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The Dangers Of Snorting Ambien (Zolpidem Insufflation)

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Gerardo Sison, Pharm.D

Snorting Ambien can cause massive damage to the nose, dangerous behaviors while sleeping and overdose. Addiction treatment can help individuals with an Ambien abuse problem get sober.

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Snorting Ambien (also referred to as insufflation) can cause serious trauma to the nose and the delicate tissues that surround it. In certain cases, snorting Ambien changes the rate by which a person becomes tolerant, dependent or addicted to the drug.

Ambien (Zolpidem) is a non-benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotic or Z-drug. It works by slowing the brain so that a person can more easily fall asleep. It’s prescribed to people with insomnia who struggle to fall or stay asleep. Ambien is widely prescribed, and because of this, larger amounts of the drug are available for misuse.

Ambien was originally created to produce effects similar to benzodiazepines like Halcion, but without the potential for abuse and addiction associated with these substances. Despite this, as time passed, it became clear that Ambien can be abused in a way that leads to addiction.

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People abuse this drug to achieve a sedated and euphoric state similar to drunkenness. Some users claim they take it to increase pleasurable feelings during sex, a behavior which can have disastrous results. Ambien is prescribed in two forms, either as a tablet or a long-acting tablet (Ambien CR). Either drug may be abused.

A drug is designed to be administered the way it is produced and prescribed. Altering its form, such as by crushing it, or taking it in higher doses can increase the risks associated with it. Further, when a drug is crushed it’s harder to regulate the amount taken. This can lead a person to snort more than they would have taken orally. This may increase the odds of dependence, addiction, overdose and other dangers associated with Ambien abuse.

Snorting Ambien Can Damage The Nose

When Ambien hits the nasal cavity it causes massive irritation to the mucous membranes. With repeated use, the likelihood of nasal damage and chronic inflammation climbs.

Many people who snort Ambien will develop sores, crusted skin and/or frequent bloody noses. A variety of conditions can develop and become chronic, including a runny nose, halitosis (bad breath) and sinusitis (a sinus infection).

Snorting Ambien on a regular basis can damage the small hairs inside of the nose (cilia). Along with the damage to the mucous membranes, this can make it harder for the nose to filter and clean the air a person breathes. Many drugs contain binders and fillers, some of which may act as harmful irritants that damage the nose even further when the drug is snorted.

Snorting Ambien can block the nasal airways and cause collapsed nasal passages, making it difficult for a person to breathe. These structural changes may create whistling noises or change the way a person’s voice sounds.

The most severe damage to the nose includes:

  • bone loss
  • perforated septum (when a hole develops between the nostrils)
  • perforation or hole in the roof of the mouth
  • reduced or complete loss of smell
  • saddle nose deformity (a broad, flat nose)

Addiction can make a person desire to use the drug above all else, including their health. A person may continue to snort Ambien even after developing some of these problems. Doing so can cause permanent harm. In certain cases, a person may need reconstructive surgery to counteract this damage.

Reports of chronic cocaine insufflation have been linked to spinal fluid leaking out the nose, though it’s not clear if this could happen with other forms of insufflation it’s a risk worth considering.

Ambien Can Be Dangerous Even While A Person Is Sleeping

Ambien has a quality which makes it more dangerous than certain other drugs of abuse: it can cause people to act in dangerous ways while they sleep.

While under the influence, a person taking Ambien could experience what are called “complex sleep-related behaviors.” These include:

  • eating or cooking
  • making phone calls
  • sleep driving
  • sleep sex

These behaviors have been linked to fatal car accidents, kitchen fires, eating poisonous substances and unintended pregnancies.

Ambien May Increase The Chance Of Death, Cancer, Dementia And Heart Attack

Research shows that Ambien use may increase a person’s risk of death, certain types of cancer, dementia and heart attack, even at prescribed amounts. Using larger amounts in patterns of abuse could increase these risks.

A BMJ Open article which studied the effects of hypnotics, including zolpidem, reported that “Receiving hypnotic prescriptions was associated with greater than threefold increased hazards of death even when prescribed <18 pills/year.” The same study also found that there was an overall cancer increase of 35 percent for individuals who were prescribed high doses of hypnotics.

Persons taking four standard dose pills of zolpidem a year could have a 20 percent increased risk of heart attack, while those taking 60 tablets a year may have a 50 percent greater risk. This sobering connection was found by the China Medical University in Taiwan and reported by Express.

Additional Dangers Of Ambien Abuse

Ambien is frequently abused to create a sedated and euphoric state which has been compared to drunkenness. Like alcohol intoxication, this high carries with it some dangerous effects, including decreased inhibitions, impaired coordination, impaired judgment and slowed reflexes.

Ambien has been shown to linger in people’s bodies as long as the next morning. This is especially true with Ambien CR. This can lead to daytime drowsiness, impaired driving and an increased risk of falls and accidents.

The FDA reports that Ambien can cause behavioral changes, blackouts, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts and a worsening of depression. Additional side effects and dangers of Ambien abuse can include:

  • agitation
  • aggression
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • delirium
  • dizziness
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • headaches
  • memory lapses and amnesia
  • nightmares
  • psychosis
  • slowed or shallow breathing
  • slurred speech
  • stroke
  • suicide
  • violence
  • withdrawal seizures

Snorting the drug or abusing it in any other way may make these risks and dangers more likely or more intense.

Due to the decreased inhibition, intense sedation, blackouts and impaired judgment which can result from Ambien abuse, a person may get an STD or have an unwanted pregnancy if they have sex while under abusing this drug. Ambien has also been used as a date-rape drug.

Ambien Overdose

Ambien’s potential for overdose isn’t as severe as certain drugs, however, when taken in greater-than-prescribed quantities or with other drugs this risk increases.

Ambien depresses, or slows, a person’s central nervous system (CNS). This leads to slowed blood pressure, breathing, heart and temperature rates, changes which can intensify when the drug is taken in larger doses.

Many people combine drugs to intensify their high. With Ambien, alcohol is a popular and dangerous companion, as are benzodiazepines and opioid drugs. These drugs are strong CNS depressants which can cause the potentially life-threatening effects of Ambien to become more pronounced.

Signs of overdose include:

  • extreme drowsiness
  • loss of consciousness
  • slowed heartbeat
  • slowed or stopped breathing
  • seizure
  • coma

Ambien abuse is dangerous for anyone, however, women and elderly persons may eliminate the drug more slowly which increases the risk of overdose.

An overdose can be deadly. If an overdose is at all suspected contact emergency medical services immediately.

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Getting Help For An Ambien Addiction

An Ambien addiction can be treated with the right combination of treatments and therapies. Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications for treating Ambien addiction, however, treatment options still exist.

When treating addiction it’s important to treat any issues a person has which may make them prone to addictive behaviors. This could include patterns of self-medicating, mental illness or relationship problems.

Behavioral therapies can help a person overcome these challenges. These sessions change the way a person thinks, feels and relates to the world around them in a positive way. Inpatient drug rehab centers typically offer more comprehensive treatment, which is especially important for people who have a co-occurring mental health disorder.

Contact Addiction Campuses today to learn more about Ambien addiction and treatment options.

Express - https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/452613/Increased-heart-attack-risk-alert-over-sleeping-pills-thousands-take-each-night

MedlinePlus - https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a693025.html

U.S. Food and Drug Administration - https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/019908s037lbl.pdf

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Gerardo Sison, Pharm.D
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