Getting High on Ambien: Side Effects and Dangers.
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Ambien highs can include euphoric feelings, vivid hallucinations, psychedelic trips, and anxiety-free sensations.
Although some people use Ambien to get high, the drug is highly addictive and can induce delusions, risk-taking behavior, and amnesia. Ambien can not only cause unpleasant effects such as vomiting and dizziness but can be fatal in worst-case scenarios.
What are the side effects of Ambien?
Ambien is a powerful sedative, which explains its typical use as a sleep aid. In addition to sought-after effects such as sleepiness, and the high-like effects such as the psychedelic qualities, Ambien use can also result in such unpleasant effects as:
- Unsteady walking
- Dry mouth
- Impaired judgment
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Ambien Recreational Value
Ambien (Zolpidem) is a very popular sleep aid used for short-term treatment of insomnia. Although it has different side effects and can lead to dependency, many people abuse the drug hoping to achieve an Ambien high. Some users experience pleasurable effects, reporting a subtle feeling that can be described as anxiety-free and relaxed.
In some cases, people might experience a real buzz and euphoria, especially when the drug is taken on an empty stomach or in high doses. Usually, people describe their Ambien use as a benzo-like trip or alcohol intoxication.
Other people attribute some psychedelic effects to Ambien, such as:
- Light feeling
- Pounding sensations
- Vivid movements in the peripheral vision
- Disturbances in sound perception
- Slurred speech
- Sudden affection
If a person doesn’t go to bed immediately after ingesting Ambien, they can experience strange and unique hallucinations, which may be frightening or lead to risky behavior. Users also claim that Ambien has therapeutic effects on them, as they leave their typical state of mind and indulge in the effects that the drug has on them.
The Dark Side of Ambien
Maybe one of the most dangerous effects of Ambien, when the drug is abused, is the fact that it can lead to sleepwalking and memory loss.
Many people engage in risk-taking behavior, such as sleep-driving or having sex with a stranger or consuming too much food (sleep binge eating) without having any memory of it. Sleep-driving as a result of Ambien use has particularly been reported as a major problem, research shows.
Many people who abuse Ambien for recreational purposes also snort the drug, which can be very painful and can damage their nasal cavity. Both snorting and injecting Ambien can lead to dangerous infections.
Ambien High Potential Dangers
Ambien, known on the streets as “ambo” and “zombies,” is very popular. Unfortunately, the recreational abuse of the drug has lead to an increased percentage of emergency room visits. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that the number of urgent cases keeps rising.
The drug can be very addictive and can cause severe withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, never stop Ambien abruptly and always contact your health professional for the right dosage, course of treatment, and adequate tapering down methods.
Many people with developed tolerances increase their intake, which can be lethal. Likewise, mixing Ambien with alcohol or other drugs can be fatal.
Users have reported that mixing Ambien with marijuana or MDMA can lead to disturbing hallucinations and dissociation, which can be dangerous not only to the user but also to the people around them. People report that benzos like Xanax mixed with Ambien mainly lead to blackouts. Depressants like Phenibut or alcohol are not recommended with Ambien as this combination can cause sedation. Other more rare drugs, such as Kratom and DXM, should be avoided as well after Ambien intake as this cocktail leads to uncomfortable visuals and blackouts.
Comorbid disorders may also occur while on Ambien and should be treated. Two cases show that people with mental illnesses abuse Ambien more than other individuals. Suicide following the ingestion of Ambien mixed with other drugs has also been reported. Always contact your doctor or pharmacologist in case you notice some unusual changes in your or a loved one’s behavior.
Who abuses Ambien?
The majority of people who take Ambien are women. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, during 2008 in the US, there were over 28,000 emergency room visits, related to the side effects of taking Ambien. Of those visits, 66% were women. Furthermore, 33% were over 65 years of age. However, the majority of effects on the older generation were due to metabolism changes rather than abuse. Furthermore, 5% of women in the US have prescriptions to Ambien whereas only 3% of men do, which highlights the clear disparity in the abuse of the drug between the two genders.
