Ambien Addiction

Ambien

Ambien Addiction

Ambien AddictionAfter Junior Seau, a linebacker with the San Diego Chargers, committed suicide,  his friends said he was a heavy user of Ambien, a drug linked to an increase in suicidal thoughts. In July 2012, Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Senator Robert Kennedy and former wife of Mario Cuomo, swerved into a truck and a tree, and told police she might have been under the influence of Ambien. Her cousin, Congressman Patrick Kennedy also claimed Ambien impairment after crashing his car in 2006.  Likewise Secretary of Commerce John Bryson got into a series of bizarre hit and run accidents near LA on June 9, 2012, and later tested positive for Ambien.

As these stories illustrate, Ambien has a dangerous side effect of a weird kind of sleep-walking.  People in this twilight state somewhere between wakefulness and sleep perform all kinds of activities which they don’t remember. The most dangerous is driving.

Usually, the more stories you read about celebrities using a certain drug, the more likely it is that the drug is widely prescribed and abused.  This is true of Ambien.  Sales of the sleeping pill reached $2.2 billion in 2010, propelled by an advertising budget of $130 million. In 2009, Ambien represented 12% of all sleeping medications sold, four times that of its nearest competitor.

Because it is so widely prescribed, Ambien abuse and addictions are increasing. The annual Monitoring the Future government study showed that 2% of all American children tried it recreationally in 2009, and the same is probably true of the adult population.  The number of ER visits involving Ambien doubled between 2004 and 2008, from 13,000 to 28,000.  As Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, said, “Ambien is a growing problem in our country.”

What Is Ambien?

Ambien is a central nervous system depressant used to treat insomnia. When it was first marketed in France in 1987 by Sanofi-Aventis, Ambien was thought to have zero potential for chemical dependency, but newer studies have shown you can become addicted to it within a matter of weeks. As of July 2002, both the United States government and the World Health Organization listed zolpidem, the active ingredient in Ambien, as a Schedule IV Controlled Substance,  which means it has potential for addiction and is approved only for medical use. If you are caught possessing or dealing in Ambien, you can face criminal charges on the state and federal level.

Ambien is considered a sedative and hypnotic (sleeping pill). It is not a benzodiazepine, a family of anti-anxiety drugs that includes Xanax and Valium. However, Ambien targets the same brain network as benzodiazepines do to slow down the nervous system and the brain, and produces a similar withdrawal syndrome. In laboratory studies, baboons could not tell the difference between benzodiazepines and Ambien, and the behavioral effects produced by these drugs are similar in humans as well.

The chemical name for Ambien is N,N-dimethyl-2-(6-methyl-2-p-tolylimidazo[1,2-a]pyridin-3-yl)acetamide.

What Are The Medical Uses Of Ambien?

Ambien is for short-term use only in the treatment of insomnia in adults, and is supposed to be prescribed for seven to ten days only. One reason the drug is so popular is that it clears out of the body quickly, so that you do not wake up feeling drugged or “woozy.” Zolpidem products come as pills, extended release tablets, sublingual pills or sprays.

The usual dose for Ambien pills is 12.5mg for adults, and 6.25mg for geriatric patients.  The dosage is different for the sublingual pills that melt in your mouth or the spray versions of zolpidem.

You are only supposed to take one pill a night before you can stay in bed for at least eight hours. Do not take another Ambien or some other sleeping pill in the middle of the night after you took Ambien at bedtime.

What Are The Side Effects Of Ambien?

The most common side effects of Ambien are dizziness, drowsiness, lightheadedness, clumsiness, unsteadiness, tiredness, a feeling of being drugged, headache, red eyes, constipation or diarrhea, unusual dreams, problems with balance, and a ringing in the ears. The first night you take Ambien, you may actually have more trouble falling and staying asleep. You should stop taking Ambien if you become depressed or suicidal, engage in unusual risky behaviors, or experience anxiety, aggression, agitation, hallucinations, or confusion.

Ambien Amnesia

One of the most troublesome side effects of Ambien is a form of sleep-walking. While somewhere between wakefulness and sleep, people who have taken the drug get out of bed and drive cars, have sex, raid their refrigerators, and even engage in complex conversations. The next day they have no memory of these incidents.

