Ambien, the brand name for zolpidem, is prescribed to millions of people across the U.S. for sleep problems like insomnia. Despite its benefits, the calming and sedative effects of Ambien combined with its wide accessibility lead it to be misused for recreational purposes. 

Ambien addiction is a growing concern and can have serious side effects and consequences. Learning risk factors and symptoms can help people recognize signs of Ambien misuse and seek treatment to reduce the risk of serious consequences.

Is Ambien Addictive?

Ambien can be addictive. It is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance and belongs to a drug class called sedative-hypnotics. Taking Ambien slows the function of the body and brain. Ambien enhances a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is linked to sleep and relaxation. It is prescribed to address sleep disorders like insomnia or for people who have short or disrupted sleep.

Ambien Dosage

Ambien comes in both short and long-acting dosage forms, which are dosed slightly differently. Short-acting Ambien has a starting dose of 5 mg for women and either 5 or 10 mg for men. If a person starts on 5 mg and this is not effective, the dose can be increased to 10 mg.

Long-acting Ambien CR has a starting dose of 6.25 mg for women and either 6.25 mg or 12.5 mg for men.

Regardless if someone is taking Ambien or Ambien CR, the medication should be taken immediately before bed and when you can get 7–8 hours of sleep before waking up.

Ambien Overdose

Taking too much Ambien, or combining it with other central nervous system depressants like alcohol or opioids, can increase your chances of having an overdose. An Ambien overdose can be fatal, especially when mixed with other substances. Other risk factors linked with an overdose of a sedative-hypnotic like Ambien include:

  • Being White 
  • Being female 
  • Not having insurance
  • Being unemployed
  • Experiencing panic or other mental health symptoms
  • Using other substances, including alcohol, nicotine and illicit drugs

How Long Does Ambien Stay in Your System?

Even after the effects of Ambien wear off, the drug may still linger in your body. Parts of the body can still test positive for Ambien long after you took the last dose:

  • Urine: Ambien can be detected in urine for up to three days.
  • Blood: Ambien can stay in your bloodstream for up to three hours.
  • Hair: Even a single dose of Ambien can show up in your hair for up to 90 days in a 1.5 inch hair sample. 
  • Breastmilk: Ambien can stay in breastmilk for hours after the last dose, and experts recommend avoiding the drug if you breastfeed.
  • Saliva: Ambien may remain in your saliva for up to two days after the last dose

Ambien Addiction and Abuse

Similar to the rest of the country, Ambien is a frequently prescribed medication in Florida. Insufficient sleep is an important public health problem, and the prescription of sleep aids is on the rise. As a result of increasing prescription rates, there is a greater opportunity for Ambien misuse.

Ambien is a widely used prescription medication, and its availability may contribute to drug addiction in Florida and around the country. Ambien abuse statistics show that the number of Ambien-related emergency room visits in the U.S. increased by nearly 220% between 2005 and 2010. Studies show that sleep aids like Ambien are increasingly involved in fatal overdoses.

In addition, as a state with one of the highest percentages of elderly residents, Ambien use in Florida should be closely monitored. Elderly patients have increased sensitivity to Ambien, which can increase the risk of adverse reactions or dependence.

Risk factors for Ambien addiction include:

  • Taking a higher dose of Ambien than prescribed
  • Taking Ambien more often than prescribed
  • Exaggerating symptoms to your doctor to try to get more Ambien
  • Going to different doctors or pharmacies to try to obtain Ambien
  • Buying or stealing Ambien from other people 

Signs and Side Effects of Ambien Abuse

Someone who starts to struggle with Ambien misuse often shows signs. These can include:

  • A preoccupation with getting and taking Ambien
  • Trying unsuccessfully to quit or cut back on Ambien
  • Taking more Ambien or for longer periods than intended
  • Having cravings for Ambien
  • Problems at work, school, or home linked to Ambien use
  • Using Ambien even when doing so is dangerous, like before driving a car
  • Still taking Ambien despite knowing that doing so is causing problems
  • Needing higher doses of Ambien to achieve the same effects as before
  • Having unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if you skip a dose of Ambien
  • Having side effects of Ambien intoxication, such as extreme drowsiness, sleepwalking, sleep-driving, and sleep-eating

Long-Term Effects of Ambien Abuse

Relying on Ambien over the long term can lead to a variety of negative consequences. These include:

  • Insomnia
  • Poor overall function
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Increased risk of car accidents
  • Higher risk of falls

Since Ambien is a controlled substance, long-term use makes addiction and dependence possible, which can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Ambien Withdrawal

Ambien withdrawal can be dangerous because it is similar to benzodiazepine withdrawal, which can be complex. Because both Ambien and benzodiazepines affect GABA, which calms the brain, withdrawal happens due to the sudden drop in GABA. Withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, especially if you are not under medical supervision.

Ambien Withdrawal Symptoms

Ambien withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of benzodiazepines, and can include:

  • Sweating 
  • Rapid pulse 
  • Hand tremor
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures

Some withdrawal symptoms, like seizures, are life-threatening. Others, like agitation and hallucinations, can be dangerous in a different way as the person may become a risk to themselves or others. 

Ambien Detox

Due to the risks involved with Ambien withdrawal symptoms, it is best to withdraw from Ambien while under medical supervision. A medically supervised Ambien detox can treat withdrawal symptoms as they arise, and can involve medications as appropriate to treat or prevent symptoms. A medical detox center that offers around-the-clock care from doctors and nurses can help ensure safer and more comfortable withdrawal.

Ambien Addiction Treatment

An Ambien addiction can disrupt a person’s ability to function normally and fulfill their regular activities at work and in relationships. Quitting Ambien is challenging, and stopping suddenly can be dangerous. The safest way to stop using Ambien is to seek professional treatment that offers medical supervision and help develop new coping strategies that support sobriety.

There are many factors that influence whether a treatment program is right for you. For many people, staying close to home and your support network is an important part of recovery. Orlando Recovery Center on the banks of Lake Ellenor offers medical detoxinpatient carepartial hospitalization and outpatient treatment programs that can help to address addictive behaviors and to help you develop skills for recovery.

If you or a loved one are struggling with Ambien addiction, Orlando Recovery Center can help. Reach out today to discuss the treatment options that are available to you.

Editor – Erica Weiman
Erica Weiman graduated from Pace University in 2014 with a master's in Publishing and has been writing and editing ever since. Read more
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.