ADDICTION & RECOVERY

Long-Term Side Effects of Ambien

Jump to a section
Table of contents
Expand list

Ambien, also known as zolpidem, is a popular remedy for those tossing and turning at night, helping them drift off to dreamland by easing their minds and promoting sleep. While it's great for short-term relief, long-term Ambien use can lead to some negative outcomes. 

Risks of Long-term Ambien Use

There are various risks and side effects of Ambien long-term use, including:

  • Development of Tolerance
    • Over time, the body gets used to Ambien, requiring higher doses to achieve the same sleep-inducing effects.
    • Tolerance can lead to a cycle of increasing dependency on Ambien for sleep, making it harder to sleep without medication.
  • Cognitive Impairments
    • Long-term Ambien use has been associated with cognitive impairments, including memory problems and difficulties with attention and concentration.
    • These cognitive effects can impact daily functioning and quality of life for people who rely on Ambien for sleep.
  • Psychological Dependence
    • There's a risk of psychological dependence on Ambien, where users feel unable to cope with sleeplessness without the medication.
    • This can lead to a cycle of reliance on Ambien for sleep, making it harder to break the dependency and learn to fall asleep on your own.
  • Health Concerns
    • Long-term Ambien use may have additional health risks, including increased susceptibility to infections, daytime drowsiness, and impaired motor function.

Another major risk of taking Ambien for longer than prescribed is the risk of overdose and the challenges of withdrawal.

Ambien Overdose

Let’s take a look at the topics of Ambien overdose and how it is treated.

Symptoms of Overdose:

  • An Ambien overdose can lead to severe central nervous system depression, resulting in symptoms like extreme drowsiness, confusion, slowed or difficult breathing, and loss of consciousness.
  • Overdose symptoms could also include dangerously low blood pressure, weak or shallow breathing, fainting, and coma.
  • In severe cases, overdose can lead to respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest, or death.

Treatment:

  • In cases of Ambien overdose, immediate medical attention is crucial. Emergency medical services should be contacted, and the person suffering should be taken to the nearest emergency department for evaluation and treatment.
  • Treatment may involve supportive care to maintain vital functions, like airway management and ventilation support, as well as administration of antidotes if necessary.
  • Gastric lavage or activated charcoal may be used to reduce absorption of Ambien in cases of recent ingestion. 

Ambien Withdrawal

When one suddenly and significantly reduces or stops their Ambien intake, they will experience Ambien withdrawal.

  • Symptoms of Withdrawal:
    • Stopping Ambien use cold turkey or too quickly after prolonged use can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which could include rebound insomnia (worsened sleep problems), anxiety, agitation, irritability, and mood disturbances.
    • Physical withdrawal symptoms may also include headache, muscle aches, tremors, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.
    • In severe cases, withdrawal may result in hallucinations, delirium, or seizures.
  • Duration and Severity:
    • The duration and severity of Ambien withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on factors like the duration and dosage of Ambien use, individual metabolism, and presence of co-occurring medical or psychiatric conditions.
    • Withdrawal symptoms typically peak within the first few days after discontinuation and gradually subside over the course of one to two weeks. However, some people may experience protracted withdrawal symptoms (known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms, or PAWs) that persist for weeks or months.
  • Management and Treatment:
    • Management of Ambien withdrawal involves gradual tapering of the medication under the guidance of a healthcare professional to minimize the risk and severity of withdrawal symptoms.
    • Supportive care may include addressing symptoms as they arise, providing emotional support, and using non-medical strategies to promote sleep and manage anxiety.
    • In cases of severe withdrawal or complications, medical supervision and pharmacological interventions may be necessary to ensure safety and comfort during the withdrawal process.

How Long Can You Safely Take Ambien?

The short answer is a few days to a few weeks, but it varies from person to person. Ambien is meant to help with short-term sleep problems, not as a long-term fix. Using Ambien for too long can lead to long-term effects of Ambien, like needing higher doses to get the same effect, or even becoming dependent on it. That's why it's important to talk to your doctor if you're thinking about using Ambien for a while. They can help figure out the best plan for you, considering your health and other factors. If you're still having sleep troubles, there might be other options to explore together with your doctor.