One registered nurse in Denver was wearing only a thin nightie in 20-degree weather when she got into a car accident, urinated in the middle of an intersection, and grew violent with police, all under the influence of Ambien. A man in South Carolina got into two automobile accidents he could not remember when he woke up in jail. Tragically in 2007, an Australian fell to his death after sleepwalking off a building.

People on Ambien are also “hell-bent to eat,” as Dr. Mark Mahowald of the Minnesota Sleep Disorders Clinic, puts it. They get up and raid their refrigerators or even drive to supermarkets and buy food. A woman in a body cast who seemingly needed help getting out of bed was eating all night long and accusing her caretakers of stealing her food until her son found her making bacon and eggs one morning. Another woman gained 100 pounds after being prescribed Ambien.

What’s more dangerous for Ambien users is when they drive automobiles. In the 24 states that test for Ambien, it makes the top ten list of drugs that impaired drivers involved in crashes.

A class action suit by over 1,000 such sleepwalkers was filed again Sanofi-Aventis in March 2006 and resulted in the FDA requesting a stronger warning label on Ambien.

What Drugs Interact With Ambien?

Ambien is a central nervous system depressant and should not be taken with other drugs that depress the central nervous system. If you do this, you increase the chance that your breathing and heart rate will slow down to the point of death.

Ambien should not be taken with benzodiazepines, barbiturates, narcotic pain killers such as OxyContin, anesthetics like Propofol, dental anesthetics, antihistamines, medicines or hay fever or colds, sedatives, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, medicines for mental illness or seizures, antidepressants like Zoloft, anti-anxiety medications, or muscle relaxants.

Ambien should not be taken with any amount of alcohol, or as one doctor put it, “Don’t even make a toast.” The problem is that Ambien works in the human body in ways similar to alcohol, and people who love to drink are more likely to abuse Ambien. Most people who overdose on Ambien or who are picked up by police for impaired were drinking as well as taking Ambien.

Ambien should not be taken with food, because food slows down its effects.

Who Should Not Take Ambien?

Ambien should not be taken by people with breathing difficulties or diseases such as bronchitis, emphysema, sleep apnea, or asthma. It should not be taken by people with mental illnesses, depression, kidney or liver diseases, histories of drug abuse or alcoholism, myasthenia gravis (severe muscle weakness) or gastro-esophageal reflux disease.

Ambien is prescribed with caution to elderly patients because it increases their risk for mental confusion, unsteadiness and falling. One study of 26,618 nursing home residents found they had a 70% increase for hip fractures if they took zolpidem or other chemically similar sleeping pills.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved Ambien or other sleeping pills for those under 18 years of age because no long-term studies of the effect of these drugs on developing brains exist. Nevertheless, about one in 500 or 180,000 children were prescribed sleeping pills in 2004, representing an 85% increase since 2000. Some of these children are probably taking stimulant drugs for attention deficit disorder.

Ambien should not be taken by pregnant women studies to support its use during pregnancy are inadequate. It has a minimal risk to infants if taken by breast-feeding mothers.

What Are The Risks Of Taking Ambien?

One of the main risks of taking Ambien is that you can develop a chemical dependency on the drug within a matter of weeks. This means you will grow tolerant of its effects, i.e., you will need to take more Ambien to achieve the same effects; you will experience drug seeking behaviors if you run out of Ambien; and you will go into a withdrawal syndrome if you stop taking it.

A troubling study showing that people who take any kind of sleeping pill have five times the risk of dying within two years compared those that do not, and have a 35% increased risk for cancer. People in the study who took only 20 prescription sleeping pills a year were still at a much higher risk of dying. The authors of the study published in the British Medical Journal were startled by their findings, but were careful to note that people who take sleeping pills are in much poorer health than those who do not. This is a troubling finding when you consider between six and ten percent of Americans take Ambien, Restoril or Lunesta, and these drugs were prescribed 60 million times in 2011.

Some people are allergic to Ambien and will experience a life-threatening reaction the first time they take it. Symptoms might be itching, hives, hoarseness, trouble breathing and swallowing, and swollen hands, face, mouth and throat. Seek medical attention immediately for Ambien anaphylaxis.

