How Ambien Affects Your Body & Mind
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Ambien is a medication that treats insomnia and is prescribed around 12 million times a year in the United States.1 While Ambien is taken by many people, it is not without its dangers. In fact, Ambien is associated with around 64,000 emergency room visits per year due to overmedication and adverse reactions.2 In addition, many people abuse Ambien recreationally.3 The purpose of this page is to inform you of the side effects of Ambien and how to get help if you become dependent or are abusing it, whether you are in Nevada or anywhere in the United States.
What Is Ambien?
Ambien is considered a “z-drug,” a group of drugs that were marketed in the early 1990s as an alternative to benzodiazepines for the management of insomnia. Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Valium, Halcion, and Dalmane, were the prescription of choice for many years to help people with insomnia. However, there was serious concern around the use of benzodiazepines because they were highly addictive and frequently misused.4,5 Both Ambien and benzodiazepines inhibit a neurotransmitter called GABA, which then leads to a person being able to fall asleep. When Ambien, along with Sonesta and Lunesta, came to the market, they were hailed as a much safer alternative to benzodiazepines and were thought to have little potential for addiction and misuse. However, recent studies have raised concerns about the safety of Ambien and its potential for misuse. 3
Side-Effects of Ambien
The most frequently reported side effects of Ambien are drowsiness, dizziness, diarrhea, and feeling drugged the next day. 6 In addition, next-day sleepiness when using Ambien has been cited as a serious concern by the FDA, which issued guidance and suggested that people take lower doses of Ambien to help combat next-day drowsiness and impaired driving.7
Physical Side Effects of Ambien
In addition to the most common side effects, there are other physical side effects of Ambien that, while not common, are reported quite frequently, including:8
- Low energy.
Other side effects that are fairly rare include:9
- Low blood pressure (hypotension).
- Blurred and/or double vision.
- Dry mouth.
- Joint and/or muscle pain.
- Whirling sensations.
- Urinary tract infection.
- Lower respiratory infections.
- Abnormal liver functioning.
- Bile flow issues.
- Lowered lung functioning.
- Loss of appetite.
- Chest pain.
- Excessive sweating.
- Pounding heart.
- Sores in the mouth.
Certainly, some of these side effects may be more severe than others. Some may be inconvenient, while others can be serious and require urgent medical intervention. Other side effects of Ambien are truly adverse reactions, which can be life-threatening. If you experience a serious reaction, you should call 911. While these adverse reactions are rare, they can occur and can result in:8
- Swelling of the face, tongue, and throat.
- Trouble breathing.
Cognitive and Behavioral Side-Effects
In addition to the physical side effects noted in the prior section, cognitive and behavioral side effects are associated with Ambien. These side effects are less frequently reported, but include:8,9
- Memory loss.
- Mental confusion.
- Agitation and irritability.
- Changes in sexual desire.
- Suicidal thoughts.
People do not overdose on Ambien very often, but it is critical to note that mixing Ambien with benzodiazepines or alcohol can result in an overdose, as all of these substances impact the central nervous system. The combination of these medications can result in severe cognitive impairment. In addition, the use of Ambien by elderly people is of concern due to the possible increased risk of falls and cognitive issues, but additional research is needed to fully determine the impact of Ambien on older people.10(p 3)
Complex Sleep Episodes
Other cognitive side effects called complex sleep episodes can also occur. While rare, it is important to be aware of these troubling side effects. Complex sleep episodes involve people engaging in behaviors that they do in their sleep and are unaware of at the time. People who take Ambien and similar medications, such as Sonata and Lunesta, may experience complex sleep episodes in which they cook, eat, and drive while asleep. People have fallen, had car accidents, burned themselves, shot themselves, and wandered outside in freezing temperatures while taking these medications. The FDA notes that a total of 66 serious complex sleep episodes involving Ambien and other related drugs have been verified since 1992, with 20 of these resulting in death.5
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Ambien Dependence and Addiction
When Ambien was first introduced in 1992, it was touted as having a low potential for misuse and dependence, which made it a desirable alternative to highly addictive benzodiazepines. However, mounting evidence suggests that Ambien can cause physical dependence and has the potential to be used recreationally and induce euphoric highs. When you are physically dependent on a substance, this does not necessarily mean that you are misusing the substance. Physical dependence means that you need a substance to feel “normal.” However, people can move from physical dependence to misuse when they take Ambien in ways that it was not prescribed, such as injecting it or taking more than prescribed.11
The potential for misuse tends to be higher in people who have other issues with dependencies on other drugs or alcohol but misuse and addiction can occur in people with no prior history of drug misuse.3
Signs of Ambien Addiction
Whether you were prescribed Ambien or obtained it through other means, you can develop an Ambien use disorder. Only a doctor can diagnose you with an Ambien use disorder, but some signs include:13
- Finding yourself taking more Ambien than you originally planned to take.
- Not fulfilling your responsibilities at home, work, or school due to the use of Ambien.
- Trying to stop using Ambien, or cut back, and being unable to do so.
- Using Ambien, despite being aware that it worsens any physical or emotional conditions you have.
Signs of Ambien Withdrawal
In addition, withdrawal can be a sign of an Ambien use disorder. You are physically dependent on Ambien when you have signs of withdrawal when you stop using Ambien. The most frequent signs of physical withdrawal from Ambien are:3
- High blood pressure.
- Abdominal pain.
Getting Help for Ambien Addiction
American Addiction Centers is a leading provider of Ambien rehab and treatment in Nevada and nationwide. At American Addiction Centers, you will find compassionate and caring staff members who will work with you to determine the best-personalized treatment plan for your Ambien addiction. At American Addiction Centers, we can help you comfortably manage your Ambien withdrawal in a safe and supervised environment. Please call our 24/7 free and confidential helpline today to speak to one of our treatment advisors to start your journey to recovery from Ambien addiction.