Physical Side Effects of Long-Term Ambien Use 

There are various physical side effects that accompany long-term Ambien use, including: 

  • Tolerance Development:
    • Needing higher doses of Ambien over time to achieve the same sleep-inducing effect.
    • Increased risk of dependency, and difficulty sleeping without Ambien.
    • Physical discomfort including headaches, muscle aches, and nausea may also occur during withdrawal.
  • Daytime Drowsiness and Impaired Motor Function:
    • Increased susceptibility to daytime drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired coordination.
    • Higher risk of accidents or falls due to impaired motor function, especially in older adults.
  • Gastrointestinal Disturbances:
    • Possible gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.
    • Long-term use may contribute to digestive issues or discomfort.
  • Respiratory Problems:
    • Rare but serious side effects like difficulty breathing or shallow breathing, particularly when combined with other central nervous system depressants. 

Psychological Side Effects of Long-Term Ambien Use 

Aside from physical side effects, long-term Ambien use presents a host of psychological side effects. These include: 

  • Memory Impairments:
    • Long-term Ambien use has been associated with memory problems, including difficulties with memory recall and formation.
    • Increased forgetfulness and cognitive deficits may impact daily functioning.
  • Mood Changes:
    • Potential for changes in mood, including increased irritability, mood swings, or emotional instability.
    • Some individuals may experience heightened anxiety or depressive symptoms.
  • Psychological Dependence:
    • Risk of psychological dependence on Ambien, leading to a perceived inability to cope with sleeplessness without medication.
    • Emotional reliance on Ambien for sleep may contribute to difficulties in discontinuing use or seeking alternative sleep management strategies.
  • Cognitive Impairments:
    • Ambien use may impair cognitive function, affecting attention, concentration, and decision-making abilities.
    • Individuals may experience difficulties with mental clarity and processing speed.
  • Behavioral Changes:
    • Changes in behavior, such as increased impulsivity, agitation, or unusual behaviors during sleep (sleepwalking, sleep-eating) may occur with long-term Ambien use.
    • Some individuals may exhibit altered behaviors or personality traits, which can be distressing or disruptive to daily life.

How to Safely Take Ambien 

So, how can Ambien be used safely? If you’re considering starting on Ambien, be sure to keep in mind the following guidelines:

  • Stick to Your Prescription: Always follow your doctor's guidance on dosage and timing. Don't make any changes without consulting them first.
  • Use Mindfully: Reserve Ambien for when you truly need it to tackle sleep troubles. It's typically a short-term fix, so avoid leaning on it nightly without your doctor's nod.
  • Avoid Alcohol: Mixing Ambien with alcohol or other sedatives can lead to serious side effects, so steer clear of any combo.
  • Time It Wisely: Take Ambien right before bedtime, ensuring you've got a solid 7-8 hours ahead for quality sleep and to sidestep morning grogginess.
  • Set the Scene: Craft a cozy, sleep-friendly environment in your bedroom—think dim lighting, quiet surroundings, and a comfy setup.
  • Stay Alert: Keep an eye out for any side effects like dizziness or memory lapses, and promptly report any concerns to your healthcare provider.
  • Stay Grounded: Until you know how Ambien affects you, avoid activities like driving or operating machinery that require full alertness.
  • Stay in Touch: Maintain open communication with your doctor. If you have questions or notice any changes, they're there to help you navigate your Ambien use safely.

Help for Ambien Abuse

If you or someone you know is struggling with Ambien abuse, Avenues Recovery Center offers compassionate and personalized treatment to help you overcome addiction. Our experienced team provides expert care in a safe and supportive environment, with comprehensive services tailored to your needs. From drug detox treatment to therapy and aftercare planning, we're committed to supporting your journey to recovery. Contact us today to take the first step towards a healthier, happier life free from Ambien addiction.

Check your insurance

Thanks,
We received your insurance request!

We will get back to you shortly. While you wait... you may find our resource blog helpful. Take a look below:

VIEW ALL ADDICTION RESOURCES