Ambien Overdose

The consequences of taking too much Ambien or mixing it with alcohol and other central nervous system depressants can be fatal. Symptoms can be extreme drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing, staggering, vision problems, and a slowing of the heartbeat. Someone with such symptoms can get worse, enter a coma, and die. At an emergency medical facility, doctors can administer an antagonist called Flumazenil and use other means to save the person’s life.

Ambien Withdrawal Syndrome

The withdrawal syndrome for Ambien addiction is unpleasant and similar to that of benzodiazepines. Most drug addicts consider it harder to withdraw from these drugs than heroin or narcotic painkillers. The National Institute of Drug Abuse recommends that you undergo withdrawal from Ambien under medical supervision because some symptoms can be too difficult to handle on your own.

Symptoms will depend upon how long you have been taking Ambien and in what amounts, as well as individual factors such as your height, weight, age, general state of health, and so on. They begin when you stop taking your usual dose.

Physical symptoms can be shakiness, lightheadedness, stomach and muscle cramps, headache, nausea, vomiting, uncontrollable shaking, sweating, flushing, teeth chattering, and feeling very tired. Some people experience seizures, which is one reason why you should not withdraw from Ambien on your own. Psychological and mental symptoms can be extremely difficult, and may include crying uncontrollably, night terrors, strange dreams, hallucinations, panic attacks, and extreme nervousness.  Some people become suicidal.

The first night of withdrawal most people experience “rebound insomnia” which means that they are unable to sleep.  Usually they get a terrible headache that can be relieved by taking Ambien. Doctors sometimes prescribe Flumazenil to help patients in Ambien withdrawal, which could last a week or more. Laurie Sandell, who was addicted to Ambien for three years, said it took her one week after withdrawal to get a good night’s sleep without drugs.

Why Do People Abuse Ambien?

According to Dr. Stephen Ross, an addiction specialist at New York University School of Medicine, people who become addicted to Ambien are “really people that are in pain or discomfort psychically and these drugs are very good self-treatments.”  The psychic pain Dr. Ross is talking about can be depression, unresolved childhood traumas, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and so forth. The problem is, as Dr. Ross says, “Drugs like Ambien have the side effect of corrupting and reorganizing their reward and motivation circuits.” This effect, which occurs in the brain, leads to addiction.

In “Diary of a Sleeping Pill Junkie,” Glamour Magazine editor Laurie Sandell describes how she tried to limit her use of Ambien to once or twice a week, and gradually was taking it every night to get to sleep. She began using it for many other reasons, such as to calm herself during airline travel, and then she rapidly became addicted to the point where she had no choice but to keep taking it. The problem is once addiction sets in, the person experiences withdrawal symptoms such as severe insomnia and headaches when they stop using it, and it is extremely easy just to use the pills again instead of enduring withdrawal.

Ms. Sandell’s case is not unusual. Dr. Ross said that what usually happens in an Ambien addiction is that as people build up a tolerance, they take it in higher doses just to get to sleep. If they “like” the pill, they may increase their intake to ten to 20 pills a day.

Ambien is supposed to be prescribed for a maximum of ten days, but as Kerry Kennedy told a New York Times reporter, she had a prescription for 30 pills that could be refilled five times, thus giving her access to 150 pills. If a doctor prescribes Ambien in that way, a patient is more likely to abuse it. People who are addicted to Ambien often go to more than one doctor to get prescriptions or buy it from illegal sources on the street or Internet.  In October 2012, 21 people were arrested for selling Ambien and other prescription drugs to college students simply by running ads on Craigslist.

Ambien is used by methamphetamine, cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy) and other stimulant addicts to “come down.” Others just like the effects of Ambien, such as vivid visuals, decreased anxiety, losing all sense of time, euphoria, hallucinations, and feeling “high.” Once addicted, they may inhale or inject Ambien after crushing the pills into a powder or dissolving them into a solvent.

At high doses, Ambien causes weird psychological states such as amnesia, delusions, difficulty concentrating, and mood swings.

Ambien is used as a date rape drug, and it is currently more popular than Rohypnol, although alcohol is still the most popular date rape drug in the United States.

Ambien Addiction Treatment

Laurie Sandell wrote about how her life and relationships spiraled down because of her Ambien abuse. Although she was still functioning at work, she was making major mistakes in her personal life and feeling deeply anxious and depressed.  She was doing embarrassing things she could not remember, such as having long phone sex conversations with her boyfriend, and putting herself in danger by leaving her stove lit all night.