Over half the visits to the emergency room were people abusing Ambien, generally using it alongside opioids or other drugs which were causing side effects. This could be due to miscommunication between patient and doctor or deliberately trying to enhance a high. It could also be due to doctors’ lack of awareness of the drugs that cannot be mixed with Ambien due to their reaction.
Ambien addiction is much more common in teenagers and elderly adults, therefore the drug is no longer sold to anyone under the age of 18. This is because using Ambien earlier in life vastly increases the chances of addiction.
Why do people abuse Ambien?
Ambien is a drug that reduces social inhibitions, and like alcohol gives users a temporary escape from reality. This seems to be the main factor that draws users to the drug initially, before becoming addicted and reliant upon it.
But what causes people to initially turn to Ambien highs?
Chasing a High
One of the main causes for taking Ambien to achieve a high is the same as with many drugs. Exposure. When someone is exposed to a drug, they may be pressured into taking it, possibly by friends. When you begin to regularly consume a drug within a social group, it is difficult to stop taking it due to the peer pressure placed on you and others in the group, it almost becomes a trend. Furthermore, because the Ambien high only takes 15-30 minutes to take effect, it is often used as a replacement for alcohol during social events, due to its hallucinogenic qualities and ability to give the user a similar sensation to that of being drunk.
Escaping Mental Health Issues
Another reason why someone may abuse Ambien is to escape from mental health issues. As a hallucinogenic drug, a high will literally distort life. That is something many users desire from consuming Ambien. However, taking it as an escape from issues such as depression or anxiety could have the opposite effect when withdrawal symptoms kick in. That would mean that the person continues to take the drug to avoid withdrawal as well as having to slide back into the mental health issues that he or she was initially trying to avoid.
In addition to emotional dependence, Ambien can cause physical dependence and tolerance too. The more someone takes, the more the body adjusts to it and becomes accustomed to relying on it. This can then lead to people taking larger and larger doses to fall asleep which then quickly leads to them abusing the drug. Additionally, in this scenario, users aren’t always looking for an Ambien high, so they may be caught off guard by the side effects of the drug if they still cannot manage to fall asleep. Furthermore, they may not know how to deal with those side effects as they are taking more of the drug than their doctor originally prescribed.
Some people accidentally abuse Ambien. It is possible for the drug to be taken in the prescribed dose and still cause side effects. However, this is more due to the body of the user changing, for example, their metabolism changing with age or their BMI affecting the maximum dosage their body can take. This can also potentially lead to an accidental overdose.
Withdrawal Effects and the Dangers
Withdrawal from any drug at a time of detox is difficult. As with any drug, Ambien withdrawal has many side effects that can be dangerous if not managed correctly.
Withdrawal symptoms usually begin at the latest 48 hours after an Ambien high. The symptoms usually lessen and disappear within two weeks, however frequent abusers, those who took larger doses, or those who mixed Ambien with other drugs, may suffer for longer.
The most dangerous effects of withdrawal from Ambien are:
- Abdominal cramps
- Rapid heart rate and breathing (can lead to heart problems)
Other side effects include:
- Uncontrollable hysteria
- Mood swings
- Rebound Insomnia
- Panic attacks
These withdrawal symptoms illustrate the importance of seeking medical help when going through withdrawal, as Ambien is just as dangerous when you start to detox as it is when you are taking the drug. Your doctor will advise you on how to deal with your withdrawal and may recommend a psychologist, treatment center, help group or a combination of these things.
- Licata S. C., Mashhoon Y., Maclean R. R., Lukas S. E. Modest abuse-related subjective effects of zolpidem in drug-naive volunteers. Behavioural Pharmacology. 2011; 22(2): 160–166. doi:10.1097/FBP.0b013e328343d78a. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3077937/.
- Eslami-Shahrbabaki M., Barfeh B., Nasirian M. Persistent psychosis after abuse of high dose of zolpidem. Addiction and Health. 2014; 6(3-4): 159–162. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4354222/.
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