Ambien is used for short-term treatment of insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or early awakening). A relatively new drug, Ambien is chemically different from other common sleep medications such as Halcion and Dalmane.
Brand Name: Ambien
Generic Name: Zolpidem Tartrate
Most important fact about Ambien
Sleep problems are usually temporary and require medication for a week or two at most. Insomnia that lasts longer could be a sign of another medical problem. If you find that you need Ambien for more than 7 to 10 days, be sure to check with your doctor.
How should you take Ambien?
Ambien works very quickly. Take it just before going to bed. Take only the prescribed dose, exactly as instructed by your doctor.
If you miss a dose of Ambien
Take Ambien only as needed. Never double the dose.
Storage instructions for Ambien
Store at room temperature. Protect from extreme heat.
What side effects may occur when taking Ambien?
Side effects cannot be anticipated. If any develop or change in intensity, tell your doctor immediately. Only your doctor can determine whether it is safe to continue taking Ambien.
More common side effects when taking Ambien may include:
Allergy, daytime drowsiness, dizziness, drugged feeling, headache, indigestion, nausea.
Why should Ambien not be prescribed?
There are no known situations in which Ambien cannot be used.
Special warnings about Ambien
When sleep medications are used every night for more than a few weeks, some may lose their effectiveness. Remember, too, that you can become dependent on some sleep medications if you use them for a long time or at high doses.
Some people using Ambien especially those taking serotonin-boosting antidepressants have experienced unusual changes in their thinking and/or behavior. Alert your doctor if you notice a change.
Ambien and other sleep medicines can cause a special type of memory loss. It should not be taken on an overnight airplane flight of less than 7 to 8 hours, since “traveler’s amnesia” may occur.
When you first start taking Ambien, until you know whether Ambien will have any “carry over” effect the next day, use extreme care while doing anything that requires complete alertness, such as driving a car or operating machinery. Older adults, in particular, should be aware that they may be more apt to fall.
Use Ambien cautiously if you have liver problems. It will take longer for its effects to wear off.
If you take Ambien for more than 1 or 2 weeks, consult your doctor before stopping. Sudden discontinuation of Ambien can bring on withdrawal symptoms ranging from unpleasant feelings to vomiting and cramps.
When taking Ambien, do not drink alcohol. It can increase the side effects of Ambien.
If you have breathing problems, they may become worse when you use Ambien.
Possible food and drug interactions when taking Ambien
If Ambien is used with certain other drugs, the effects of either drug could be increased, decreased, or altered.
It is especially important to check with your doctor before combining Ambien with the following:
The antidepressant drug imipramine (Tofranil)
The antipsychotic drug chlorpromazine
Serotonin-boosting antidepressants such as Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft
Drugs that depress the central nervous system, including Valium, Percocet, and Benadryl
Special information on Ambien if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, inform your doctor immediately. Babies whose mothers take some sedative/hypnotic drugs may have withdrawal symptoms after birth and may seem limp and flaccid. Ambien is not recommended for use by nursing mothers.
Recommended dosages for Ambien
The recommended dosage of Ambien for adults is 10 milligrams right before bedtime. Your doctor will prescribe a smaller dose if you are likely to be sensitive to the drug or have a liver problem. Never take more than 10 milligrams of Ambien per day.
Safety and effectiveness of Ambien has not been established in children below the age of 18.
Because older people and those in a weakened condition may be more sensitive to Ambien’s effects, the recommended starting dosage is 5 milligrams just before bedtime.
Overdosage with Ambien
People who take too much Ambien may become excessively sleepy or even go into a light coma. The symptoms of overdose are more severe if the person is also taking other drugs that depress the central nervous system. Some cases of multiple overdose have been fatal.
If you suspect an overdose of Ambien, seek medical attention immediately.
Ambien recreational use and abuse
The transition from medicinal use to recreational use of Ambien can occur when Ambien is used without the doctor’s recommendation to continue using it, in high doses (more than the usual 5mg or 10 mg), when consumed other than orally (snorting or injecting), or when taken for purposes other than as a sleep aid. Abuse is more prevalent in those who have been dependent on other drugs, tobacco, or alcohol in the past. Ambien effects can increase and intensify if mixed with other substances like alcohol and cannabis.
In the U.S., recreational use of Ambien is becoming more common in young people. Recreational users claim that “fighting” the effects of the drug by forcing themselves to stay awake will sometimes cause vivid visuals and a body high.
However, others who are already in an anxious state, claim it is not hard to fight the main effect of sedation, experiencing the side-effect of euphoria more than the sedation itself. Thus some users report decreased anxiety, and even mild euphoria, as well as perceptual changes, visual distortions, and light-based hallucinations. It is also not uncommon for one who has developed a tolerance to Ambien to eventually feel such a decrease in the sedation effect that only the euphoric, perceptual, and anxiety decreasing side effects remain.
With regular use at high dosage with Ambien, there can be a risk of a severe physical dependence on zolpidem with cases being reported in the medical literature of epileptic seizures forming part of the withdrawal syndrome. One case involved a woman detoxing off a high dose of Ambien experiencing a generalized seizure. The clinical withdrawal and dependence effects were reported to be similar to those of benzodiazepines in this case report.
Ambien and other sedative hypnotic drugs are detected frequently in cases of people suspected of driving under the influence of drugs. Other drugs including the benzodiazepines and zopiclone are also found in high numbers of suspected drugged drivers. Many drivers have blood levels far exceeding the therapeutic dose range suggesting a high degree of excessive-use potential for benzodiazepines, zolpidem and zopiclone.