September 5th, 2023
Zolpidem is a medication designed to grant serene, peaceful sleep to people suffering from different sleep disorders. While the drug does indeed provide sweet dreams for many people, for those who become addicted to zolpidem, life can become a neverending nightmare. Zolpidem addiction can be incredibly difficult to overcome, but help is available. Through a better understanding of how the drug works and what causes zolpidem addiction, you will be better informed to take the necessary steps to reclaim your life.
What is zolpidem?
Zolpidem, more commonly known under the brand names Ambien and Stilnoct, is a prescription medication primarily used for treating insomnia. It is part of the class of drugs commonly known as Z-drugs which are non-benzodiazepine hypnotics.
Zolpidem is designed to offer short-term relief from sleep disorders by promoting relaxation and sleepiness. It does this by enhancing the activity of GABA, a neurotransmitter that inhibits activity in the brain. This increased GABA activity results in sedation which then helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. However, while Z-drugs were designed to be less likely to cause sleeping pill addiction, Zolpidem addiction is still a real and present danger, particularly if it is taken other than as prescribed.
What is zolpidem addiction?
Zolpidem addiction is a physical and psychological dependence on the medication. Addiction can develop from:
- Recreational use: When you take zolpidem without a prescription for its calming or hallucinogenic effects.
- Prescription use: Taking zolpidem for longer or in higher doses than prescribed.
- Self-medication: This can be for chronic insomnia or for another condition.
However you start, frequent and excessive zolpidem use can quickly lead to tolerance, where you need more of the drug to get the same effects and eventually the development of physical and psychological dependence.
Once you are addicted to zolpidem, you will likely experience cravings and an inability to control or stop your zolpidem use, despite the negative consequences it brings to your life.
Am I addicted to zolpidem?
Recognising zolpidem addiction can be challenging, especially when its use starts as a prescribed treatment. Prescription drug addiction is a master at hiding in plain sight and convincing you and those around you that you need the medicine for genuine reasons. To help identify possible zolpidem addiction, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you take zolpidem in larger amounts or for longer than you are meant to?
- Do you often think about reducing your zolpidem usage or stopping altogether but fail to do so?
- Do you spend a lot of time obtaining, using or recovering from zolpidem?
- Have you experienced cravings or strong urges to use zolpidem?
- Has zolpidem use interfered with your responsibilities at work, school or home?
- Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, restlessness or tremors when you stop using zolpidem?
- Do you need to take more zolpidem than before to get the same effect?
If you find yourself answering ‘yes’ to several of these questions, it is likely that you are addicted to zolpidem and should seek professional help.
What causes zolpidem addiction?
Zolpidem addiction results from various factors that increase a person’s vulnerability. These risk factors include:
- Genetic predisposition: Genetic factors can make some people more susceptible to developing substance use disorders, including zolpidem addiction.
- Mental health disorders: People with anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions are at a higher risk of becoming addicted to zolpidem, often as a form of self-medication.
- History of trauma: Similarly, people suffering from unresolved trauma may also use zolpidem to soothe unpleasant thoughts or memories, ultimately leading to zolpidem addiction.
- Chronic insomnia: People with Long-term insomnia may misuse their medication due to desperation for sleep, increasing the risk of zolpidem addiction.
- Peer influence: Living in an environment with friends or family where drug misuse is common can increase the likelihood of zolpidem addiction.
- Ease of access: Easy access to zolpidem, especially through illegal channels, can also contribute to zolpidem addiction as it is easier to abuse it.
What are the effects of zolpidem addiction?
Zolpidem addiction can result in a number of immediate and chronic health complications. These side effects of zolpidem addiction include:
- Sleep-related issues: Zolpidem can cause complex sleep-related behaviours, such as sleepwalking, sleep-driving and engaging in other activities while not fully awake. It can also cause rebound insomnia, where you have even more trouble sleeping than before.
- Memory problems: Chronic zolpidem use can lead to anterograde amnesia, which means difficulty forming new memories.
- Psychiatric symptoms: Long-term use can result in hallucinations, agitation, anxiety and depressive symptoms. These can either be new mental health conditions or the exacerbation of existing ones.
- Overdose: High doses of zolpidem can lead to severe respiratory depression, coma and even death.
In addition to these health effects, zolpidem addiction can lead to:
- Occupational and educational problems
- Relationship difficulties
- Legal issues
- Financial struggles
- Social isolation
What are the signs of a zolpidem overdose?
When taken in doses much higher than prescribed or when combined with other substances like alcohol or sedatives, zolpidem can suppress the central nervous system to dangerous levels.
Signs of a zolpidem overdose can vary in severity, often depending on the amount taken and whether it was combined with other substances. Here are some signs to watch out for:
- Extreme drowsiness: This is often the first sign of an overdose. The person may seem unusually tired, struggle to stay awake or be unable to rouse from sleep.
- Slow or difficult breathing: A zolpidem overdose can depress the respiratory system, causing breathing to become slow, shallow or irregular. In severe cases, it may stop altogether.
- Pinpoint pupils: This is a common sign of many drug overdoses, including zolpidem.
- Impaired coordination: The person may have difficulty moving or walking, and their movements may appear clumsy or uncoordinated.
- Confusion or delirium: They may seem disoriented, have difficulty speaking or understanding, or they may experience hallucinations.
In severe cases, a zolpidem overdose can lead to unconsciousness or coma. In the most severe instances, an overdose can be fatal, especially if medical attention is not sought immediately. If you suspect a zolpidem overdose, it’s crucial to call emergency services immediately and explain what the person has taken.
Signs of zolpidem addiction in a loved one
Recognising zolpidem addiction symptoms in a loved one can be challenging, especially in the early stages. However, several subtle signs can hint at a developing problem:
- Multiple prescription packets: If there are multiple prescription packets from different doctors, this is a sign of doctor shopping, a common way for people with zolpidem addictions to get more of the drug.
- Physical signs: Look for physical signs such as coordination problems, slurred speech or appearing unusually tired or lethargic.
- Changes in sleep patterns: If a loved one is still struggling with sleep problems despite using zolpidem or if their sleep issues seem to worsen when they don’t take the medication, it may indicate a growing dependence.
- Mood swings or personality changes: Your loved one may seem unusually anxious, irritable or depressed and may also appear euphoric or relaxed shortly after taking the medication.
- Memory problems: If your loved one frequently seems forgetful or confused, especially shortly after taking the medication, this could be a sign of misuse.
- Neglecting responsibilities and social withdrawal: If your loved one begins to isolate themselves or lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, it could be a sign of a growing addiction.
If you observe any of these zolpidem addiction symptoms, it’s crucial to approach your loved one with concern and empathy and encourage them to seek professional help.
How can you recover from zolpidem addiction?
Zolpidem addiction treatment usually begins with detox, where the drug is gradually withdrawn under medical assistance to manage withdrawal symptoms. Following this, a comprehensive rehab programme involving various therapies and holistic treatments will address the underlying issues that led to zolpidem addiction and equip you with the skills needed to maintain sobriety.
How to get help for zolpidem addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling with zolpidem addiction, don’t despair. Oasis Runcorn has a dedicated and professional team ready to guide you on your path to recovery. We provide evidence-based treatment in a supportive environment to help you reclaim your life from the grip of zolpidem addiction. Contact us today to start your journey towards a healthier, zolpidem-free life.