More Than Just an Ordinary Addiction
You lie there in bed, but the events of the day continue to flood the mind. That angry client, that project that just can’t seem to be completed, the looming deadline, that aggravating call from the children’s principal: No matter how much you try to relax, you can’t. you toss and turn, and even if you do manage to fall asleep, it’s a restless slumber with the pressures and anxieties of modern life overloading your circuits. The next day it starts all over again, and, on top of everything else, you feel too tired to move. You’re tired and your emotions are close to the surface, creating a vicious cycle of fatigue and insomnia. You just need some relief.
That’s how it starts.
After a glass of warm milk and soft music fail to do the trick, many people, frustrated with lack of sleep, turn to more powerful chemical sedatives and relaxants to get the job done. Developed in the early nineties, Zolpidem became popular in recent years, particularly after the U.S. FDA approved 13 generic uses in April of 2007.
Known by its trade name of Ambien, Zolpidem is a medication used for short-term treatment of insomnia as well as some brain disorders. Today, like many other Schedule IV drugs, it can be obtained without a prescription through the internet. It is fast acting, usually taking effect within fifteen minutes, but its effects remain in the body fro a very short time, usually only two or three hours.
The United States Air Force uses Ambien as one of its “no-go” pills, to help pilots sleep after a mission. (It is used to counter the effects of the “go-pills,” used to stimulate them prior to the mission).
Most doctors only recommend the use of Ambien for a few days, or, at most, for two weeks. It is approved however, for up to six weeks for the treatment of insomnia. It has a hypnotic effect, similar to those of the benzodiazepine class of drugs, like Xanax, but, it’s molecular structure is distinct from them.
Ambien has joined the ranks of recreation drugs amongst the youth in recent years. Users “fight” the effects of the drug, forcing themselves to stay awake in order to experience mild euphoria, vivid visual, hypnotic, effects, as well as a “body highs.” While prescribed orally, when the drug is used for recreational purposes, it is sometimes crushed and snorted, or cooked for intravenous injection.
Ambien has been in the news recently with the death of Heath Ledger, the up and coming co-star of the latest Batman film. He had been taking Ambien in the weeks prior to his death last January. In the media storm surrounding his death, Jack Nicholson told reporters that he had amost driven over a cliff once while under the influence of Ambien.
Yet, even those who aren’t looking for the latest high can abuse and become addicted to Ambien. Like any drug which effectively treats a persistent problem, Ambien lends itself to habituation. It becomes much easier to reach for a pill to help one fall asleep, than to struggle with the underlying causes of insomnia.
Further, Ambien addiction is much harder to detect than other drug addictions. Friends and family will have difficulty recognizing the symptoms of abuse, especially in its earlier stage of use, when the user will actually seem healthier and more rested than he/she had been in the past. In addition, one need not abuse drugs daily to have a problem with addiction. Oftentimes the pattern of abuse can be occasional, as well as habitual. Further, the taking and abuse of sleeping pills does not carry the same social stigma associated with the world of illicit drug use. All of these factors may make it harder for an abuser, or those around him/her to recognize the presence of abuse and take actions to treat the addiction.
Some symptoms of Ambien abuse include extreme mood swings, relief from anxiety when using the drug, false bravado, preoccupation with running out of the drug, and unpleasant or painful feelings when Ambien is not being administered. In addition, an abuser of Ambien is sometimes subjected to hallucinations, or an increased sensitivity to sights and sounds.
If one uses the drug over an extended period of time, the body will develop a tolerance for the drug, and larger doses will be need to achieve the same initial effects. Further, if one suddenly stops taking the drug, the may be serious side effects and symptoms of withdrawal. One should never discontinue the use of Ambien without consulting a physician or seeking medical treatment. In some cases, discontinuation, without proper supervision, can be life threatening. If an Ambien addiction exists, patients need to taper off its use, to allow the body to detoxify, and minimize harmful withdrawal symptoms. In addition, counseling is recommended to prevent reoccurrence of addiction to Ambien or other drugs.