All About Ambien

Ambien is one of the trade brand names for the drug Zolpidem. It is used mainly for insomnia, but for other conditions as well. With the short 2-3 hour half life and its fast start time before taking effect, it is becoming a favorite for sleeping pill prescriptions. However, there are some very real side effects to Ambien.

Ambien Sleeping Pill

Zolpidem, or more widely known by the name Ambien, is approved for insomnia relief in the short term. It is also used to improve the function of the brain in those with brain injuries and those that are in a coma. While those are the only uses that it is prescribed for that are termed “on label” or approved uses, there are plenty of “off label” uses as well. These include treatments for RLS (restless leg syndrome) and it is abused as an after pill to ecstasy and meth to “come down”. Ambien has a high street value due to this mass abuse.

Ambien Dosage

The normal prescribing dosage for Ambien is 10 mg. However, typically the patient is started out on 5 mg and then brought up to 10 mg. Those that are elderly or in poor health may stay at the 5 mg dosage or those that have too many side effects on the 10 mg Ambien dosage may see themselves staying at the lower dosage. If side effects plague the patient, he should take it up with his healthcare professional to see about staying at the lower dose.

Ambien Side Effects

While there are those that will take Ambien because of the side effects (those that abuse Ambien for the high) there are some that will not be able to tolerate Zolpidem because of them.

Balance issues, poor motor function Altered thoughts, delusions, hallucinations, amnesia Headaches Increased appetite, increased sex drive, increased impulsiveness Sleep walking, sleep driving, sleep eating Increased Ambien tolerance and dependence

There have been clinical trials that have seen those under the effects of Ambien exhibit weakness, fatigue, and hallucinations. However, it is the sleep walking, sleep driving, and sleep eating that has garnered the most attention. Lawsuits have begun for people using “the Ambien defense”, saying they did it under an altered state. Lawsuits have ranged from thefts and motor vehicle accidents, to even murder.

Those who take Ambien also have hangover effects that can affect their abilities. Care should be taken when first going on the drug to see how it is tolerated and will affect every day abilities. In Australia it comes with a warning that states “Zolpidem may be associated with potentially dangerous complex sleep-related behaviours which may include sleep walking, sleep driving and other bizarre behaviours. Zolpidem is not to be taken with alcohol. Caution is needed with other CNS depressant drugs. Limit use to four weeks maximum under close medical supervision.”

Sources: MedicineNet,, Drugs@FDA

This article appeared July 24, 2009 on Suite 101.

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