After three years of abusing the drug, Sandell entered a residential treatment center, where she was afraid she would be the only one addicted to Ambien. She found several others in her group with the same problem.  Sandell wrote that the professionals at the center taught her to meditate, pray and practice yoga during stressful times when she normally would have taken an Ambien.

Sandell’s story is really what Ambien addiction treatment is all about. The best-case scenario for treatment is to enter a residential center where you can remain for a few weeks or even months to get the help and encouragement you need to change your lifestyle.  If you have untreated psychological problems, such as depression, bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress syndrome, your counselors can help you work through it.  At a good residential treatment center, you will learn new ways to handle stress and a new lifestyle that includes getting into top physical shape through healthy nutrition and exercise. You work through your program with others facing similar challenges.

Once you return home, you remain in aftercare treatment. This might include continued individual and family counseling in your own area, as well as attending support meetings.

Signs You Are Addicted to Ambien

If you can answer yes to one or more of these questions, it is time to consult your family physician or local mental health center for help with your addiction to Ambien.

  • Are you taking Ambien without a doctor’s supervision?
  • Are you taking Ambien at higher than recommended dosages?
  • Are you taking Ambien to relieve anxiety or other emotional states, rather than for insomnia?
  • Have you experienced Ambien amnesia?
  • Do you get headaches and become unable to sleep without Ambien?
  • Have you tried and failed to quit using Ambien in the past?
  • Is Ambien causing problems in your relationships, such as your family and friends being critical of your drug use?
  • Do you have trouble keeping up at work or school because of Ambien?
  • Are you using Ambien in combination with alcohol or other drugs?
  • Do you experience severe anxiety and/or panic when you stop taking Ambien?
  • Have you driven a car or eaten food or done something you do not remember while under the influence of Ambien?
  • Is Ambien and your other substance abuse causing you financial problems?
  • If you are obtaining Ambien illegally, do you worry about getting caught by authorities?
  • Is it impossible for you to fall asleep without taking Ambient
  • Do you think it is all right to keep taking Ambien forever?

References:

Moore, David and Erick Brady. “Junior Seau’s last days Plagued by Sleepless nights,” USA Today, June 6, 2012.

Ruderman, Wendy. “Kerry Kennedy Cites Possible Seizure during Car Crash,” the New York Times, July 17, 2012.

“California: No Charges for Ex-Commerce Secretary,” the New York Times, July 3, 2012.

Sandell, Laurie. “Diary of a Sleeping Pill Junkie,” Glamour Magazine, March 2008.

Harding, Ann. “Can you become addicted to Ambien?” Health Magazine, December 15, 2010.

Herper, Matthew, “Can A Safer Ambien Make Billions? Merck Aims To Find Out,” Forbes magazine, October 31, 2012.

Victorri-Vigneau, Carolyn; Eric Dailly; Gwenaëlle Veyrac; and Pascale Jolliet. Evidence of Zolpidem Abuse and Dependence: Results of the French Center for Evaluation and Information on Pharmacodependence (CEIP) Network Survey, British Journal of Pharmacology, 2007 August; 64(2): 198–209.

“Ambien Medication Guide,” the US Food and Drug Administration, see http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm085906.pdf

“Zolpidem,” The United States Library of Medicine, the National Institute of Health,  PubMed Health, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000928/

Harding, Ann. “Can you become addicted to Ambien?” Health Magazine, December 15, 2010.

Victorri-Vigneau, Carolyn; Eric Dailly; Gwenaëlle Veyrac; and Pascale JollietEvidence of Zolpidem Abuse and Dependence: Results of the French Center for Evaluation and Information on Pharmacodependence (CEIP) Network Survey, British Journal of Pharmacology, 2007 August; 64(2): 198–209.

“Zolpidem (Oral Route, Oromucosal Route, Sublingual Route),” The Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR601839

Harding, Ann. “Can you become addicted to Ambien?” Health Magazine, December 15, 2010.

