Is Ambien A Narcotic?

The term "narcotic" can be used to refer to any drug that is sold illegally, but it is most often associated with opioids. Ambien is a sedative hypnotic that is not usually considered a narcotic.

Ambien is not an opioid painkiller and is not considered to be a narcotic by most definitions. It has a relatively low potential for abuse though it can be habit forming and is classified as a controlled substance.

Ambien, a brand name sedative-hypnotic drug also available in the generic form zolpidem, is prescribed to treat sleep problems when non-drug treatments aren’t effective.

Are Z-Drugs Narcotics?

Nonbenzodiazepines, also called z-drugs, are a class of medications frequently used as sleep aids. They are considered to be less habit-forming than benzodiazepines but can nevertheless be misused leading to physical dependence or addiction.

The word narcotic, a term originating from an ancient Greek word for numbness, is usually reserved for opiate or opioid painkillers in modern usage.

Opioids include pharmaceutical products like morphine, oxycodone, and codeine, as well as illicit drugs like heroin. In each case, opioid drugs are highly prone to abuse due to their euphoric properties, and often promote dependence, drug addiction, and fatal overdose.

While Z-drugs, including Ambien, do not provide the same euphoric experience as opioid narcotics, both classes of drugs are central nervous system depressants, both can induce a relaxed drowsiness, and both can be habit-forming and dangerous if misused.

Other Z-Drugs

The other Z-drugs available in the United States are eszopiclone (Lunesta) and zaleplon (Sonata), both of which have been approved by the FDA for the short-term treatment of sleep disorders. These medications are collectively classified as Schedule IV controlled substances.

How Ambien Works

Ambien is a Z-drug or non-benzodiazepine, a class of prescription drugs that has much more in common with benzodiazepines like alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), or lorazepam (Ativan) than with opioid analgesics.

When you take a dose of Ambien, the drug is absorbed into your bloodstream and travels to the brain where it interacts with receptors for the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitter.

This slows down activity in your central nervous system, leading to feelings of relaxation and calm that can make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep longer.

Ambien Half-Life & Length Of Effect

Ambien has an elimination half-life of around 2.5 hours, meaning that it is effectively purged from the body in around 10-12 hours. Once taken, its effects last for around three hours, or around ten hours for Ambien CR, an extended-release formulation of the drug.

Common Side Effects Of Ambien

Ambien is known to cause common side effects that may include:

  • ataxia (balance problems)
  • confusion
  • constipation
  • daytime drowsiness
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • euphoria
  • feelings of mild illness
  • headache
  • insomnia
  • lightheadedness
  • muscle pain
  • fatigue
  • visual changes

Adverse Effects Of Ambien

The FDA has published warnings that Ambien and similar sleep medications can cause potentially dangerous “complex sleep behaviors” like sleep-walking, sleep-driving, cooking, cleaning, and having sex.

Those taking Ambien are not truly awake for these activities and do not typically remember doing them. Injuries and fatal accidents have occurred as a result.

Next-Day Impairment

The sedative effects of Ambien may also cause next-day impairment relating to coordination or driving.

Because of this, if you use Ambien it is strongly recommended that you get a full night’s sleep and avoid using other central nervous system depressants, including opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol, with Ambien.

Ambien Overdose

Combining Ambien with other CNS depressants or taking it in very high doses also increases the risk of Ambien overdose, a medical emergency that can lead to lasting harm or even death in rare cases in the absence of medical care.

Signs of Ambien overdose may include:

  • slowed breathing
  • slowed heartbeat
  • severe drowsiness
  • confusion
  • loss of consciousness
  • coma

Is Ambien Addictive?

When used properly Ambien is considered to have a low potential for addiction.
However, Ambien is only recommended for use over a short period of time, typically 1-2 weeks, as long-term use may promote the development of physical dependence, tolerance, and Ambien withdrawal symptoms.

Ambien Abuse

Ambien and other sleeping pills are also sometimes abused to get high, as taking high doses of the drug can trigger a drowsy, relaxed euphoria similar to the effects of alcohol or benzodiazepine abuse.

Ambien may also be taken with other drugs of abuse, including both stimulants and depressants, in order to enhance or alter their effects.

These forms of abuse can lead to Ambien addiction, a form of substance use disorder.

Ambien Addiction Treatment Programs

The most common treatment options for Ambien addiction are the same as those used to address other forms of substance use disorder, including addictions to benzodiazepines and other prescription medications.

Treatment generally begins with medical detox and/or tapering, programs which are designed to help participants through the withdrawal process safely and comfortably.

Following detox, recovery may include inpatient or outpatient care and a variety of potential interventions including:

  • counseling
  • peer support
  • behavioral therapy
  • alternative therapies
  • aftercare support

If you or a loved one are interested in learning more about addiction treatment, please contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center today.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

Published on

©2024 Northeast Addition Center | All Rights Reserved

This page does not provide medical advice.

Ready to make a change? Talk to a specialist now.