What is Ambien?

One of the most familiar medications that belong to a class of drugs known as the sedative-hypnotics, Ambien is a sleep aid that is prescribed for those having sleep issues like insomnia. It works to relax excessive electrical activity in the brain causing the user to relax and fall asleep easily.  It was approved by the FDA for use in 1992 as a professionally prescribed medication and its nonexclusive variant, Zolpidem, has likewise been accessible starting around 2007.


However, it was synthesized in such a manner less habit-forming than benzodiazepines, similar to valium and barbiturates, prolonged usage can still cause dependence and addiction. It is recommended for usage only for the short term. Excessive unmonitored usage can cause severe physical and psychological impacts. Side effects that are severe and quite dangerous also occur if the medication is abused by taking higher dosage amounts. 


Why should Ambien not be abused?

Ambien should be taken only as per the dosage instructions of your physician. Once it is consumed, the effects of the drug last for about 7-8 hrs, and during this time one is advised to have a proper undisturbed night’s sleep. First-time users of the drug should avoid performing any activities the following morning that require high levels of concentration. The effectiveness of the drug is not completely gone and due to it lingering it increases the chances of the person getting hurt. Due to the sedative effects and hypnotic effects of the medication, those having a history of mood or mental disorders such as depression are highly advised against the usage of the medication due to the capability of the medication triggering these conditions. 

Ambien also causes short-term side effects such as,

  • Euphoria
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Memory loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of physical coordination
  • Hallucinations

If taken for a long time without proper guidance, long-term side effects also occur and some of these side effects can cause permanent damage to your health too. 


Long-term side effects of Ambien

When doctors prescribed Ambien for sleep disorders, they do not recommend it to be taken for more than two weeks due to the increased risks of developing tolerance and physical dependence. Long-term usage can cause the medication to lose its effects after which the individual feels the need to take higher amounts of medication to be able to relax and fall asleep. Ambien is to be taken only two nights in a row and if there is no significant improvement, talk to your doctor and go for alternative treatment options. Usually, physical causes of insomnia can be treated using the medication but if they are due to emotional or psychological underlying causes, further examination needs to be done to treat the primary factor causing insomnia. 


Consumption of the medication for a duration longer than necessary is what is known as misuse and abuse of the medication and that can be incredibly dangerous. In addition to the increased risk of dependence and tolerance, an overdose of the medication can cause excessive sedatives. If timely help is not given it can lead to coma and in extreme cases even death. The following are the symptoms of overdose. 

  • Vomiting
  • Severe sedation and unconsciousness
  • Staggering
  • Stopped breathing
  • Breathing problems, including shallow, uneven, or very slow breathing
  • Unresponsive to stimuli


Other long-term physical symptoms of Ambien:

Extreme tiredness during the daytime:

Daytime drowsiness is one of the normal results of Ambien. This side effect can be felt even if you are a first-time user of the medication in fact it is more significantly felt. Consistent use of the medication for more than two weeks can lead to increased sedation, unsteady gait, and excessive sleepiness. Too much Ambien consumption can cause one to fall asleep in random situations which are highly dangerous. 


Dizziness and unsteadiness:

The working of Z-drugs is similar to the working of alcohol. Both are CNS depressants and attempt to stifle the action of the cerebrum and the sensory system. The components of the medication impact the GABA receptors to create a general sense of relaxation and calm. Unlike alcohol, Ambien targets more specific areas in the brain. Putting it forth in a simple manner, the after-effects of taking Ambien will be similar to that of a person who has consumed too much alcohol but there will be no odor or any indication that they are taking these meds. The cognitive abilities of the person are highly impaired which leads to poor decision-making. an unsteady gait that leads to frequent falls and injuries is also a concerning side effect of the pill. 


Memory loss:

As mentioned earlier, Ambien works similar to that of alcohol. Excessive intake of the medication can cause frequent blackouts and memory loss which is a clear indication that the individual is abusing the medication. Due to its blackout effects, the medication is often misused as a date rape drug. This causes the victim to fall unconscious and not have no memory of the events that happened.  Memory loss issues can influence one’s capacity to work proficiently and navigate to school, work, or social circumstances.


Increased risk of cancer:

A study published by a British Medical Journal reported the correlation between excessive consumption of Ambien pills and cancer and it has been concluded that those who have been taking high doses of the medication for a long time are highly exposed to the risk of getting cancer. Though the exact cause of the condition is not revealed, it is to be noted that abuse of all these prescription medications elevates the risk. 


Complications during pregnancy:

Ambien is not recommended for use in pregnant women due to causing risks to the fetus. If one is pregnant and suffering from insomnia conditions, they should talk to their doctor about other alternative treatment methods rather than taking this medication. 


How to stop using the medication:

It can be difficult to stop the usage of the medication in those who started using it for the sole purpose of getting high. In such circumstances, supervised medical detox is recommended. The withdrawal symptoms typically last for about 48 hrs after taking this drug. 

When the detox is finished, the following stage is to guarantee that the individual goes through a total rehabilitation program to recuperate from the substance misuse. Subjecting them to cognitive-behavioral therapy is highly beneficial as it not only reduces the urge to take the drug often but also treats mental conditions that cause excessive nighttime anxiety and insomnia. 


Don’t lose hope, you are not the only person traveling down this road. Talk to your healthcare professional and always seek the necessary help required.

Once you are used to the effects of the drug, it can be difficult to stop it on your own accord, and that is why you need the help of a professional. 


Leave a Comment