Ambien, which goes by the brand name Zolpidem, is a strong sedative drug that is not in the benzodiazepine class and is considered to be safer, with less potential for abuse and a smaller risk of overdose. It is also said to be a very effective drug, but one that can still cause addiction and can lead to withdrawals in extreme cases.
Is Ambien Addictive?
Yes. Excessive use can lead to quite a potent addiction and it has been said that it is possible to develop an ambien addiction in as little as 2 weeks. This is rather worrying when you consider how freely it is being described.
Ambien addiction leads to an increased tolerance, which in turn can lead to the addict using stronger and more dangerous drugs in order to get the high they used to get when they first started using ambien.
The medical community has made a lot of mistakes when it comes to prescription drugs. Tramadol was once touted as being an effective and non-addictive alternative to opiates like codeine and morphine, right until the point they realized that people were getting hooked left, right and center. With ambien there have been similar issues and we will get to those in this guide.
One of the main issues is addiction. It was prescribed quite heavily because it was seen as an equally effective alternative to benzodiazepines and one that didn’t cause addiction. That is simply not the case. Ambien addiction is now a recognized issue but you will still find literature that says addictions rarely form and that it is nowhere near as addictive as drugs like Valium.
As we mentioned above, there’s not much truth to that statement either.
Is Ambien a Controlled Substance?
Zolpidem is a controlled drug in the United States. It is listed as a Schedule IV drug, which means that it has some medical uses, but also has potential for abuse and addiction.
Ambien Side Effects
There have been some worrying media stories about ambien side effects, many of which focus on the sleepwalking. The Simpsons actually spoofed this side effect during the episode Crook and Ladder, in which ambien was given the name “Nappien” and led to Homer Simpson undergoing some serious sleepwalking adventures every night.
Generally, ambien is a lot safer than other drugs in the sedative class and once you remove the potential for addiction and abuse, it is easy to see why it is seen as the go-to hypnotic for many physicians in the United States.
Other side effects of Zolpidem include:
- Drowsiness through the day
- Loss of coordination
- Cold/Flu symptoms
- Muscular pain
If you notice any concerning side effects then you should cease taking the Zolpidem and consult a medical expert.
Other Noted Side Effects of Zolpidem
There are a few other issues that this drug may cause that you may or may not find on the label. One of them is the fact that it seems to prolong nighttime episodes of acid reflux in sufferers of GERD. It is also thought to be much more dangerous in the elderly, who succumb to its sedative effects more easily.
Zolpidem is also often used as a date-rape drug, both because of its availability, its fast onset and its hypnotic effects.
Dangers of Snorting Ambien
Some recreational users of the drug will crush up the tables and snort them. This will decrease the time of onset and should mean they begin to feel the effects in just a few minutes. This can be dangerously quick for drugs like this and it can also damage the thin and fragile membranes inside the nose.
What’s more, these tablets are not 100% ambien and they are designed to be taken orally. They contain fillers, colors and additives. None of which you should be snorting up your nose. The drug will also leave your body faster, which means the duration will be shorter and the drug less effective.
In other words, it is never advisable to snort Zolpidem.
Dangers of Alcohol and Ambien
Ambien overdose is more common in users who have also consumed alcohol. When used in combination with other drugs that suppress the central nervous system, slowing the breathing and reducing the heart rate, then there is a serious risk of accidental overdose.
There were initial reports that the award-winning actor Heath Ledger had died of an accidental Ambien overdose, but his autopsy report actually points to a combination of other sedatives and hypnotics, as well opioids as the cause of death. Still, this shows you just how dangerous it can be to combine strong drugs, especially when they have such a significant effect on your psychology.
Ambien Overdose: Lethal Dose of Ambien
So what is a lethal dose of Ambien? Well, it’s actually hard to determine because tolerance, weight, age and genetics all come into play and if you are taking other substances at the same time then they will take a lot less to reach a lethal dose than if you were using only Zolpidem.
There are a few reports in medical literature of Zolpidem overdose but if it is taken alone by an otherwise healthy person, then it can be quite well tolerated, certainly when compared to other CNS suppressing drugs. The LD 50, which is the lethal dose in at least 50% of the population, is actually quite a staggering amount and is often quoted at 600mg/kg, which would require hundreds if not thousand of pills.
Of course, as mentioned already, this dose is drastically reduced when other factors come into play.
How Easy to Develop Ambien Addiction?
It may be possible to develop an addiction to this drug in just a couple of weeks, even if you are only using a prescribed, therapeutic amount. Zolpidem addiction is quick, which means tolerance will rapidly increase and the risk of withdrawal symptoms will grow ever bigger.
Ambien Long-Term Effects
We don’t know a great deal about the potential long-term effects of ambien use. We do know that extended use can lead to addiction and withdrawal, but that only accounts for a few years and more research needs to be done before anyone can say for certain whether ambien use will cause any issues in several decade’s time.
Staying Awake on Ambien
This is something that users of the drug will try to do in order to enjoy the “high”. The sedative effects will typically have an onset of just 15 to 20 minutes and the average user will be asleep within the hour. If you stay awake then you will be incredibly drowsiness, relaxed and tired, constantly fighting off sleep.
Some users also say that they lose control a little after using it and not sleeping, much like you would if you were drunk, so it’s not something we would recommend.