The Everyday Dangers of Prescription Ambien Abuse and Where to Find Help

The dangers of sleeping medication abuse can go unnoticed in the bustle of everyday life. But recognizing the addictive potential of Ambien and the damage that it can do is a crucial precursor to making the first move toward recovery. After recognizing your need for help, you will understand why treatment is necessary and you’ll be one step closer to breaking free from substance abuse.

The stresses of motherhood were hard on Adrienne. While coffees helped her balance her demanding work and home lives, they often resulted in long, sleepless nights of staring up at the ceiling. Even when she was exhausted, her thoughts kept her awake. Between paperwork, meetings, and errands, she had plenty to think about. Her doctor eventually prescribed Ambien for her insomnia. But as her tolerance increased, so did her doses, and she found herself depending on the drug to calm her mind after her caffeine-fueled days.

Prescribed for insomnia and previously believed to be less dangerous than benzodiazepines, sleeping medications like Ambien are often prescribed without initial concern, thanks to our increased awareness of benzodiazepines withdrawals. And when it comes to coping with a busy lifestyle, using prescription drugs like Ambien, Adderall, and Xanax are, in many cases, considered fairly socially acceptable. After all, if it’s in the name of productivity, what’s the harm? But the dangers of Ambien abuse are often underestimated.

An addiction to Ambien can make it nearly impossible to sleep without it. In some cases, people have fallen so far into addiction that although the drug no longer helps them sleep, they continue taking it simply to prevent withdrawal. If you suspect that you are dependent on—or developing an addiction to—Ambien, residential treatment can provide you with the tools you need to uncover the roots of your problem and develop a more adaptive living routine that doesn’t rely on the artificial sedation provided by sleeping medication.

Recognizing the Addictive Potential of Ambien


With the dangers of benzodiazepine abuse at the forefront of the field of addiction study, doctors are much more hesitant to prescribe them now than in the past. But although drugs like Ambien are believed to have less addictive potential than their benzodiazepine counterparts, Z-drugs like Ambien can still be very dangerous when abused. Remember: just because you’ve been prescribed Ambien by a doctor doesn’t mean that it’s 100% harmless. If you exceed your prescribed dosage or find that you can’t sleep without it even after the initial prescription period ends, it may be time to take a hard look at your pattern of use and the resulting effects on your life.

Some common symptoms of Ambien abuse include:

  • Persistent drowsiness
  • Mental confusion
  • Memory disturbances
  • Slowed reaction and thinking times
  • Shakiness
  • Mood swings
  • Stomach pain
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea
  • Blurred vision
  • Lower pulse rate
  • Slowed breathing

While sleeping medications like Ambien can be a great tool to overcome temporary insomnia, they are not meant to be used for long periods of time. Unfortunately, their perception as relatively benign alternatives to benzodiazepines means that doctors are much more willing to prescribe them, and patients are much more likely to abuse them, unwittingly or otherwise. Dependency can lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including seizures. If this sounds scarily familiar, it’s because benzodiazepines can cause the same.

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Understanding Why Treatment is Necessary


Medications like Ambien dampen the arousal levels in your brain by acting on GABA receptors, making it easier to sleep. But coming off them leads to the opposite—heightened levels of arousal. Treatment is necessary not only to provide a medically supervised detox that prevents dangerous withdrawal symptoms like seizures, it provides the coping skills necessary to develop healthy ways of reducing your arousal in the face of these stresses.

Treatment accomplishes this by providing:

  • In-depth psychological treatment through formal testing, clinical interviews, and ongoing observation of your psychological state. Whether you’re having trouble sleeping because of your high-caffeine diet, an anxiety disorder, or another co-occurring disorder like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), professional intervention is crucial to identify the causes of your addiction. Undiagnosed mental health disorders are a big contributor to substance abuse, and uncovering them is necessary to craft the right treatment plan. Without properly addressing them, you are much more likely to relapse.
  • Holistic therapies hold plenty of potential for people struggling with insomnia. One of the most stressful parts of withdrawing from sleeping medication is the lack of sleep, which can exacerbate other symptoms such as anxiety. Using therapies such as mindfulness meditation can promote a calmer state of mind and help you develop the habits necessary for healthy sleep.
  • Lifestyle changes such as eating a more well-balanced diet and routine exercise can help you make huge steps in the recovery process. While sticking to these changes can be hard in the face of your everyday life, treatment provides you with a comforting and nurturing environment to develop these healthy habits. Once you integrate these habits into your treatment plan, will you see first-hand just how much of a positive impact they can have on your psychological state. The end goal is to transition into everyday life with these adaptive tools at hand.

Breaking Free of Substance Abuse


A comprehensive residential treatment program provides you with the many tools and support networks necessary to address and resolve your Ambien addiction. Using the skills you learn in treatment and drawing upon the experiences you share with others on parallel journeys, you will be able to break free of substance abuse and move forward with your life.

Through the support offered in residential treatment, Adrienne was able to address her underlying Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and learn how to calm her mind in preparation for sleep using holistic methods. Her new lifestyle includes yoga, meditation, and a personalized diet focusing on whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, which together promote a calmer state of mind and reduced levels of anxiety.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions.
Contact us to learn more about our renowned programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.