Ambien - Uses - Dosages - Side Effects - Precautions

Ambien: Frequently Asked Questions Answered

What is Ambien?

Ambien is a brand name under which the sedative zolpidem is marketed. Ambien (zolpidem) is a non-barbiturate, non-narcotic, and non-benzodiazepine hypnotic medication used to treat insomnia. It is available in tablets of 5 mg and 10 mg strengths.

Since Ambien can cause side effects such as excessive drowsiness and dizziness and may interact with other medications or conditions, its distribution is controlled. Ambien is only available with a prescription and should be taken strictly as directed.

What are the uses of Ambien?

Ambien can be used to either help you fall asleep faster or, in its extended-release form, to help you stay asleep. Your doctor decides which form of the drug is most suitable for you based on your symptoms and complaints.

Generally, Ambien is prescribed for short treatment periods of between 2-6 weeks. In most cases, Ambien is prescribed only as a second-line treatment for insomnia after non-pharmacological options such as cognitive behavioral therapy and sleep hygiene therapy have been exhausted.

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What are the side effects of Ambien?

The most common side effects of Ambien use are severe drowsiness and dizziness which, in turn, can cause falls and accidents, leading to severe injuries.

Ambien use may also cause allergic reactions such as swelling of lips, tongue, or throat, shortness of breath, or hives. Seek emergency medical attention if these signs are noted.

Other common side effects:

  • daytime drowsiness
  • sinusitis
  • diarrhea
  • headache

Please note: This is not a complete list of side effects. Please contact your doctor immediately and seek emergency medical attention in case of any allergic symptoms, abdominal or gastric symptoms, depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts.

What is Ambien

Uses of Ambien

Side effects of Ambien


Frequently Asked Questions about Ambien

1. How long does Ambien stay in the system?

Ambien has a short half-life of about 2 hours, meaning that it is metabolized quickly. At slightly higher doses, it is detectable in blood for approximately 11 hours, in saliva for up to 24 hours, and in urine for 36-48 hours. Factors such as age, organ function, dosage, other medications taken, or other medical conditions present influence how long Ambien remains in the system.

2. Is Ambien CR a narcotic?

No, it is not. Ambien CR is the extended-release form of zolpidem. It is a non-narcotic sedative-hypnotic specifically formulated to help with sleep maintenance, in addition to helping induce sleep. Ambien CR is sold as tablets comprising two layers, a fast-dissolving outer layer to induce sleep and a slow-dissolving second layer to maintain sleep.

3. Can I take Ambien while pregnant?

Studies have not found a strong, clear association between Ambien use during pregnancy and major birth defects in the offspring. However, conditions such as hypothermia and respiratory depression may occur in the infant with Ambien use during the later stages of pregnancy. Late-stage Ambien use may also cause withdrawal symptoms in the offspring.

Most doctors recommend taking Ambien during pregnancy only if no other options are available. Your doctor will need to assess the situation to make this determination.

4. Is Ambien a barbiturate?

No, it is not. Though both zolpidem and barbiturates belong to a class of drugs called sedative-hypnotics, their chemical structures are not related. Ambien (zolpidem) is a non-barbiturate, non-benzodiazepine hypnotic that works on certain receptors to slow down brain activity. Ambien is preferred over barbiturates since it is less addictive and presents lower risk of overdose.

5. How long does Ambien keep you asleep?

Generally, the effects of low-dose Ambien (5 mg) last for 7-8 hours. Similar to its elimination, the efficacy of Ambien is affected by age, weight, other medications taken, and other medical conditions present.
Higher doses of Ambien or Ambien CR, the extended-release formulation, may have longer lasting effects and cause next-day drowsiness. Consult your doctor if this happens.

6. When to take Ambien before bed?

Take Ambien immediately before going to bed, and not sooner, since it reaches peak effectiveness quickly. Make sure that you can stay in bed for 7-8 hours after taking Ambien since staying awake while the drug is still in your system can cause severe drowsiness, dizziness, and nausea, among other adverse effects.

7. Can Ambien cause death?

As with other strong sedatives, Ambien comes with certain risks. However, Ambien has a high lethal dose, and its short half-life means that it clears from the body relatively quickly. At extremely high doses, or when mixed with alcohol, Ambien can produce severe side effects and even cause permanent damage. The highest risk of death comes from the complex sleep behaviors, i.e., when users perform actions, such as driving or sleep walking, without being fully awake.

8. Is Ambien a benzodiazepine?

No, it is not. Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants, whereas Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic. Ambien is generally considered to be less addictive than benzodiazepines and to have lower potential for abuse and overdose. Further, Ambien is used only in the treatment of insomnia, whereas benzodiazepines are also used in the treatment of seizures, anxiety, and alcohol withdrawal.

9. Is Ambien safe?

Ambien has been specifically developed to produce a sedative effect without the adverse effects associated with other sedatives, such as barbiturates or benzodiazepines. However, it has its own risks and does have the potential to cause dependence. It is usually prescribed only for short periods and generally does not produce hazardous effects if taken as directed by the prescribing doctor. Mixing Ambien with alcohol or taking multiple doses severely increases the risks associated with the drug.

10. Is Ambien a sleeping pill?

Yes, it is. Ambien is a non-barbiturate, non-narcotic, non-benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotic used in the treatment of insomnia. It is regularly prescribed for a short period to regulate sleep habits and sleep hygiene. Ambien should be taken immediately before bed, and you should stay in bed for 7-8 hours after taking your dose.

The information presented in this article is only an overview. We encourage you to get in touch with our expert doctors at Yashoda Hospitals for a free consultation and more information.

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  1. Drugs.com – Ambien https://www.drugs.com/ambien.html
  2. MedlinePlus – Zolpidem https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a693025.html
  3. RxList – Ambien https://www.rxlist.com/ambien-drug.htm
  4. WebMD – Ambien – Uses, Side Effects, and More https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-9690/ambien-oral/details

Disclaimer: The information provided herein is accurate, updated and complete as per the best practices of the Company. Please note that this information should not be treated as a replacement for physical medical consultation or advice. We do not guarantee the accuracy and the completeness of the information so provided. The absence of any information and/or warning to any drug shall not be considered and assumed as an implied assurance of the Company. We do not take any responsibility for the consequences arising out of the aforementioned information and strongly recommend you for a physical consultation in case of any queries or doubts.