Possible to develop dependence on Ambien?

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Question from Dale: Is Ambien too habit-forming to take nightly?
Answers - Helena Schotland That's actually a very good question. Ambien (chemical name: zolpidem tartrate) is a sedative-hypnotic medication, so it makes us fall asleep more easily, and hopefully stay asleep. The problem with all of the sedative-hypnotic medications is that you can develop dependence on them.

Editor's Note: Sedative-hypnotics are medications that cause drowsiness, triggers the onset of sleep, and/or helps you sleep through the night.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. How long does it take to develop dependence?
Helena Schotland It really depends on the person. The general recommendations are that people should not be given more than 2 weeks of Ambien at a time, unless they're being followed by a sleep physician, because of the issues with dependence. Usually a few weeks continuously (once a night). The other issue with some of the sedative-hypnotics is the issue of tolerance: after a period of time, the medication can stop working (although this isn't the case for all of the sedative-hypnotics). So you basically never want to use a sedative-hypnotic all by itself.

There are a number of approaches to insomnia. Sleep hygiene is one, which we were just discussing. Medications play a role, but have to be used judiciously. The third is something called cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is typically done by a psychologist. These are relaxation techniques, techniques to help you figure out what is contributing to your insomnia, self-awareness. That is a very useful adjunct for insomnia therapy. So with my patients, I usually use anywhere from 1 to 3 of these approaches at one time.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. Are these interventions covered by most insurance policies?
Helena Schotland It depends on the insurance. My patients have had a lot of success having the cognitive-behavioral therapy covered by their insurance.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Sleep Well: Healthy Habits for Good Rest featured Helena Schotland, M.D. and moderator Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about ways to improve your sleep.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in January 2007.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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