Overview

Ambien is the first in a new class of sleeping medicines. It is prescribed for the short-term treatment of insomnia.

Studies indicate that the stages of sleep approach normal in patients on Ambien, and there is a low incidence of next-day hangover.

Side Effects and Interactions

People on Ambien may experience daytime drowsiness, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or headache.

Other side effects reported include lethargy, weakness, drugged feelings, amnesia, dry mouth, constipation, allergy and sinusitis.

Because this medication is still quite new, some rare reactions may not yet have shown up. Be sure to report any symptoms to your physician promptly.

Relatively few studies have considered Ambien in combination with other medications.

Ambien interacts with alcohol, which should generally be avoided by everyone taking sleeping pills.

Antianxiety medicines like Xanax and other sleeping pills, such as Dalmane or Halcion, might magnify the effects of Ambien.

This sleeping pill can reduce peak blood levels of Tofranil (imipramine) by 20 percent and decrease alertness.

Increased impairment has also been reported when Thorazine is combined with Ambien.

Because of the animal research showing that lemon balm extract can potentiate barbiturate action, the herb should be used only with caution, if at all, in combination with Ambien.

Check with your doctor and pharmacist to make sure Ambien is safe in combination with any other drugs or herbs you take.

Special Precautions

Older people are more sensitive to Ambien and usually require a lower dose.

Insomnia often occurs as a result of physical or psychological illness. While Ambien can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and lengthen the time a person sleeps, it can't help correct any underlying problems, which should be diagnosed and treated appropriately.

Although there is no evidence that Ambien produces physical dependence or addiction, anyone with a history of substance abuse should be monitored carefully while on this or any other sleeping pill.

Taking the Medicine

Ambien works very quickly. It should be taken on an empty stomach immediately before going to bed.

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  1. SO
    Reply

    I am 64. After being on zolpidem 5mg nightly for several months I had blood in my urine and bladder spasms. The MD could find no reason for it. I had a renal ultrasound and examination by a urologist. I googled it and found someone else who had blood in the urine on zolpidem. I have tried other sleep medicines, but none seem to work as well as zolpidem on me. I now have to be careful and only take it a couple of times a week instead of nightly.

  2. LDM
    Reply

    To KAT. You might ask your doctor to reconsider not giving you a sleep medication. I’m 68 and of sound mind and after talking to my doctor about that FDA alert, he had no problem continuing to prescribe my nightly 10mg dose of Zolpidem/Ambien. The FDA is not infallible.
    Also, if you are not subject to dry-mouth issues, you might try a dramamine-like product for sleep; works like a champ for my 90 year old mother.

  3. KAT
    Reply

    I have had chronic insomnia for many years. I average 25 hours of sleep each week. I have a low tolerance for most drugs. How does Ambien work? It can’t make me more lethargic than I am now on no sleep. The doctors refuse to prescribe a mild barbiturate ‘due to my age’. Of course they also refuse to prescribe a pain reliever ‘due to my age’. My revenge will be to outlive those doctors and watch them suffer when they can get no pain or sleep relief – ‘due to their age.’

  4. J.K.
    Reply

    Hello LDM…I have recently too learned the same info on Zolpidem and FDA recommended doses etc as you shared. My doctor also is on the same page now with this. I did not receive the letter but it was brought to my attention at my appointment several months back. I have taken Zopidem for 4 years. Initially the first two years PRN as needed. The third year I took 5mgs nightly and the forth year 10mgs nightly. Also I have chronic IC bladder condition and long term insomnia (of course couple with my bladder issues not being fully managed) SO I began my Zolpidem taper about four months ago. Tapering from 10 mgs down to 7.5 mgs for four weeks. Then tapering down to 5mgs for 4 weeks. Then tapering down to 2.5mgs for four weeks.
    The withdrawal was huge for me in the ways of nausea, mild vomiting and abdominal pain/discomfort along the journey. Other testing had been done to more or less rule out other culprits to my symptoms but although now positive it may have been from the Zopidem long term use etc. I had been on Amytriptyline for 4 years also at 25mgs nightly. Half way through the Zolpidem taper my Amytriptyline dose was increased from 25 mgs to 50mgs. My symptoms were improved.
    Without the increased Amytriptyline I personally believe I could not have toughed out the taper off the Zolpidem! So now I have totally been off the Zolpidem for a total of 4 weeks AND I have not went back. My sleep is not at good of course in fact not good at all but I do manage to sleep 4-5 hours nightly, With the Zolpidem I had realized much better sleep. So will see what the future holds day by day and step by step….

