What is Ambien?

Approximately 50 to 70 million Americans experience a sleep disorder, per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In an attempt to treat this, authors Eric Matheson and Barry Hainer explain, “The number of prescriptions written for insomnia skyrocketed from 5.3 million in 1999 to 20.8 million in 2010.” Ambien, typically a last effort solution, is a brand name for Zolpidem. Ambien is a nonbenzodiazepine Z drug. Despite not belonging to benzodiazepines, it’s like them in nature. The primary purpose of Ambien is for short-term treatment of sleeping problems. It belongs to a class of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics. It is important for anyone with a prescription to use closely following a doctor’s orders. 

With those that have reached misuse, abuse, and addiction it is likely that a number of them are seeking to experience the high.

Ambien is a drug meant for use as someone needs it. For anyone with a prescription they do not have to worry about taking it consistently for fear of withdrawal. Still, it is possible to experience negative side effects even with proper use. Further, Ambien is commonly prescribed in the United States and there is a serious risk for misuse, abuse, and addiction. 

Reasons for misuse or abuse

For a lot of people using Ambien, legally or illegally, they are searching for help with sleep. As mentioned above, a significant number of Americans are dealing with sleep disorders. Sleep disorders make it difficult to function in daily life. Moreover, a serious lack of sleep has the potential to cause severe health problems. It is absolutely possible many using it have no intention to reach a place of serious abuse or addiction. However, as is the case with many drugs (illegal and illegal) it is possible to quickly get out of hand. 

What is the high?

With certain legal medical prescriptions it is possible to experience side effects like a high or a type of euphoric feeling. While some find these unpleasant side effects, others misuse and abuse for this very reason. For some Xanax, which works to calm anxiety, provides a euphoric feeling known as the Xanax High. Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic. A number of people misusing and abusing do so for the hypnotic qualities. It is, of course, possible that others abusing it are not chasing the high and do so for various other reasons. When taking a drug like Ambien, it is important that the person doing so goes to sleep quickly. Further, the effects of the drug have the potential to last a while. Some call this “Ambien hangover”. Thus, anyone with a prescription should always discuss with their doctor when it is safe again for certain activities like operating a vehicle. 

Certain side effects of Ambien may include:

  • Lightheaded
  • Unusual dreams
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty keeping balance
  • Feeling as if one is outside their own body
  • Hallucinations

There are many other potential side effects. Anyone with a prescription should always alert their doctor to severe symptoms that persist. 

As Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic, some users experience a decrease in anxiety, mild euphoria, and hallucinatory effects. Those pursuing the high are likely seeking to feel these effects. Ambien hallucinations are a well-known potential side effect. While this possibly sounds unpleasant to some, this is why others frequently abuse it. For those misusing and abusing Ambien, they often fail to realize the serious dangers.

Ambien Withdrawal and Ambien Overdose

Anyone considering Ambien as a solution should thoroughly discuss the benefits and the risks with their doctor. However they begin to misuse or abuse it, there are serious risks when this is done. Someone misusing Ambien for the high risks the potential to develop a tolerance. This leads to increasing the dosage to experience the same effects. Withdrawal symptoms are likely to be more severe with increased dosages. 

Certain withdrawal effects might include:

  • Agitation
  • Nervousness
  • Delirium
  • Sweating
  • Muscle cramps

Ambien overdose is a very real danger with misuse, abuse, and addiction. As a sedative, Ambien is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. This potentially includes slowing breathing, heart rate, and loss of consciousness. These symptoms often give off the appearance of sleeping, which causes many to miss that overdose is occurring. If you know anyone is using Ambien it is important to watch out for slowed breathing, heartbeat, drowsiness, and coma. It is, of course, important to call emergency services (911) right away if you suspect overdose.

Some people decide to snort drugs with the intention of experiencing a strong high or feeling the effects faster. For anyone abusing it, snorting Ambien might seem like a better way to feel the high. However, while this increases the high it also increases the negative effects. Additionally, to snort ambien is unsafe as snorting anything is never a good idea.


Ambien is meant for short-term use only. It should help resolve sleep issues and if not, it is important for patients to figure out other solutions with their doctors. With correct and short-term use, it shouldn’t be harmful. However, like nearly all drugs there is the potential for misuse, abuse, and addiction. There are many different reasons a person misuses and abuses Ambien. Some are dealing with sleep issues and initially intend to deal with that. Others are purely chasing the high.

Whatever the case, there is a serious risk in abusing Ambien including the risk of addiction, overdose, and death. If you or a loved one needs help, please contact us today.

Other Addiction FAQs

Browse through the following frequently asked questions to learn even more about the dangers and prevalence of Ambien:

How long does Ambien stay in your system?

Ambien is typically  in your system for approximately 11-14 hours. This is why it is still dangerous to engage in activities like operating vehicles the morning after. Some tests, like urine tests, might detect Ambien for up to 72 hours after. This, or any testing, will always vary by length of use, amount of use, and various individual factors including age, sex,and weight.

Are Ambien and alcohol safe to mix?

It is not safe. Ambien and alcohol are CNS depressants. They both suppress breathing and heart rates. Alcohol heightens the negative effects of Ambien. The risk of overdose and death increases significantly with Ambien and alcohol as a mix.

Is it possible to experience Ambien withdrawal?

If use is kept short-term, following a doctor’s orders, and only with a legal prescription there is not serious risk for withdrawal. However, with misuse, abuse, and addiction it is a possibility. It is important for anyone using it for more than two weeks to seek medical help to safely stop.

Is an Ambien overdose possible?

Yes, it is possible to experience an Ambien overdose. It is a CNS depressant and with a high enough dosage it is absolutely possible to cause overdose and death. With slowed breathing and a slowed heart rate, oxygen is cut off to the brain. 

Ambien Addiction Help at Reflections Recovery Center

At Reflections Recovery Center in Prescott, AZ, we take a different approach to prescription drug addiction rehabilitation. By combining clinical treatment and holistic therapies, we provide our clients with all the tools they’ll need to achieve a life free from addiction.

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