Ambien, also known as zolpidem, is a medication used to treat insomnia. This drug is in a class of medications called sedative-hypnotics, which allow the brain to relax and sleep. Addiction and dependence can occur if Ambien is taken for two weeks or more, and tolerance often occurs with extended or long-term use of the drug. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), over half a million people in the U.S. are currently abusing some form of sedative, including Ambien.
There are over 17,000 emergency department visits annually related to overdose or misuse of Ambien. The Department of Health and Human Services found in a survey that around 44 percent of prescription drug abusers were younger than 18 years of age. NIDA also found that many teenagers report that they use Ambien “to get high.”

Dependence and Tolerance

Ambien dependence occurs when the body does not work well without this sedative medication. A person dependent on Ambien will have problems sleeping or falling to sleep without this drug. Physical dependence occurs when the drug creates a certain chemical in the body that causes the body to crave the drug. Also, Ambien is known to produce psychological dependency, which makes the user require the drug to function properly. This form of dependency produces panic symptoms when the person is under stress and cannot gain access to the drug.
Tolerance to Ambien occurs when a person requires more and more of the drug in order to get the same feeling or “high.” To overcome the tolerance, and achieve the desired effect, a user has to take a higher dose of the medication. A person who builds a tolerance to Ambien needs larger doses each time.

Effects, Withdrawal and Detoxification

The short-term effects of Ambien involve the ability to sleep for approximately 8 hours. For many people, however, the first few days of use may do just the opposite. Also, there are several side effects to Ambien, such as nervousness, tiredness, nausea, cramps, and sweating. The long-term effects of Ambien include trouble sleeping, difficulty stopping the drug due to dependency, and full-blown addiction.
For a person dependent and addicted to Ambien, there are steps to take to come off the drug. Depending on the dosage being consumed, there are risks for various withdrawal symptoms, such as skin flushing, lightheadedness, panic attacks, nausea, vomiting, and crying. These symptoms are quite manageable and are greatly reduced when speaking to a doctor and using a tapering plan. This form of detoxification allows the user to remove the sedative from his or her system slowly, thus, reducing withdrawals.

Treatment of Ambien Addiction

If you or someone you love is addicted to Ambien, consider attending a treatment or rehabilitation (rehab) facility. Substance abuse counselors and physicians can assist someone who is addicted to a substance through counseling, psychotherapy, detoxification, support groups, and after care. The drug is tapered down over a period of days. Also, antidotes are on hand should overdose occur from the drug.