the treatment of insomnia in people who have difficulty falling asleep. However, the drug is sometimes prescribed on an off-label basis for other uses. The journal Aviation, Space, & Environmental Medicine published the results of a study that indicated that zolpidem is an effective remedy for jet lag. Zolpidem may help you get better sleep on long overnight flights, preparing you to function more effectively the next day.

Zolpidem has also been used on an experimental basis to restore consciousness in patients who have suffered severe brain damage due to a stroke or injury. The American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation describes a study in which brain-injured patients living in a vegetative state were able to respond to stimuli temporarily after taking zolpidem. This use of the drug is still under investigation and has not been approved by any pharmaceutical company.

Who Shouldn’t Take Ambien?

Ambien is safe for many individuals, but it’s not recommended for everyone. Other sleep aids should be considered for people with a history of drug addiction or alcoholism, patients who are experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts, people with severe respiratory illness, or patients who have had an allergic reaction to zolpidem. Because alcohol increases the sedative effects of zolpidem, people who drink heavily may be at risk of over-sedation or an overdose.

If you have a problem with zolpidem, or you are abusing other substances, the treatment specialists at Black Bear Lodge are here to help. We provide compassionate, holistic care for patients with prescription drug addiction at an exclusive mountain retreat in the mountains of northern Georgia. Call us to learn more about how our rehab programs can help you recover from drug addiction on a physical, mental and spiritual level.