Long term effects of Ambien addiction (INFOGRAPHIC)

Is Ambien addictive? Yes, Ambien is highly addictive. More here on how Ambien works + the consequences of use. If you find it useful, please SHARE it with your friends!

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Long term effects of Ambien addiction

Ambien (zolpidem) is highly addictive, so it’s usually not prescribed for periods longer than 4 weeks. More here on how you become addicted to Ambien and its risks.

Addiction = Can occur when users do not follow doctor’s recommendations or when the drug is taken for reasons unrelated to sleeplessness, but used by addicts to get high.

Long term effects of Ambien addiction (INFOGRAPHIC)

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Mechanism of Ambien action

1. Ambien binds to the alpha 1 subunit (BZ1 – or w 1-receptor subtypes) of the GABA(A) receptor associated with sleep promotion.

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2. Ambien potentiates GABA-ergic transmission, increases the frequency of chloride channel opening, resulting in the inhibition of neuronal excitation, eventually causing sedation.

3. In higher doses it binds the alpha(2), alpha(3) & alpha(5) subunits.

How addictive is Ambien?

The risk of Ambien addiction is HIGH. Ambien can cause strong cravings and drug-seeking behavior. It causes addiction by creating physical and psychological dependence.

Is damage caused by Ambien permanent or reversible?

Permanent damage Ambien can cause

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  • acute allergic reactions
  • acute kidney failure
  • angina pectoris, heart attack
  • glaucoma, loss of sight
  • liver damage
  • memory loss
  • respiratory failure

Reversible damage Ambien can cause

  • dry mouth, tooth caries
  • rhinitis, nose bleeding, sinusitis, ear inflammations
  • skin color change

How does Ambien addiction affect you?

Ambien effects on health

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  • alters the memory
  • damages the immune system
  • increases chances for fatal outcome
  • induces states of amnesia

Ambien effects on work

  • concentration difficulties
  • reduced attention capacity
  • sleep-driving
  • slow reflexes

Ambien effects on self esteem

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  • decreased self-esteem
  • fearlessness
  • suicidal thoughts or actions
  • worsening of depression

Ambien effects on relationship

  • detachment
  • emotional liability
  • may lead to interpersonal conflicts
  • more aggressive behavior
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.

22 Comments

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  1. is there an alternative to Ambien, that actually works. I can’t sleep without Ambien. And Yes I have been through all the sleep therapies including the sleep disorder clinic’s. And have tried several other medications but none of them worked.

    1. Hi Ron. Taperin, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication and alternative home remedies can all help with Ambien withdrawal. Check out these articles to learn more: https://prescription-drug.addictionblog.org/what-is-ambien-withdrawal/ or https://prescription-drug.addictionblog.org/how-to-stop-taking-ambien/. However, I suggest you consult your prescribing doctor so s/he can evaluate your situation and decide what the safest way. Also, you can call us so we can help you find the best detox program for you.

  2. Hi,

    I took ambien from 2008 oct. to May 2009 and till now i have strange problems with my nose.
    It feels stiffy, and also i feel some pressure.
    I know from a study that there are ENT symptoms associated with zolpidem.
    But in my case they did not dissapear completely.
    Has anybody experienced similar effects?
    And what can one do about it.

    Greetings from Austria,

    Anton

  3. I took Ambien (10mg) for the majority of 15-18 years straight (outside of my pregnancies). Even though I’ve been off of Ambien for 2 years, I’m not taking any other sleeping medication. The doctor had my quit cold turkey. Not because he thought of any signs of drug abuse but because of the side effects, me being on it so long and due to other medications. I’ve never taken it outside of what was prescribed. Orginally we tried Sonata, which helped fall asleep. But took a few hours to fall asleep and didn’t help to stay asleep.

    Needless to say, I’m going sleepless nights for 2 years now and I don’t want to tell my provider because they will just judge me thinking I’m trying to get back on Ambien. I don’t want to switch doctors because he won’t provide a medication. If he thinks it’s in my best interest, then so be it. When you find a good provider, we tend to stick with them. I never got addicted to the Ambien to where I couldn’t stop taking them. So I’m okay with not having the medication if it’s in my best interest. I’m concerned about the side effects long term after had stopped the medication.

    The side effect I’ve noticed is the memory loss; I do feel my doctor was right. I’m almost 40 yrs old and feel as if I have short term memory loss. My children and husband recognize I cannot remember much of anything the last several years it has worsen. Can you send me more information?

  4. I’ve been on 5mg of Ambien every night for over 10 years and have no known damage or side effects. I have been unable to find anything else that will put me to sleep. I only sleep about 4 hours a night, but it’s deep sleep. My labs all come up normal, but I experience more anxiety than I think I should, but this world isn’t easy, so anxiety seems like a pretty normal thing for a low income adult in an expensive, high paced city like Seattle. What makes it worse is someone on the internet saying I’m going to have a heart attack or permanent damage from it. And if so, why aren’t we all suing the company for making this crap that makes us addicted and could potentially kill us? Doesn’t the drug maker need to publish long term study results?

