In 2009, a man walked into a nursing home and opened fire. According to an article in the Huffington Post, during the man’s trial his lawyers suggested that Ambien (zolpidem) was to blame, as the drug has a tendency to cause amnesia. The lawyers went on to say that people on the drug might say or do all sorts of strange things and that when under the influence, they aren’t really responsible for their actions.1

Reports like these might lead family members and friends to believe that spotting an Ambien addiction in a loved one is easy. Watching for strange behaviors when someone is abusing the drug should make addiction easy to spot. In reality, identifying a true Ambien addiction is more difficult. Families can certainly spot the warning signs, but professional help is needed to diagnose and treat an Ambien addiction.

Ambien Basics

Ambien (Zolipidem) is used to treat insomnia and is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. CNS depressants slow down the nervous system enabling users to fall asleep faster. The medication is also formulated to help the person stay asleep throughout the night. Ambien comes in tablet or spray form, is typically prescribed for short-term use, and should not be used for more than two weeks. Using this medication for longer periods of time or in larger amounts that prescribed by a physician can lead to dependence and addiction.2

Physical Symptoms

People who struggle with Ambien dependence become acclimated to the medication and may not show signs of intoxication. Rather than seeming sedated or high while they are under the influence of the drug, people who abuse Ambien often appear normal. Families that see Ambien side effects on a regular basis might actually be dealing with an addiction. Some of these side effects include the following:

  • Daytime drowsiness, tiredness and a feeling of being “drugged”
  • Dizziness, loss of coordination and balance problems
  • Weakness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Stuffy nose or nasal irritation
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Digestive issues like nausea, stomach upset, diarrhea and constipation
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Euphoria
  • Visual changes3

Those who are dependent on Ambien might find it difficult to stop using the drug. When the drug is stopped, those who struggle with Ambien addiction may experience withdrawal symptoms like gastrointestinal upset, uncontrolled crying, insomnia, nervousness and feelings of panic.

Signs of Addiction

Disoriented man on AmbienWhile the physical and mental signs of an Ambien addiction might be difficult to ignore, those who abuse this drug may also develop unhealthy and unusual habits as they attempt to keep the addiction a secret. If you or a loved one struggles with Ambien dependence, look for these signs of addiction:

  • Becoming preoccupied with getting and using the drug
  • Needing more of the drug before the next dose is due
  • “Doctor shopping” to get new prescriptions for the drug
  • Engaging in dangerous activities, like driving, while under the influence of Ambien
  • Participating in illegal behaviors, like stealing, to get and use the drug
  • Changes in physical appearance and a reduction in personal hygiene
  • Becoming more secretive about daily activities and spending more time alone

If any of these signs of addiction are present in a friend or loved on who uses Ambien, it’s time to get help.

Finding Help for Ambien Abuse

If you know someone who is abusing Ambien and you’re not sure what to do, we’d like to help. Call Black Bear Lodge 24 hours a day to learn about our treatment programs and other services. Call 706-914-2327 now to find out more.


1 Chan, Amanda L. “The Disturbing Side Effect Of Ambien, The No. 1 Prescription Sleep Aid.” The Huffington Post. 15 Jan. 2014. Web. 10 Aug. 2017.

2Zolpidem (Oromucosal Route, Sublingual Route) Description and Brand Names.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 01 Mar. 2017. Web. 11 Aug. 2017.

3Common Side Effects of Ambien (Zolpidem Tartrate) Drug Center.” RxList. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2017.