It’s sometimes hard to understand that supposedly helpful medication can end up causing problems. Such is the case with many sleep aids, including Ambien. When receiving treatment for this habit-forming drug, there are both physical and psychological aspects to consider.
Facts About Ambien
When people struggle with insomnia due to addiction detox, chronic pain, grief, health- or work-related issues, mental health conditions, stress, trauma, and other problems, they might try some over-the-counter (OTC) options for a while. But if those don’t work, they often seek help from physicians for something stronger, like Ambien, a brand name for zolpidem tartrate.
Sanofi-Aventis manufactures two prescription sleep aids:
- Ambien, which is an immediate release formula. It’s intended as “a prescription medicine for the short-term treatment of adults who have trouble falling asleep.”
- Ambien CR, which is an extended release formula. Its purpose is “a prescription medicine for treatment of adults with trouble falling asleep and/or waking up often during the night.”
Dosage amounts differ for women and men but average between 5mg and 10mg per tablet.
A typical Ambien or Ambien CR prescription is for 10–15 days. If someone can use the medication to achieve a minimum of 7–9 hours of uninterrupted rest each night, this helps break the cycle of sleeplessness and allows their circadian rhythms to reset.
Why Ambien Is Habit-Forming
Technically, sleeping pills aren’t supposed to be addictive. However, Ambien and Ambien CR are classified as “sedative-hypnotics“. This means they interact with the brain’s neurotransmitters to induce a calming effect to either encourage immediate sleep or maintain uninterrupted sleep.
The impact of Ambien and Ambien CR on the brain is one reason why these sleep aids might alter someone’s behavioral pattern and create a problem. Similar to other substances, these medications manifest a biological change in the brain’s reward center, which prompts some people to develop a dependency.
Additionally, some people use forms of zolpidem, such as Ambien or Ambien CR, as an illicit drug, referring to it by street names such as A-minus, deathmoth, no-gos, sleepeasy, tic-tacs, and zombie pills. People report experiencing hallucinogenic effects from the drug if they force themselves to stay awake.
The Sleep Foundation estimates that up to 60 percent of people experience insomnia, and of that number, nearly 30 percent suffer with chronic insomnia. The psychological effects of worrying about sleep, not getting enough rest, and the daytime ramifications of sleeplessness cause some people to take Ambien or Ambien CR longer than prescribed, ask for an increased dosage, or seek out different doctors to get a new script.
It’s unlikely a physician will prescribe these sleep aids to someone with a personal or family history of:
- Alcohol or substance use disorder
- COPD and other respiratory complications
- Liver or kidney disease
- Sleep apnea
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
Treatment for Ambien Addiction
As part of a whole-person comprehensive treatment plan, the medical team at Cottonwood Tucson conducts a supervised detoxification program to gradually reduce Ambien dependence. While the initial detox may only last a few days, some individuals might experience withdrawal symptoms for four-to-six weeks, including:
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Headaches and muscle aches
- Digestive discomfort or nausea
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Trouble adjusting to new sleep habits without the drug, such as rebound insomnia
It’s not advisable for someone with an Ambien addiction to withdraw from Ambien or Ambien CR, by switching to another sleep aid or abruptly stopping the medication altogether after prolonged use. This might make withdrawal symptoms even worse or cause more severe side effects.
Another important component of Ambien addiction treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy and other therapeutic methods to determine the origin factors of sleeplessness. For example, the Mayo Clinic states that “Chronic insomnia is usually a result of stress, life events, or habits that disrupt sleep. Treating the underlying cause can resolve the insomnia, but sometimes it can last for years.” So part of your continuum of care plan might also include:
- Methods for mindfulness to help reduce stress
- Addressing issues with anxiety and other co-occurring disorders
- Pursuing EMDR therapy to help heal from trauma
- Using yoga and other relaxation methods to encourage better sleep
- Establishing new routines and rituals to foster better sleep hygiene
Helping someone adapt from previous behaviors to more progressive wellness is one of the primary benefits of professional, individualized treatment.
Find the Answers at Cottonwood Tucson
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