Report on Ambien Side Effects and Usage
We searched the United States Food and Drug Administration, Physician’s Desk Reference, Universities around the world and hundreds of Internet sites to give you these reports in plain English. We believe you should be fully informed before taking any drug. That includes the side effects that others don’t talk about.
What is Ambien?
Ambien is the popular brand name of zolpidem (pronounced: zole PI dem) tartrate, a short-term prescription medication to aid people who have difficulty getting to sleep, have trouble staying asleep, or wake up too early in the morning. (Short-term: usually 7 to 10 days) Ambien was introduced in the United States in 1993 but this sleeping pill was widely used in Europe five years before that. More than 4 billion doses of Ambien have been prescribed worldwide.
Ambien is in a class of drugs called sedative/hypnotics or sleep medications. Although it is supposed to be non-addictive, some people who take it disagree about that.
How does Ambien work?
Non-technical: Ambien affects chemicals in your brain that may become unbalanced and cause insomnia. Ambien causes relaxation and induces sleep. This sleeping pill helps you fall asleep within 15 to 30 minutes, so take Ambien only when you are ready to go to sleep. It is beneficial in providing a decent night’s sleep and is out of your body in 6-8 hours so you aren’t affected the next day.
Technical: Ambien has been shown to bind preferentially to the omega-1 (BZ-1) receptor subtype of the GABAA receptor, the subtype thought to be most closely associated with sleep. In contrast, benzodiazepine hypnotics nonselectively bind to and activate all 3 omega receptor subtypes. While the selective binding of Ambien on the omega-1 receptor is not absolute, it may explain the preservation of deep sleep (stages 3 and 4) in human studies of Ambien at hypnotic doses.
How is Ambien supplied?
Ambien is available as a tablet for oral administration. Ambien 5-mg tablets are capsule-shaped, pink, and film coated, with “AMB 5” on one side and “5401” on the other side. The Ambien 10-mg tablets are capsule-shaped, white, and film coated, with “AMB 10” on one side and “5421” on the other side. Ambien CR (zolpidem controlled-release) comes in 6.25 mg. and 12.5 mg.
What is the recommended dosage?
The recommended dose of Ambien for adults is 10 mg immediately before bedtime. In elderly and/or debilitated patients and in patients with hepatic insufficiency, an initial dose of 5 mg is recommended. No dosage adjustment is necessary in patients with compromised renal function; however, as a general precaution, these patients should be closely monitored. Downward dosage adjustment may be necessary when Ambien is administered with agents having known CNS-depressant effects, because of the potentially additive effects.
Reported Side Effects
If you experience any of the following serious side effects, stop taking Ambien and seek emergency medical attention:
- an allergic reaction (difficulty breathing; closing of your throat; swelling of your lips, face, or tongue; hives); or
- hallucinations, abnormal behavior, or severe confusion.
Other, less serious side effects may be more likely to occur. Continue to take Ambien and talk to your doctor if you experience:
- headache, drowsiness, dizziness, or clumsiness
- nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation
- muscle aches or pains
- vivid or abnormal dreams
- amnesia (memory loss) after a dose, sometimes significant
The most common side effects seen were:
- headache (19%)
- myalgia – pain in a muscle or group of muscles (7%)
- back pain (3%)
- daytime drowsiness (2%)
- dizziness (1%)
- diarrhea (1%)
Be sure to tell your doctor if you:
- Drink alcohol
- Have a history of alcohol or drug dependency
- Are pregnant or breast-feeding
- Have any breathing difficulties, such as asthma, bronchitis
- Have emphysema
- Have a history of heavy snoring
- Are depressed
- Have kidney or liver disease
This medication may also cause double vision or other vision problems.
Long Term Effects
During longer-term treatment (28 to 35 nights) in controlled clinical trials at doses less than 10 mg, the most commonly observed adverse events associated with the use of Ambien and seen at statistically significant differences from placebo-treated patients were dizziness (5%) and drugged feelings (3%).
Does Ambien increase total sleep time?
Yes it does. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, multi-center study, subjective measurements showed Ambien significantly increased total sleep time compared to a placebo for all 4 weeks.
Switching to Ambien?
There are no definitive clinical trials that address switching from other sleep medications to Ambien. Therefore, it is advisable to allow for an adequate washout period when switching from other sleeping pills, particularly long half-life products like benzodiazepines.
As a general precautionary measure, gradual tapering off of the sleeping medication rather than abrupt discontinuation may be needed. This helps to minimize the potential for withdrawal reactions.
Store Ambien at room temperature away from moisture, heat and children, but not in the bathroom.
Notes on Ambien
If insomnia persists beyond the 7 to 10 day treatment this may indicate the presence of a primary psychiatric and/or medical illness that should be evaluated.
Ambien works within 15 to 30 minutes. Do not drive, operate machinery, or perform other hazardous activities after taking Ambien.
Ambien should be taken just before bedtime but you may experience some carryover effects the next day.
Do not drink alcohol while taking Ambien. Alcohol will increase drowsiness and may increase dizziness, which could be dangerous.
Do not stop taking Ambien suddenly if you have been taking it for several weeks. This may cause withdrawal symptoms and make you uncomfortable. Talk to your doctor if you need to stop treatment with Ambien.
Ambien is in the FDA pregnancy category B. This means that it is unlikely to harm an unborn baby.
Do not take Ambien without first talking to your doctor if you are pregnant.
Ambien passes into breast milk and may affect a nursing baby. Do not take this medication without first talking to your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.
If you are over 60 years of age, you may be more likely to experience side effects from Ambien. You may require a lower dose of this medication.
Ambien is not approved by the FDA for use by children younger than 18 years of age.
Common Misspellings for Ambien
Ambien is often misspelled, as many people hear the word verbally, write it down and spell it incorrectly. Here are a few of the most common misspellings for Ambien: Ambein, Amben, Ambeam, Ambean, Ambeim, Ambiem, Ambion, Ambiam, Ambiin, Amvien, Ambium, Ambian, Amein, Anbiem, Anbien, Anbeam, Anbean, Anbeim, Anbein, and Mabien.
Update 9/22/2007: Thanks for all your work in getting info on products out there! I have had major problems with Ambien, and found that the FDA made the manufacturer of it and similar sleep meds change their warning labels, their prescribing info, pharmacists’ literature, doctors’ literature etc. to reflect the serious problems reported with sleep-eating, sleep-driving and respiratory problems. Would you please consider adding these new very serious warnings to your product review page? Thanks!
AskDocWeb: Thanks Anna, you just did that. Good job!
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