Zolpidem, more commonly known by the name Ambien, is a commonly prescribed sleeping pill. When taken for insomnia, the pill is generally safe in the short term, although some people who take it may behave dangerously or uncharacteristically, such as driving while asleep. In this post, we’ll answer the questions, “What does Ambien look like?” “What does dependence on Ambien look like?” and “How to get help for Ambien addiction?”

If you or a loved one is struggling with Ambien abuse, help is available. Contact Olympus Recovery today at (866) 305-7134 to learn more about our top-notch prescription drug addiction recovery programs.

What is Ambien?

Some studies estimate that as much as 60% of the world’s population suffers from insomnia. Ambien is an FDA-approved prescription drug to treat sleeping disorder.

Ambien helps people fall asleep faster so they can get a restful night’s sleep. The drug works by producing a calming effect in the brain to allow people to relax and fall asleep.

Although Ambien is considered safe, the FDA recently started requiring stronger warnings about rare but serious incidents associated with Ambien use. The warning comes after several reports of injuries and deaths as a result of complex sleep behaviors when patients took Ambien and other sleeping pills. Those behaviors included:

  • Sleepwalking.
  • Sleep driving.
  • Engaging in other unsafe activities while not fully awake, including using a stove.

Ambien comes in two forms: Ambien and Ambien CR, an extended-release formula that helps the person fall and stay asleep.

What Does Ambien Look Like?

Ambien pills are capsule-shaped and coated with film. The 5 mg pills are pink with “AMB 5” printed on one side and 5401 on the other. The 10 mg pills are white and have “AMB 10” printed on one side and 5421 on the other. 

What Are the Side Effects of Ambien?

Now that we’ve answered, “What does Ambien look like?,” let’s go over the most common side effects of Ambien, which include:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Feeling “drugged.”
  • Difficulty keeping balance and unsteady walking.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Heartburn.
  • Constipation.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Gas.
  • Appetite changes.
  • Uncontrollable shaking.
  • Red eyes.
  • Pain, burning, and/or numbness or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, and legs.
  • Ringing, pain, and/or itching ears.
  • Vivid and unusual dreams.
  • Dry mouth.

Some side effects of Ambien are serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should contact your prescriber immediately: 

  • Swollen eyes, face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Feeling as if the throat is closing.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Hoarseness.
  • Rash.
  • Hives.
  • Itching.
  • Yellow skin.
  • Yellow eyes.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Pounding heart.
  • Chest pain.
  • Blurred vision.

Symptoms of Ambien Overdose

Symptoms of an Ambien overdose include:

  • Unconsciousness.
  • Coma.
  • Slowed breathing.
  • Slowed heart rate.

If you suspect an Ambien overdose, call the Poison Control helpline at 1-800-222-1222. If the person has had a seizure, is having difficulty breathing, or has collapsed, call 9-1-1 immediately. Never attempt to treat an Ambien overdose yourself.

What Does Dependence on Ambien Look Like?

You can become physically dependent on Ambien in as short as two weeks. The following are characteristics of Ambien dependence:

  • Tolerance. The more Ambien you take, the more your body will need to produce the same effects, causing some users to keep increasing their dose without speaking to their prescriber.
  • Withdrawal symptoms:
        • Agitation and irritability.
        • Fever.
        • Sweating.
        • Insomnia.
        • Uncontrollable crying.
        • Panic attacks.
  • Inability to control your Ambien use. Continuing to use Ambien despite consequences in your work and personal life.
  • Cravings for the drug.

Eventually, Ambien dependence can turn into addiction. Signs of Ambien addiction include:

  • Running through your prescription before a refill is due.
  • “Doctor shopping” to access more Ambien.
  • Forging prescriptions for the drug.
  • Repeatedly taking larger doses than prescribed.
  • Experiencing cravings.
  • Engaging in dangerous activities without any recollection after the fact.
  • Spending large sums of money seeking the drug.
  • Getting the drug on the black market.
  • Isolating yourself from family and friends, and ignoring all responsibilities.
  • Refilling prescriptions unusually often.
  • Repeatedly taking larger doses than prescribed.
  • Experiencing cravings for Ambien.
  • Engaging in dangerous situations without any memory of them later.
  • Spending large amounts of money on the drug.
  • Isolating oneself from family and friends.
  • Combining Ambien with other drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Driving under the influence of Ambien.
  • Sleeping through important events because of the drug.
  • Using the drug every night for more than two weeks.
  • Being unable to fall and/or stay asleep without Ambien or another sleeping pill.

Most cases of Ambien addiction start with short-term insomnia. Some users underestimate — or are not made aware of — Ambien’s addictive potential. Since Ambien is intended to be a short-term cure for insomnia, it becomes less effective after two weeks. At that point, some users feel if they stop taking the drug, their insomnia will be worse, or they try to sleep without it and can’t.

Getting Help for Ambien Dependence

The good news is that it is possible to recover from Ambien addiction or dependence, especially when you count on a professional drug treatment center

Recovery from Ambien addiction starts with medically assisted detox. During this process, you are monitored around the clock by a team of healthcare and addiction specialists. Your detox team may choose to “taper” you off the drug by slowly decreasing your dose. This helps avoid the worst side effects of Ambien withdrawal. Medication-assisted therapy is often used during the detox process to help mitigate the side effects of withdrawal.

For the most severe cases of Ambien addiction, inpatient or outpatient rehab may be required. The difference between the two is that the patient lives at a treatment facility during inpatient rehab. Other treatment options for Ambien addiction include:

Ambien Addiction Recovery

To recover from Ambien addiction, you must learn to live a sober lifestyle. During treatment for Ambien addiction, you will learn coping skills and techniques to naturally manage the symptoms of insomnia, so you stay away from Ambien and other sleeping pills.

You will also learn about your diagnosis, things that trigger your desire to use sleeping pills, and how to apply coping skills in your daily life. Some healthy habits to help keep you on track include:

  • Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, exercise, and electronics before you go to bed.
  • Establishing a bedtime routine that starts at the same time every night and includes relaxing activities like a bath, aromatherapy, and reading.
  • Practicing meditation.
  • Keeping your room dark and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Relaxation techniques.
  • Using your bed and bedroom only for sleep.

Olympus Recovery Can Help

If you’re struggling to quit Ambien or are concerned about your or a loved one’s Ambien use, Olympus Recovery can help. At Olympus Recovery, we treat prescription drug abuse in a welcoming environment where you receive evidence-based, affordable, high-quality treatment that addresses your unique substance abuse issue. Our addiction specialists will provide a treatment path tailored to your unique addiction, addiction history, and needs.

We offer a wide range of programs, from inpatient and outpatient rehab to group therapy and medical detox, to help you deal with drug cravings and painful withdrawal symptoms. Contact us today at (866) 305-7134 to learn more and take the first step in reclaiming your life. 


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For immediate help call us confidentially at (866) 305-7134. Our admissions specialists can answer all your questions, and put you on the road to recovery.