Ambien–Sleep Medication That’s Addictive
Some years ago I met a woman in her 70’s who started taking Ambien, the sleeping pill, after her husband passed away. She couldn’t sleep without him, she said. Problem was, it’s usually prescribed for the short term, no more than a couple weeks at most, and she never stopped. “What’s the danger?” she asked. “I can think of worse things to be addicted to.”
She had a point with her second comment, but the fact remains: Ambien is addictive, according to WebMD: “Along with its benefits, this medication may rarely cause abnormal drug-seeking behavior. This risk may be increased if you have abused alcohol or drugs in the past. Take this medication exactly as prescribed to lessen the risk of addiction.”
HealthCentral offers these cautions:
Do not take a dose of this drug unless you have time for a full night’s sleep of at least 7 to 8 hours. If you have to wake up before that, you may have some memory loss.
Dosage is based on your medical condition, other medications you may be taking, and response to treatment. Do not increase your dose, take it more often, or use it for longer than prescribed.
Do not take more than 10 milligrams a day. Older adults are usually prescribed a lower dose to decrease the risk of side effects.
There have been reports of people exhibiting odd or even bizarre behavior when taking Ambien. Earlier this month a North Carolina man shot his estranged wife while on a dose of Ambien 12 times the recommended dosage (along with other medication). One of his lawyers said that, as a result of the pills, the man didn’t know what he was doing. Three years ago, www.cnnmoney.com listed people’s experiences on Ambien that included nocturnal eating, house painting and answering email, all unbeknownst to the pill-taker.
The WebMD site also notes that there are withdrawal reactions such as shakiness and nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps, and nervousness if someone stops the pills suddenly. These may be worse if they’ve been taking Ambien for a long time.
I keep hearing of more women who are taking Ambien to get to sleep. Like the woman I met years ago, they don’t see anything wrong with it. I have to admit I’ve had a few myself recently. But not often, and I’m wary. I don’t think they’re perfectly fine or safe.