Zolpidem addiction and treatment

In the UK, zolpidem is a class C controlled drug, available by prescription only. Intended to help people suffering from insomnia, zolpidem’s pleasurable tranquilising “high” means that alongside its medical use it is also abused recreationally. Users can buy it online, use fake descriptions or purchase it from dealers, making zolpidem one of the most abused prescription drugs in the UK. However, it is important to know that both prescription and recreational use have the potential to cause zolpidem addiction which can be incredibly difficult to overcome. At Primrose Lodge, we understand the damage zolpidem addiction can cause and we are here to help you defeat it.

What is zolpidem, and how does it work?

Zolpidem – better known by the brand name Ambien – is a sedative and hypnotic of the non-benzodiazepine class prescribed for the short-term treatment of insomnia. As a hypnotic, zolpidem can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep by at least fifteen minutes, making it a very effective sleeping pill. It works by binding to receptors in the brain known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. This increases the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, which has calming and relaxing effects.
Zolpidem is usually taken in tablet form as an immediate-release or extended-release tablet. The extended-release tablets are designed to release the drug slowly over time to be effective throughout the night.

How is zolpidem abused?

Users take zolpidem to produce dreamlike, slightly euphoric effects, lasting for several hours. In fact, the effects can be so long-lasting that even driving the following day after taking zolpidem can be dangerous as it may still affect your cognition and reaction times.

The effects of zolpidem are often compared to those of alcohol as they can lead to impaired judgement, decreased inhibitions, and slowed reaction times. One way that recreational users enhance the effects of zolpidem is to crush up the extended-release tablets so they can be snorted. This gives a more rapid and intense high as the drug hits the bloodstream faster.

What is zolpidem addiction?

Zolpidem addiction is when you have a compulsive need to keep taking the drug, even when you know it is causing harm to your health and well-being. Zolpidem addiction can develop very quickly and can result from both prescription and recreational abuse.

Zolpidem is addictive because the drug activates the brain’s reward system, releasing feel-good chemicals like dopamine. Whether you are taking zolpidem on prescription or abusing it recreationally, over time your brain becomes used to its presence and starts to produce less dopamine. This means that you need to take larger doses of the drug to help you sleep, a process known as tolerance.

As your tolerance builds, you may start to take zolpidem more often or in larger doses than prescribed to achieve the desired effect. Unfortunately, this can quickly lead to addiction as your brain comes to rely on the drug.

Am I addicted to zolpidem?

It can be challenging to identify and accept that you have a zolpidem addiction, as the condition is often accompanied by denial, particularly in the early stages. However, there are some zolpidem addiction symptoms that could indicate that there is an issue. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I feel like I need to take zolpidem to get through the day or night?
  • Do I lie about my zolpidem use or downplay how much of the drug I take?
  • Have I previously tried to quit taking zolpidem or cut down but been unsuccessful?
  • Do I continue to take zolpidem despite negative consequences such as job loss, relationship problems, financial difficulties or legal issues?
  • Have I acquired zolpidem illegally, such as by buying it on the street or from an online dealer?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you likely have developed an addiction to zolpidem and need professional help to overcome it. Get in touch with Primrose Lodge today, and we will assist you in taking the first steps on your road to recovery.

The adverse health effects of zolpidem addiction

Zolpidem addiction can have a range of short- and long-term effects on your physical and mental health which can be potentially very dangerous:

Short-term zolpidem addiction side effects include…

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhoea
  • Sleepwalking
  • Night eating syndrome
  • Increased risk of accidents


Long-term zolpidem addiction side effects include…

  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nightmares
  • Amnesia
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Sinusitis
  • Sore throat
  • Dry mouth
  • Lethargy
  • Back pain
  • Chronic flu-like symptoms
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Overdose (which can cause coma or even death)

Impact of zolpidem addiction on your life

In addition to the impact on your health, zolpidem addiction can seriously inhibit your ability to function at work and maintain steady employment. As a result, you are more likely to miss work days regularly, be frequently late, and make fundamental errors while completing your duties. Naturally, this can seriously impact your financial well-being, which can be further exacerbated by the cost of procuring zolpidem on the black market (which could also get you into legal trouble.)

Zolpidem can also be cataclysmic for personal relationships, including those with partners or spouses, children, and other family members. This can then have a deleterious effect on your happiness and well-being, which can, in turn, feed into the spiral of zolpidem abuse and addiction.

