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Ambien is the brand name of a drug known as Zolpidem, a sedative-hypnotic medication. It is a sleep aid drug that treats insomnia, which refers to difficulty falling or staying asleep. People take Ambien on an empty stomach to help them fall asleep easier or to help them stay asleep without interruptions.
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Ambien is a nonbenzodiazepine Z drug that works by increasing GABA effects in the central nervous system at the same site as benzodiazepines in order to accelerate the sleep onset process.
It comes as an immediate-release tablet (Ambien) or in an extended-release form (Ambien CR), which are both taken by mouth. Zolpidem can also come as a sublingual tablet that’s placed under the tongue (Edluar and Intermezzo) and as an oral spray that’s sprayed over the tongue (Zolpimist), though those are not Ambien.
Ambien is used to help people fall asleep and stay asleep. It treats symptoms of insomnia, which may include:
In most cases, Ambien is best used as a short-term treatment (2 to 6 weeks) and should be combined with other methods such as therapy to help a patient develop healthy sleeping habits and patterns.
Like all medications, there are some side effects of Ambien of which you should be aware. Some of these side effects include the following:
Ambien may also cause some seriously life-threatening sleep behaviors. For example, some people who have taken Ambien have gotten out of bed to drive their cars (sleep-driving), prepare and eat food, engage in sexual activities, make phone calls, sleepwalk, and more while not fully awake. You may not remember doing any of these activities after you fully wake up.
It’s important to follow the directions on your prescription label carefully. Only take Ambien as directed, and speak to your doctor or pharmacist about any questions you may have about your Ambien prescription. Alert your doctor immediately if any serious side effects occur.
You should not take Ambien if you:
Zolpidem is a fast-acting drug. The effects of Ambien are typically felt within 15 minutes of ingestion, however factors such as food consumption, body mass, and dose may influence this. Immediate-release tablets dissolve quickly to help people fall asleep, while extended-release tablets have two layers. The first dissolves quickly to help people fall asleep, and the second layer dissolves slowly in order to help keep them asleep.
Ambien's effects may last into the next day if you do not get a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep. These effects include sleepiness, unsteadiness, and the inability to drive.
Ambien usually only stays in your system for less than a day. Ambien’s half-life ranges from about 1.5 hours to 4.5 hours, and it averages about 2 hours for most people who take it. Of course, immediate-release tablets will be detectable earlier, and higher doses of prescription drugs will last longer in your system.
A blood test can typically detect Ambien in your blood for up to 20 hours.
A saliva drug test may be able to trace Ambien within 15 minutes of taking the medicine. It can also trace Ambien in your saliva for up to about eight hours after taking it.
A test of your hair follicle may show traces of Ambien for up to five weeks after the last time you took the drug.
A urine test can detect Ambien in your urine for about 24 to 48 hours after your last dose.
When you take sleeping pills like Ambien as directed for short periods, it is generally considered safe. However, Ambien is a federally controlled substance (C-IV) because it is habit-forming. Some people abuse Ambien and become dependent on it, and may start taking higher doses due to tolerance.
An estimated 46,000 adolescents between 12 and 17 years old misuse prescription tranquilizers and sedatives like Ambien. Another 1.7 million young adults between 18 and 25 also admit to using these kinds of drugs. And 4.3 million adults over the age of 25 report misusing prescription tranquilizers or sedatives.
Symptoms of Ambien addiction include the following:
Ambien withdrawal symptoms may include the following:
If you or a loved one is experiencing Ambien withdrawal symptoms, seek medical advice from your healthcare professional. Treatment options for unhealthy drug use are available.
Ambien addiction treatment is available. Here are some options to treat Ambien addiction:
If you or someone you know has an addiction to prescription medications, reach out to your healthcare provider and treatment programs in your area for help.
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“Ambien (Zolpidem) Uses, Side Effects, Dosage, Overdose, Interactions.” RxList, www.rxlist.com/ambien-drug.htm.
“Ambien Abuse and Addiction.” Laguna Treatment Hospital, lagunatreatment.com/drug-abuse/ambien/.
“THE AMBIEN BRAND: WHERE MILLIONS HAVE TURNED WHEN HAVING TROUBLE FALLING ASLEEP.” Home, www.ambien.com/.
Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Questions and Answers: Risk of next-Morning Impairment after Use of Insomnia Drugs; FDA Requires Lower Recommended Doses for Certain Drugs Containing Zolpidem (Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar, and Zolpimist).” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/questions-and-answers-risk-next-morning-impairment-after-use-insomnia-drugs-fda-requires-lower.
“Symptoms of Insomnia.” Sleep Foundation, 18 Sept. 2020, www.sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/symptoms.
“Zolpidem: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a693025.html.