One Prescription Isn’t Enough: Ambien Addiction

Calendar icon Last Updated: 07/16/2024

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Ambien Prescription: Dangers of Prolonged Use

Dependence, cognitive impairment, and increased risk of accidents are just some of the hidden dangers lurking beneath the surface of this seemingly innocent sleep aid.

Older Adults: Don’t Get Lured by the Sleeping Pill Myth

Many in the United States turn to sleeping pills for occasional sleep issues. However, for older adults, these medications can become a crutch and disrupt natural sleep patterns.

However, for older adults, it can become a risky crutch. Unlike natural sleep, Ambien, a sedative hypnotic, relaxes muscles and brings drowsiness, but it might leave you feeling unrested after a few hours. This can disrupt natural sleep patterns. 

The bigger concern is dependence. Regular Ambien use increases the risk of your body relying on it for nightly sleep. Ambien is a CNS depressant, slowing brain activity and potentially making it hard to function without the drug. 

Don’t get trapped in a cycle of dependence. Talk to your healthcare professional about alternative treatment options for insomnia. There are safer, non-habit forming solutions to achieve restful sleep. Be sure to know the warning signs of Ambien Addiction.


Doctor shopping, or using a series of doctors to gain multiple prescriptions, is a fairly commonly understood practice. As the rates of prescription pill abusers rises, more prescriptions are needed to provide the desired medication and one way to access that medication is to find doctors who will supply it.

A study focused on opioid pain medication prescribing estimated 0.7% of purchasers—presumed to be doctor shoppers—obtained 32 prescriptions from 10 different prescribers. Overall, they bought 1.9% of all opioid prescriptions, constituting 4% of weighed amounts dispensed.

And, those numbers don’t even take into account users of central nervous system medications like Valium, stimulants like Adderall, or sleeping medications like Ambien. When those are included, the number of doctor shoppers and related prescriptions and drugs further increases to alarming numbers.

Are you one of the many who are seeking out multiple Ambien prescriptions? Do you need help to stop?

How Common is Prescription Drug Abuse?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse charted trends in the prevalence of nonmedical use of psychotherapeutics (frequency with which people abuse prescription medications) and found:

Ages 12-17

  • Lifetime 9.20 percent
  • Past year: 6.20 percent
  • Past month: 2.50 percent

Ages 18-25

  • Lifetime 26.30 percent
  • Past year: 11.80 percent
  • Past month: 4.40 percent

Ages 26 or older

  • Lifetime 20.90 percent
  • Past year: 4.50 percent
  • Past month: 2.10 percent

There is a huge leap between the 12-17-year-old group and the 18-25-year-old group because 18 marks the age at which patients can obtain and fill their own prescriptions, allowing for individuals bent on obtaining access to medication for nonmedical use to seek out willing prescribers.


Effects of Ambien

When Ambien abusers doctor shop, they end up with far more of the drug than any one doctor would allow them to take. This means that abuse often turns to overdose, which magnifies effects like:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor concentration
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with movement and memory
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Slowed breathing

Sleep medications like Ambien are also used as date rape drugs. It is worth considering that people are voluntarily putting themselves in the position of being incapable of fighting off an attacker or making conscious decisions. The side effects of Ambien, especially when used in the large doses that doctor shopping allows, are dangerous and may be life threatening.

Because slowed breathing is an effect of Ambien, if it is taken in larger doses, it can slow breathing to the point of coma or death. If taken in combinations with alcohol (as many abusers do) it will further slow breathing and heart rate, increasing the likelihood of death or coma.

Ambien Addiction

An essay in Glamour magazine references the following statistics from a February 2008 report by IMS Health, a pharmaceutical-industry research firm:

  • Pharmacists filled more than 54 million prescriptions for sleep drugs in 2007.
  • That’s up 70 percent from 2002.
  • In 2005 pharmaceutical companies netted more than $2.7 billion from prescription medications for insomnia.

Given the necessity for sleep and the number of advertisements for sleep medication flooding magazines, televisions, and the internet, those numbers continue rising.

But, why the addiction?

For people who suffer from insomnia, sleep is a rarely enjoyed relief. With a traditional job, people don’t have the luxury of going to sleep at 4 a.m. and rising when their body would like to at noon. Instead, they get an hour of sleep at best and move forward with their day. Some nights, there might be time for six hours of sleep, but the time runs away as you lie staring at the clock, panicked that you are facing another night without sleep, a victim of sleep anxiety.

How much better it would be to sleep like a “normal” person. No wonder that people accept Ambien and its effects with open arms. We all deserve to sleep. And that first Ambien induced night of sleep is glorious. When you get a prescription, you have the opportunity to slip into a deep sleep whenever you need it. But, the prescription may limit you to only a few doses, only to be taken in cases of extreme insomnia, per week. What then? Then you find other doctors. Soon, you are falling asleep nightly, but you may also be sleep eating, dozing off in the car or bath, washing the pills down with a nightly cocktail, or engaging in sexual activity you don’t remember. Things can get bad.

There is a reason that doctors limit patient access to medication. If you feel that you aren’t getting enough Ambien and your solution is to seek out an additional prescription, think again. If you have already obtained multiple prescriptions, it’s time to talk to someone who can help you.