  5. LDM
    Reply

    I just received a letter from my primary care physician telling me that the FDA has changed the recommended Ambien/Zolpidem dose; for women under 65, the highest recommended dose is 5mg or 6.25mg for the CR formulation and for patients over 65 it is recommended they stop taking the drup altogether.

  6. Cheri J
    Reply

    My son had a drinking problem for several years. After going through a wonderful treatment program, he remained drug and alcohol free for 6 1/2 years…. until his doctor prescribed generic Ambien to help him with sleep problems. I began to notice a negative change in his personality about the same time, but didn’t connect the dots at that time.
    He “awoke” one night and found himself driving his truck while drinking a beer and having absolutely no memory of how he got there. After a nightmarish 3 months, he is finally back to normal.
    I had heard about people sleep-driving and doing other strange things while on Ambien but don’t understand why these potentially fatal dangers are not publicized more.

  7. Fedric
    Reply

    I had drinking problem for 3 years.consequently i could not sleep well.since 4 years ago,i stopped drinking.i started to take 5 mg zolpidem daily.i think zolpidem has reduced my desire to consume alchohol. i know it is not documented.

  8. G Prest
    Reply

    Have always had problems sleeping. Have been taking 5mg of generic Ambien for several years and it works great for me-I wake up refreshed and ready to go. Akk over the counter sleep aids make me feel bad the next day.

  9. SF
    Reply

    Zolpidem does not work for me. It will make me vomit, no sleep, depressed, and upset that I actually paid to feel this way. Had to purchase Ambien out of my own pocket since insurance pays zero. Don’t go through the trouble. I will never take this again!!!

  10. PeeWee
    Reply

    Zolpidem doesn’t work for me either. Not worth paying for even if it is MUCH cheaper!
    Thanks to everyone that posted., It’s nice to know that other people have had the same problem… even though I wouldn’t wish this insomnia on anyone. I’ve tried Lunesta, melatonin & other generic Ambien & none of them worked for me. What I haven’t tried is the Sanofi generic that JSL suggested, but I will try it. Thanks JSL

  11. chill
    Reply

    thanks for this good information. I am going back to original Ambien, the generics are really proving to be bait and switch, they seldom work. and we still have to pay for our senior “prescription help”!

  12. SM
    Reply

    Yes…. having a big time problem with the generic version, Zolpidem (manufacturer: Torrent). The pharmacy recently switched from another manufacturer and it DOES make a difference. The active ingredient may be the same, but not the other chemicals that make up the medication. I am going to call the pharmacy about this. Can’t sleep for the life of me and that just isn’t going to cut it. Good luck with your situation. Look to see if the manufacturer (on the bottom of your bottle) has changed.

  13. Marcus
    Reply

    I was prescribed Zolpidem once. I got extremely dizzy and threw up about 10 minutes after taking it… that was the last time I tried that… And in response to KLG above, I have taken Melatonin and it helps me fall asleep and stay asleep. IT gives me an extremely lethargic feeling before falling asleep, but when I wake up I feel great… Have never tried mixing it with anything else though.

  14. pam
    Reply

    Zolpidem does not work for me at all. Ambien worked very well.

  15. CFR
    Reply

    I’ve taken hypnotics since the days of chloral hydrate, Seconal, Nembutal, Placidyl and, oh God, please bring it back, Quaalude. Ambien has always been a really good second-tier sleep aid but, like everyone seems to note, since the insurance co.-enforced use of (generic) zolpidem, it has really been hit-or-miss in its effectiveness. Many thanks to JSL for the tip about trying to search out the Sanofi-made form of generic Ambien.
    Now, if I can just convince Medi-Cal to let my pharmacist do the hunting. (I’m laughing semi-hysterically as I type this, since Medi-Cal, even Medicaid, is becoming less and less a provider of anything except a lot of trouble for its users/captees.)
    In answer to KLG: melatonin and its pharmaceutical brother, the melatonin receptor agonist, Rozerem, are both quite effective (approaching Quaalude-like hypnotic effects, for me at least), but give me a gawdawful hangover the next day, so neither has proved to be worth the trouble or expense. (Naturally, insurance co.’s and Medi-Cal pay for it-Rozerem-without a whimper. :) )
    I’d like to know if anyone else has tried Lunesta and had the same 24-hour crappy/bitter-taste-in-the-mouth side-effect that I experienced. The drug maker claims about 34% of users experience an “unpleasant taste” when using the 3 mg. form of it. Boy! I sure did!
    Many thanks

  16. KLG
    Reply

    I take the Zolpidem 10g, and it helps me fall asleep but not stay asleep. And I have awful dry mouth. Have never tried the name brand, but my MD recommended taking Melatonin with the Zolpidem to prolong the time I stay asleep. I haven’t tried it yet… sounds like too much!
    Has anyone else tried the Melatonin?

