Ambien (Zolpidem): Addiction & Abuse Potential

Last Updated: June 30, 2020

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Zolpidem medication is indicated for treating patients who chronically suffer from difficulties with sleep initiation. Ambien medication helps to fall asleep and prolong the duration of the sleeping session by providing the calming effect. The aim of this article is to discuss the properties of the sleeping pill zolpidem, highlight its brand names, purposes for prescription, and ways of preventing drug abuse.

Generic And Brand Names

Zolpidem (Ambien generic version) is a medication for treating insomnia. There are several zolpidem brand names of different formulations: Ambien, Ambien CR, Intermezzo, Edluar, Zolpimist.

13 zolpidem manufacturers have received FDA approval for production tablets: Mylan Pharmaceuticals, TEVA Pharmaceuticals USA, Roxane Laboratories, Watson Laboratories, Ranbaxy Laboratories, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Apotex, Synthon Pharmaceuticals, Genpharm, Mutual Pharmaceutical Company, Caraco Pharmaceutical Laboratories, Carlsbad Technology, and Lek Pharmaceuticals.

Ambien Prescription

The drug is available only by prescription according to the Ambien prescription rules. There is no over the counter version and no one can get Ambien without prescription; otherwise, all other methods are illegal. Still, there are alternatives that one can consider. These include prescription alternatives to Ambien, as well as over the counter ones.

Drug Class: What Type Of Drug Is Ambien?

Is Ambien A Controlled Substance?

Yes, zolpidem tartrate is a federally controlled substance. Ambien is a Schedule IV drug classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Such Ambien classification means that it has a potential for abuse and physical dependence.

Is Ambien A Narcotic?

No, it is not a narcotic. The drug affects the chemicals in the brain providing the sedative effect and helping to relax and fall asleep. However, it is recommended only for short-term use because in a longer period it may cause dependence and inability to stop the usage.

Is Ambien A Benzo?

No, because it refers to a different class of medicines, nonbenzodiazepines, also known as Z-drugs, and much less likely to be habit-forming. Despite, Z-drugs have different chemical compositions from benzodiazepines, they provide similar effects by influencing the levels of GABA receptors to calm activity in the brain. Also, the drug acts as a muscle relaxant with anti-seizure effects and provides a sedative effect so primarily physicians prescribe Ambien for sleep, insomnia, and depression, as well as prescripted benzodiazepines.

Is Ambien A Barbiturate?

No, barbiturates are another drug class that treats insomnia and anxiety. Also, being the central nervous system depressants, they are considered to be more addictive than zolpidem drug class. That is why doctors try not to prescribe barbiturates for treating sleeping disorders and giving preference to nonbenzodiazepines and benzodiazepines.

Ambien Ingredients

The active and inactive ingredients of zolpidem are as follows:

Active Ingredient: zolpidem tartrate.

Inactive Ingredients: low substituted hydroxypropyl cellulose, hypromellose, lactose, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, polyethylene glycol, polysorbate 80, sodium starch glycolate and titanium dioxide; the 5-mg tablet also contains black iron oxide & red iron oxide.

Ambien Abuse

Sometimes after taking recommended Ambien dosage, patients struggle with achieving restful sleep. They experience a range of feelings, including staying awake on Ambien. This is one of the signs of abuse. In such cases, patients should address this issue with a doctor and adjust the dosage accordingly.

Can One Snort Ambien?

Despite it is physically possible, no one should be engaged in snorting Ambien. Injecting the drug via nasal cavity omits the digestive tract and the liver, and go directly into the bloodstream. Users who tend to apply the substance by snorting for zolpidem recreational use can get nasal infections, irritation of nasal passages, loss of smell sense, and have a higher chance of overdosing.

Can One Crush Ambien And Drink It?

Crushing Ambien and dissolving the substance in the liquid is often used for sexual assault. So, the drug is added to a drink without the person knowing it, because zolpidem almost does not change the taste of the beverage. After adding high doses of zolpidem to carbonated beverages, there was little change in taste and also some visible changes as froth and turbidity. This means that in the sparkling beverages, one is more likely to notice the presence of zolpidem to avoid sexual assault.

Can You Smoke Ambien?

Smoking Ambien is an unapproved way of ingestion, so it is considered as abuse. Smoking zolpidem may result in respiratory disorders and even cancer. Some heavy users combine zolpidem with tobacco or marijuana. Zolpidem and marijuana enhance the central nervous system depressant effects, leading to significantly increased feelings of lethargy, confusion, cognitive issues, and difficulty concentrating.

Also, users mention vaporizing and inhaling the drug to get Ambien high. Abuse in such a way, one faces with extremely potent reaction because the drug reaches the bloodstream and brain even more quickly than it does when it is snorted. Despite the effects of smoking or vaporizing disappear relatively quickly, the substance remains in the bloodstream for a longer period and increases the possibility of Ambien overdose.

Is Ambien Addictive?

Yes, Ambien is habit-forming and can develop tolerance. The drug is not recommended for long-term use because it leads to zolpidem addiction. The Ambien half-life is short, so medication may cause both physical and psychological dependence shortly after the last dose. Zolpidem should be prescribed and taken cautiously if the patient has substance abuse history, including prescription and over the counter medicines, street drugs, and alcohol. Zolpidem addiction signs include:

  • increased anxiety;
  • consumption of higher dosages than prescripted;
  • manipulative behavior in order to get an extra supply of pills;
  • purchasing the drug illegally;
  • experience of Ambien withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop or unable to cease the usage;
  • strong cravings.

How To Stop Ambien Addiction

Zolpidem is effective and quite safe if used as prescribed for a short period. However, dismissing the instructions and prolonging the usage can cause severe Ambien side effects and develop an addiction. According to the research, the use of zolpidem in combination with other medications and/or alcohol was associated with an increased likelihood of being transferred to the hospital including the intensive care unit. In case of any adverse symptoms, one should call the doctor and get the proper addiction treatment. If one struggles to stop using the drug, it is recommended to seek for Ambien addiction treatment that includes detoxification, psychotherapeutic care, and aftercare. The professional help in drug rehabs in case of abuse is very important.

Page Sources

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Published on: October 2nd, 2015

Updated on: June 30th, 2020

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.


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