Friend with Ambien Addiction

I have a friend who I believe is addicted to Ambien. She's been taking it for 10+ years. I've spoken to her about it for years and though she acknowledges she should get off of it, she has not done so. She tried only once--and she lasted 3 months, and went back on. It is greatly impacting her life--she always looks tired, she has bags under her eyes, she is low on energy. She recently lost her job and has trouble finding another job, and I think it is because of her general demeanor--she looks like a zombie. What resources are there out there for someone who has had a 10+ year addiction? Are there counselors who specialize on that? I'm willing to pay for a few sessions if it will help her get off the pill. I think she has Kaiser insurance. Recs in the East Bay/Oakland area ideal. Any suggestions are welcome, personal stories, recommendations, anything to get her on the right track.

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RE: Friend with Ambien Addiction ()

Hi I am sure you are well meaning in your post. Have you ever suffered from insomnia? It is conpletely debilitating and it is so hard to fix especially for women. I suffered from insomnia and it took me years and years of working  with different doctors and a ton of my own research and experimentation of different ideas to rebalance my hormones naturally to fix my sleep problem. I tried ambien but it didn’t work for me at all and ultimately I wanted a natural solution.  Once you start on ambien your body adjusts to it and makes it hard to come off it. Your friend is no doubt suffering but doing the best she can. It isn’t easy to come off something if it means you can’t sleep. It isn’t psychological as much as physiological and so complicated to fix. Lack of sleep is a horrible way to exist. 

RE: Friend with Ambien Addiction ()

I had severe insomnia and an Ambien dependence for a while and it was a really rough time for me. I eventually found an amazing CBT specialist who helped me learn mindfulness and relaxation techniques. After about 6 months of sessions and practice, something clicked and I was able to sleep (unaided) better than I had in two years. I haven't taken a sleeping pill since then. I'm so grateful to the therapist I found, but along the way I saw some therapists who were not a good fit and one psychiatrist who casually prescribed me strong benzodiazepines (that I ultimately didn't take due to their high dependence potential).

I'm not sure what your relationship with your friend is like, but if you're very close, you could say something like "Friend, I care about you and I've noticed how hard your insomnia has been on you. Can I help you find resources or providers that could help you? I know you are exhausted and I'm willing to do the legwork for you." If she agrees and has Kaiser, she may have to see her primary care doc or a social worker and ask for a referral. If she declines your offer, I wouldn't push it.

RE: Friend with Ambien Addiction ()

It sounds like your friend has a two-pronged issue. One is the addiction, and the other is a lack of healthy sleep, which is likely the other problematic element that drives your friend back to Ambien once she has gotten off. I wish I knew of more actual resources, but in terms of the latter challenge, Matthew Walker's book Why We Sleep has a ton of really good information about the mechanics and functions of sleep, and he talks about why medications don't actually help us SLEEP, but mostly help us lose consciousness or forget. CBT-I, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia is one of the most effective treatments for sleep troubles (moreso than medication). It may be that if you support healthy sleep, the physiological elements of the addiction will be easier to deal with. Heck, with two little ones and chronic sleep deprivation, I KNOW I am more resilient on every level - emotional, attentional, cognitive - when I get more sleep; and I still don't prioritize it as much as I should. In that vein, I should add that despite your commendable impulse, you can only help your friend as much as she is willing to accept, because no matter what the path, she has to do the very, very hard work of walking down it. I wish you and your friend the best of luck.

RE: Friend with Ambien Addiction ()

I so understand this, it was me a few years ago.  10 years ago doctors were prescribing Ambienlike candy because they thought it was “non-addictive.”  Not only is it addictive, for a while you get a high from it.  You are always chasing that high which wears off after a while. In the meantime you (or you friend) is slowly becoming dependent on the drug.  It then feels like you can never sleep without it.  It’s scary and I’m sure that’s how your friends feels now. I would have a conservation with her but honestly she is probably going to be blnaturallt defensive and angry with you.  But bring it to her attention that others are noticing.  The only real way she is going to stop is if her doctor cuts her off or she has an ephiny herself.  And it’s not really THAT bad getting off Ambien.  The thought and anxiety is way worse.  Yes, there are sleepless nights but the payoff is so great in the end.  Good luck!