  5. I have been taking Zolpidem (Ambien generic) every night for about 10 years, usually 5 mg per night, sometimes 10 mg. I’ve been under doctor’s supervision, and we’ve discussed alternatives but found none so far. I’m 71 years old. Can you please send me the references you cite for long-term damage? Thank you.

  6. Can you please provide (or send me directly) the sources citing the severe adverse effects you noted (heart attack, glaucoma/blindness, organ failure, etc.)? I am a clinical pharmacist and have yet to come across any such data in available literature.

    Thank you.

  7. i was addicted to this drug for 5 years can take as much as 150 mg until a month ago i had seizure because i stop all of a sudden and didnt tartrate. i am now experiencing itch and sleep is almost impossible. the worst part is the itch which i would really like to be treated im dying to be treated. i went to see a md and she prescribed steroids im still feeling itchy land its getting worst and worst. this is so far a very dangerous drug to get hooked up to

  8. I was addicted to Ambien for 6 years. I quit 2 years ago and have had just a few restful nights since quitting. I attribute my recovery to meditation. I highly recommend doing meditation!!!!

  9. Does anyone have any information or experience of Ambien use causing permanent damage/disability in the form of 24/7 unremitting dizziness???

  10. I was on Ambien 10 every night for the last 6 years. 6 days ago I had 3 nights in a row I could not get in any kind of sleep. I felt like I was maybe only in a very light hypnotic sleep if at all. I was able to function during the day. I made the decision to go cold turkey off the Ambien 6 days ago. I can honestly say no withdrawal. Am I sleeping no. I am now about 9 nights straight of this very light in and out all night with a few nights of true sleep from 4am -8am. No way near enough sleep for me. I really do not feel any of the withdrawal symptoms listed. You will probably say call my dr. but why? Its done. Won’t my sleep eventually sync back? Should I see a sleep specialist?

  11. Can you provide references/citations for the permanent effects listed above? Are you saying that an elevated risk of heart attack is permanent/non-reversible (even after quitting Ambien), and, if so, what is the mechanism for that? Or is the point just that once a heart attack occurs, it is by definition not reversible?

    1. Hi Bill. Thank you for asking this, it’s actually a really good question. We didn’t realize that listing “heart attack” can be as confusing. But, yes, it was meant that heart attack is a possible side effect from long-term Ambien addiction, and the consequences of the heart attack can be present permanently throughout life. I can provide all reference sources via email if you’d like to explore more.

  12. Linda, I asked my sleep specialist [apnea] for help, but he didn’t know what to do. What I’ve read is you can’t do it cold turkey because of chance of seizures. I am 74 was only taking 5 mg. What I read online was you take it several days, then skip a day. That didn’t sound attractive to me [=I knew I couldn’t do it] so I broke off a little tiny bit every night so I was taking almost a whole pill. When I got used to that I broke off a little more and so forth. I said it took a month, but I think it was longer than that.. If you try this, you should definitely get doctor’s supervision. I never had symptoms of amnesia and eating without knowing, but I was feeling fuzzy in my thought process. I am glad I gave it up. I feel better. I occasionally have insomnia, but manage to live through it. Most of the time my sleep is the same as on the pill: waking up, turning over, going back to sleep, waking up, pee, go back to sleep, etc. With 10 mg it’ll be harder and take longer. Another thing I remember reading about insomnia was the suggestion you stay up later and get up later daily until you rotate around the clock, skipping one night eventually. I never tried that because it would interfere too much with my day time schedule playing bridge LOL.

  13. Your article suggests only taking Ambien for 4 weeks. I have taken 10mg. for 5 years under the supervision of my doctor. I do have some of your adverse effects. Alters memory, concentration difficulties, slow reflexes. But then I am 70 yrs. old. I also have balance difficulties due to spinal surgery with some spinal cord damage for fracture of vertebra (due to auto accident one year ago.). My daughter sees me stumble sometimes and relates this to being under the influence of Ambien and says I can not drive until I stop taking it. Your thoughts please.

    1. Hello Linda. Yo have been taking Ambien long-term, and that brings along certain side effects. If you are looking for more specific information about how to stop taking Ambien or whether you should quit or not, I’m sorry that I cannot provide such advise. I believe the best and safest option is to speak with your doctor and see if you will benefit from quitting Amien and what would be the best course of treatment for you.

  14. Since giving it up after 10+ years, I feel less fuzzy. It took a month of gradually making the pills smaller and smaller to do it. Three months later my sleep is about the same as it was on the drug.

    1. Hi Elinor. I’m glad you were able to persevere and stay strong through the process. One of the reasons why people are giving up in the early stages of quitting Ambien are the withdrawal symptoms. Particularly the insomnia and sleeping problems the medication produces as it’s leaving your system. But, I’m glad it’s all over now and I wish you all the best.

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