Common lies that zolpidem addiction will try to tell you

A major reason that zolpidem addiction can be so difficult to spot in yourself and others is that addiction is a master of deception. Zolpidem addiction thrives whenever it can convince you and those around you that everything is okay. It does this by lying to you and, in turn, encouraging you to repeat those lies to yourself and your loved ones. Here are five of the most common lies that zolpidem addiction will try to convince you are true:

“You can control your use of zolpidem.”
This is perhaps the most pernicious lie as it allows the addiction to take hold in the first place. In reality, addiction is a condition which takes away your ability to control your zolpidem use. The further you progress into addiction, the more this will become apparent.
“You only use zolpidem recreationally”
Initially, it might seem like your zolpidem use is under control and that you are only taking the drug recreationally. However, as your tolerance to the drug increases, you will find yourself needing to take more and more to achieve the same effect. At this point, your recreational use will have spiralled into addiction.
“You need zolpidem to sleep.”
If you first started taking zolpidem on a prescription for insomnia, it might seem like you need the drug in order to get a good night’s sleep. This can be used as an excuse even when you are no longer taking zolpidem for insomnia but are instead using it to get high. Take an honest look at yourself and recognise that you are taking Zolpidem because you can’t stop, not because you need to for any medical reason.
“Zolpidem is a prescription drug so it’s not dangerous.”
This is simply not true. Zolpidem may be a prescription medication but it is also a powerful central nervous system depressant which can lead to coma and death if taken in large enough doses. Many people have the misconception that prescription medicines are not as dangerous as illegal drugs but the reality is that they are often equally dangerous if not more so. It is not a substance’s legal status that makes it dangerous, but rather its potential for addiction and adverse health effects.

Recognising these lies is a hugely important step in overcoming zolpidem addiction. Once you can see your addiction for what it really is, you can start taking steps to recover from it.

Effective treatment for zolpidem addiction

The first step in overcoming any addiction is acknowledging that there is a problem and that professional help is needed in order to address it. After that, you will need
Primrose Lodge zolpidem addiction treatment programmes involve detox, rehab and aftercare.

Zolpidem detox…

Zolpidem detox is the process of removing all traces of the drug from your body. This enables you to break your physical dependence on zolpidem and start your recovery journey.
Zolpidem detox can be a difficult and uncomfortable process due to zolpidem withdrawal symptoms. These can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Irritability


The severity and duration of your zolpidem withdrawal symptoms will depend on factors such as how long you have been taking the drug, how much you have been taking, your overall health and any co-occurring conditions you have.

Primrose Lodge offers 24/7 medical care during detox to make sure that you are as comfortable as possible throughout the process. Upon entering detox, you will be given a full medical assessment in order to create a tailor-made detox plan which meets your individual needs.

Zolpidem rehab…

After completing detox, you will move on to the next stage of treatment: zolpidem rehab. This is where the work of addressing the underlying root causes of your addiction is done. During rehab, you will participate in a range of therapies which are designed to help you understand your addiction and develop the skills you need to maintain sobriety in the long term.

Zolpidem addiction treatment is most effective when completed at a residential zolpidem rehab centre like Primrose Lodge. This is because you will be away from the triggers and temptations of your everyday life and able to focus solely on your recovery.

The therapies and other treatments offered at Primrose Lodge include:


While the longer you spend in zolpidem rehab, the more chance you will have at making a full and lasting recovery, we understand that not everyone is able to commit to this. Primrose Lodge wants to make zolpidem detox and rehab available for everyone which is why we offer 2-week, 4-week, 8-week and 12-week programmes.


After completing zolpidem rehab, you will then begin our aftercare programme which is a year of weekly group therapy sessions. These will provide you with ongoing support and help to keep you on track in your recovery.

To find out more about zolpidem treatment at Primrose Lodge, get in touch with us today. Our admissions team will be happy to answer any questions you have and advise on the next steps.

Frequently asked questions

What are some effective alternatives to Zolpidem?
There are various medicinal and non-medicinal sleep aid alternatives to Zolpidem which can be used to help improve sleep and treat insomnia. Some of these include lifestyle changes (such as exercising, not drinking caffeine late in the day, and avoiding long daytime naps) and herbal supplements (such as valerian root or melatonin). There is also an app prescribed by the NHS called Sleepio which has been shown to be effective in improving sleep.
How can I help a loved one who is addicted to Zolpidem?
Addiction to Zolpidem is a serious condition and requires professional help. If you suspect someone you care about has an addiction, talk to them about your concerns and encourage them to seek treatment. It is also crucial that you don’t enable their Zolpidem addiction by providing them with drugs or money, making excuses for their behaviour or ignoring the problem.
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Who am I contacting?

Calls and contact requests are answered by admissions at

UK Addiction Treatment Group.

We look forward to helping you take your first step.

0203 553 9263