Sleeping pills such as Ambien, Stilnox and Imovane (also known as Zimovane) are medications for insomnia that are all classified as depressants. Ambien is the trade name for the chemical called zolpidem tartrate and Imovane is zopiclone. Both of these drugs are sometimes referred to as “z-drugs”. Sleeping pills such as Ambien and Imovane are considered sedatives or hypnotics. They alter brain chemistry to induce drowsiness and make users sleep. Sleeping pills such as Ambien come in pill or tablet form to be swallowed. In the case of Ambien, the pills are designed with two active layers: the first dissolves quickly and induces sleep, while the second is designed to maintain sleep and prevent the person from waking up during the night.
Ambien and Imovane are not over-the-counter medications. They must therefore be prescribed by a physician who has identified real symptoms of insomnia in the patient.
Zolpidem tartrate was first synthesized as an insomnia medication in 1988 and underwent five years of clinical trials before being approved and marketed under the brand name Ambien in 1993.
Zopiclone was introduced in 1986 and, like zolpidem, has been praised as an improvement over benzodiazepines in that it has fewer side effects. This substance is marketed in the United States under the brand name Lunesta, but is known by different names around the world, including Imovane. Although often prescribed for insomnia, these drugs have a high risk of addiction, especially if used long-term.
Addiction to sleeping pills can cause significant problems, both physical and mental. Side effects of these medications can include anxiety, nervousness and suicidal thoughts. When Ambien is taken in larger quantities than prescribed, it can trigger sleepwalking and extreme drowsiness the day after taking it.
It is a short-term solution for insomnia. People with a prescription should not take the medication for more than 10 consecutive days. Although Ambien helps people fall asleep, it is known that the quality of sleep it induces is not as restorative as natural sleep and that it can cause fatigue if taken over an extended period of time.
Mixing sleeping pills with alcohol increases the potency of these drugs and can have disastrous physical consequences.
Taken over the long term, sleeping pills can build up a tolerance, forcing users to take more and more of them to sleep, posing a risk of overdose.
Ambien is the brand name for zolpidem tartrate. This medication is also marketed under the name Stilnox. Zopiclone is sold under different brand names around the world. In South America, it is called Zalepla or Zetix, in the United Kingdom, Zimovane and in Ireland, Zileze, Zimoclone or Zorclone. In Australasia and some European countries it is marketed as Imovane or Imrest, in Germany as Ximovan, in Egypt as Hypnor and in Spain as Limovan.
Recreational users of Ambien refer to the drug as “A-minus”, “zombie pills” or “no-go pills”.
Zopiclone is known by the street names “zimmers”, “zimmies”, “zim-zims” or “zoppies”.
As depressants, sleeping pills also have the generic nickname of “downers” since they counter the effects of stimulant drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines (called “uppers”).
When prescribed for insomnia, sleeping pills such as Ambien and Imovane fight the causes of this pathology and induce drowsiness and sleep. However, in some cases, these medications can have significant side effects. In the short term, they can make users weak and shaky, slow the heart rate, make breathing shallow and cause nausea, vomiting, short-term memory loss and severe headaches. They can also make users “foggy”, as if they have been drugged with a high dose, and cause convulsive movements or tremors. In some cases, Ambien can cause sleepwalking, which can put users in dangerous situations.
Most of the time, these side effects occur only with abuse and with doses higher than the normal prescription.
Because Ambien is intended for short-term use, this sleeping pill can be very harmful if taken over a long period of time.
The user may experience delusions and suicidal thoughts. It can also impair judgment and reasoning skills. Long-term use of Ambien can create a growing tolerance to the drug, which can lead to dependence as the user needs higher and higher doses to sleep. The risk of overdose will also be increased. Long-term use of Ambien also leads to a decreased libido.
This sleeping pill can impair motor function, preventing users from performing tasks that require a certain level of coordination, such as operating machinery or driving. Many people who abuse sleeping pills have difficulty speaking properly and tend to mumble and stagger.
Zopiclone sleeping pills such as Imovane (or Zimovane) can cause swallowing, constipation, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, increased appetite and heart palpitations. Users may also experience skin rashes and, less commonly, a tingling sensation throughout the body. In men, zopiclone may cause impotence or delayed ejaculation. Blurred vision and increased urination may also occur.
Sleeping pills such as Ambien, Stilnox and Imovane (or Zimovane) are legal prescription drugs, which are manufactured under license in many industrialized countries. Zolpidem, a chemical substance marketed under the names Ambien and Stilnox, is widely prescribed throughout the world, with the Netherlands being one of the largest consumers. The patent for Ambien is held by the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis, one of the largest of its kind. The company manufactures a variety of prescription and over-the-counter drugs as well as vaccines. It is represented worldwide.
Zolpidem is also sold as a generic in the United States and the United Kingdom, but also in South Africa under the name Sandoz, in Germany under the name Ratiopharm and in Israel under the name Teva.
Sanofi-Aventis is also the leading manufacturer of zopiclone.
Sleeping pills such as Ambien are produced exclusively by legitimate means and no cases of “street” manufacture have been identified. As a result, all illicitly used sleeping pills are diverted from legitimate sources, i.e. from people who have been prescribed them for insomnia.
In countries with a private health care system, such as the United States, people addicted to sleeping pills often shop around to increase their supply.
In this country, Ambien is the most prescribed sleeping pill.
FACTS AND STATISTICS
Sleeping pills are legally produced medications that are designed to specifically treat the symptoms of insomnia over a short period of time. But they are also abused, either in higher doses or for longer than prescribed. Here is some other essential information about sleeping pills.