  17. JSL
    Reply

    I switched from Ambien to generic zolpidem a year ago. There are several generic manufacturer’s of this medicine. Teva’s generic (the most common) did nothing for me. I shopped different pharmacies trying other generics until I found one that works nearly the same as Ambien. Also, the maker of Ambine (Sanofi) also markets generic zolpidem – made in the same facility with exactly the same formulation is Ambien – you may be able to find the Sanofi generic is you check enough local pharmacies.
    Generic drugs are not identical to the branded version (except if manufactured by the same company as noted above). Bioequivalence (the amount in of drug in your blood) can be different and the formulation (additives to help form the tablet for example) is usually different. For many patients, this make no difference – but for some it does effect how the drug controls their symptoms.

  18. BL
    Reply

    I had been taking name brand Ambian for about 7 years for restless legs syndrome, I have Medo Ins and at once they refused to pay for the brand name and began sending the generic drug. It does not work for me at all, my question is what is the difference? because I know there is.

  19. N.R.
    Reply

    The generic ambien did nothing for me. I had never taken a sleep aid and tried the generic. It was useless. The name brand did the trick. Only half a pill.

  20. JHH
    Reply

    I have been taking Ambien for 5 years and tried the generic. It did nothing. I also tried Ambien CR and it, too, was useless for me. Only brand name Ambien for me. If my doctor specifies “Brand name only” on the Rx then I only have to pay $25. Jane

  21. JDC
    Reply

    I have taken Ambien for 5 years, was happy to try the
    much less expensive Zolpidem. Unfortunately, the Zolpidem didn’t work anywhere near as
    well as the Ambien. Ambien $200, Zolpidem $10. The
    Ambien even helps my chronic pain, completely disappears.

  22. RW
    Reply

    I’ve taken Ambien for several years. I was able to stop taking it for several weeks, it was a little harder to get to sleep, but I didn’t “crave” it.
    I do have “Ambien moments”. If I have a conversation while drowsy after taking Ambien, I frequently do not remember it. We finally figured out why I didn’t remember my husband informing me of appointments, etc.. We now know not to discuss important topics while I’m starting to doze off.

  23. NS
    Reply

    I’ve found that the generic version of Ambien has very little effect on me, and I insist on the brand name product, even though I have to pay full price, which is very expensive for me. My insurance company, Blue Cross of Ca will only cover the generic version of a drug, and I feel that this practice is unethical. I also want to say that I have to take the pill and go to bed right away, or else I suddenly feel like eating, then binge on whatever’s around. In the AM I will have little or no memory of the binge.

  24. Ambien
    Reply

    I recently received a refill on my generic Ambien. It’s now a small yellowish pill with 10 on one side and ZPL on the other. It has VERY little effect on me what so ever!! I called around to find a pharmacy that has my original generic and I will have them refill.

  25. Susan T
    Reply

    Ambien CR is unpredictable for me. As I type this I have taken Ambien CR about two and a half hours ago with no effect whatsoever. No, I am not having amnesia!. Wide awake. Happens on this medication frequently. I never know what to expect. I also wake up several times in the night which was one of the selling points of Ambien CR (continual sleep) HA! Any ideas out there in dreamland?

  26. Julie
    Reply

    I recently took the generic zolpidem (about 6 mg) for the first time. After 1 1/2 hours of taking the drug, I felt little effect. However, I was groggy the next morning — so maybe it takes longer to be effective ??
    At this point, I’d definitely prefer the name brand (also much easier to break).

  27. Lee Shore
    Reply

    I’m an ‘older person’ (mid-60s) and still need the full dose to fall/stay asleep.
    The only doctor’s opinion I’d trust is one who has “walked a mile in my shoes.”

  28. CH
    Reply

    I take the generic form of Ambien and find that it does not work nearly as well. Has this been a problem for other people?

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