Zolpidem (Oral Route, Oromucosal Route, Sublingual Route), The Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR601839

“Zolpidem,” The United States Library of Medicine, the National Institute of Health,  PubMed Health, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000928/

“Zolpidem (Oral Route, Oromucosal Route, Sublingual Route),” The Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR601839

“Zolpidem,” The United States Library of Medicine, the National Institute of Health,  PubMed Health, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000928/

“Zolpidem,” Medline Plus, The National Institute of Health, see http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a693025.html

“Zolpidem,” A Pamphlet from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, see http://www.ct.gov/dcp/lib/dcp/drug_control/pmp/pdf/zolpidem.pdf

Saul, Stephanie. “Some Sleeping Pill Users Range Far Beyond the Bed,” The New York Times, March 8, 2006.

Saul, Stephanie. “Study Links Ambien to Unconscious Food Forays,” the New York Times, March 14, 2006.

Saul, Stephanie. “Some Sleeping Pill Users Range Far Beyond the Bed,” The New York Times, March 8, 2006.

Childs, Dan. “FDA Orders Stronger Warning Labels for Ambien, Other Sleep Drugs,” ABC News, March 14, 2007.

“Zolpidem (Oral Route, Oromucosal Route, Sublingual Route),” The Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR601839

Saul, Stephanie. “Some Sleeping Pill Users Range Far Beyond the Bed,” The New York Times, March 8, 2006.

Ibid.

“Zolpidem (Oral Route, Oromucosal Route, Sublingual Route),” The Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR601839

Ibid.

Tetz, Gary. “Ambien among sleeping pills that increase risk of hip fracture, study suggests,” McKnight’s Long-Term Care News and Assisted Living, October 12, 2012, see http://www.mcknights.com/ambien-among-sleeping-pills-that-increase-risk-of-hip-fracture-study-suggests/article/263755/

Duenwald, Mary. “Doctors Ponder Drugs for Sleepless Nights of Adolescence,” The New  York Times, November 15. 2005.

“Zolpidem (Oral Route, Oromucosal Route, Sublingual Route),” The Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR601839

“Zolpidem,” A Pamphlet from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, see http://www.ct.gov/dcp/lib/dcp/drug_control/pmp/pdf/zolpidem.pdf

“Sleeping tablets linked to early death, US study finds,” The Herald Sun,  February 28, 2012, see http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/sleeping-tablets-linked-to-early-death-us-study-finds/story-e6frf7jx-1226284428246

Rabin, Roni. “New Worries About Sleeping Pills,” The New York Times, March 12, 2012.

“Zolpidem,” Medline Plus, The National Institute of Health, see http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a693025.html

“Zolpidem (Oral Route, Oromucosal Route, Sublingual Route),” The Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR601839

“Zolpidem,” The United States Library of Medicine, the National Institute of Health,  PubMed Health, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000928/

“Zolpidem,” The United States Library of Medicine, the National Institute of Health,  PubMed Health, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000928/

Sandell, Laurie. “Diary of a Sleeping Pill Junkie,” Glamour Magazine, March 2008.

Harding, Ann. “Can you become addicted to Ambien?” Health Magazine, December 15, 2010.

Sandell, Laurie. “Diary of a Sleeping Pill Junkie,” Glamour Magazine, March 2008.

1Harding, Ann. “Can you become addicted to Ambien?” Health Magazine, December 15, 2010.

Bowen, Alison. “NYU college student among 2arrested for selling Adderall, Ambien, Percocet, Xanax on Craigslist,” Metro News, October 11, 2012, see http://www.metro.us/newyork/local/article/1154083–nyu-college-student-among-21-arrested-for-selling-adderall-ambien-percocet-xanax-on-craigslist

“Zolpidem,” A Pamphlet from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, see http://www.ct.gov/dcp/lib/dcp/drug_control/pmp/pdf/zolpidem.pdf

Victorri-Vigneau, Carolyn; Eric Dailly; Gwenaëlle Veyrac; and Pascale JollietEvidence of Zolpidem Abuse and Dependence: Results of the French Center for Evaluation and Information on Pharmacodependence (CEIP) Network Survey, British Journal of Pharmacology, 2007 August; 64(2): 198–209.

Sandell, Laurie. “Diary of a Sleeping Pill Junkie,” Glamour Magazine, March 2008

Find relief in recovery. Life gets better with addiction treatment.

Call our experts today.