- Ambien was proposed as a treatment for insomnia in 1988.
- Zolpidem tartrate is the chemical name for Ambien and Stilnox.
- Ambien can increase the period of sleep up to 35 hours.
- Ambien is intended for short-term use, as tolerance and dependence can develop otherwise.
- Sleeping pills such as Ambien and Imovane are depressants. Therefore, taking these drugs with other depressants such as alcohol significantly increases their potency and can have fatal consequences.
- Zopiclone and zolpidem are sometimes called “Z-drugs”.
- Sleeping pills of any kind are also called “sedatives”.
- Prescription drugs for sleep disorders come in pill form.
- In some cases, sleeping pills such as Ambien can have varying degrees of side effects, including fatigue, headaches, seizures and hallucinations.
- People addicted to Ambien may have difficulty speaking and walking and appear “drugged.
- Illicit users may take the sleeping pills orally or crush the tablets and mix them with alcohol to ingest them.
- Zopiclone is marketed under a variety of names around the world, including Zimovane and Imovane.
- Sleeping pills are almost never prescribed to individuals under the age of 18, and illicit users under that age are at risk of serious physical harm.
- In clinical trials of Ambien, the main side effects were drowsiness (2% of cases), diarrhea (1% of cases) and dizziness (1% of cases).
- Ambien can increase sleep time by up to 35 hours.
- According to the results of research conducted in the United States, more than half a million people use Ambien and other prescription sleeping pills in higher doses or for a longer period than prescribed.
- In the U.S., more than 17,000 emergency room admissions in 2010 were related to Ambien misuse, including an overdose of the drug.
- Nearly one-fifth of Americans admitted to using sleeping pills such as Ambien without a medical need for them.
- Statistics show that Ambien use can play a major role in the number of traffic accidents in the United States. In 2006, laboratories that test blood samples from injured drivers placed Ambien in the top ten drugs found in the blood of these drivers. In Washington
- State, Ambien is believed to have contributed to the arrest of 78 drivers, up from 56 in 2005.
SIGNS OF ADDICTION
Addiction to sleeping pills can be gradual and difficult to detect. Often, a person has received a legitimate prescription for Ambien for insomnia, but continuing to take the medication past the maximum recommended duration can become addictive. This is because the body develops a tolerance to sleeping pills, which means that over a short period of time, the user will require larger and larger doses to achieve sleep. A regular user of sleeping pills can quickly become addicted.
Addiction to drugs like Ambien is noticeable by constant fatigue or drowsiness, confusion and “fuzzy” thinking. The user may have trouble speaking or lose control of their muscles. He or she may also lose balance frequently or develop tics. In addition, an Ambien addict may have shallow breathing and a slower heart rate. Finally, addiction to sleeping pills can dampen a person’s sexual desires.
Ambien is an expensive drug and as a result, an addict may experience financial difficulties and have trouble paying various bills. Often a person addicted to Ambien who has difficulty obtaining the drug is unable to sleep without it. They will show signs of insomnia: tired, bloodshot eyes, paleness and increased sweating.
In order to hide their addiction to sleeping pills, some people withdraw from friends, colleagues or family. They may appear very depressed and have suicidal thoughts, which they may talk about.
Ambien abuse impairs short-term memory. As a result, people may have trouble remembering things, missing appointments, etc.
Ambien addiction may also be characterized by frequent sleepwalking episodes because the drug reduces the latency of regular sleep, although it increases the duration of sleep.
Once a person has become addicted to sleeping pills like Ambien, it is imperative that they seek professional help to detoxify and get off the drug. As soon as she stops taking the drug, she will begin to experience unpleasant and painful withdrawal effects. It is best for her well-being to remain under observation and receive medical support. Abruptly stopping sleeping pills can lead to seizures and even death.
Without medical help, the person in withdrawal may turn to other drugs to relieve symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, stomach cramps, sweating and seizures. Attempting to treat these symptoms without counseling can have disastrous consequences.
Medically supervised detoxification programs allow Ambien to be safely tapered to promote patient comfort. During this time, appropriate medications may be prescribed to relieve the effects of withdrawal, including antidepressants. A thorough medical examination is performed to discover if there is a medical reason for the insomnia that the patient has tried to treat with Ambien that has not been previously identified. In addition, during the first phase of detoxification, the patient’s nutritional intake is strictly controlled and certain foods or beverages may be prohibited, especially those containing stimulants such as caffeine.
In some cases, another type of sleeping pill may replace the one the patient is addicted to, for example a benzodiazepine in the case of a drug like Ambien (which is not a benzodiazepine). The detoxification phase of the program will be tailored to the patient’s specific needs, depending on the severity of the addiction.
The first phase of detoxification is often done in a center and can last from one to two weeks. Then the program continues either as an inpatient or outpatient program.
The advantage of inpatient treatment is that the structure of the clinic allows every aspect of the patient’s recovery to be addressed. Individual or group therapy sessions can be held intensively, without distraction or temptation from the outside world. In this way, the patient is more likely to make a full recovery.
Outpatient programs allow patients to return to their day-to-day responsibilities, including employment, while receiving supportive therapy. However, it is important to note that a detox program is only effective in the long term if the patient has acknowledged that they have a problem with the drug.
Therapy sessions are designed to address the underlying issues that led to the abuse of sleeping pills and to develop strategies for coping with life without the drug. Behavioral therapy will show the patient how to replace negative behaviors with positive ones.
Group therapy sessions offered by many organizations can also be helpful in the long run. This is where former addicts can share their experiences and encourage others not to relapse.