According to regulatory body recommendations in the US and the UK, the drug should only be prescribed for a very limited time to prevent addiction or dependence. The “knockout” effect diminishes over time, which can result in a prolongation of sleep deprivation and other negative consequences. ¹
Ambien crosses the placental barrier and should not be used by nursing mothers.
When using Ambien, other central nervous system (CNS) depressants including alcohol should be avoided due to their additive psychomotor impairments.
Coming off the drug without help or proper instruction can be especially difficult, as will be discussed further in the topics outlined below. Always thoroughly research a drug before starting or stopping a prescription.
Ambien is most frequently used in a therapeutic context for the short-term treatment of insomnia. Sleep deprivation can cause many health problems, including neurocognitive consequences.
Quite apart from the intended medical or therapeutic uses, Ambien has been used as a date-rape drug because of its fast onset and profound memory obfuscating characteristics. Ambien is also hard to detect on a drug test, and is colorless, odorless and tasteless, and easily dissolves in alcohol, making it easy to slip into another’s drink surreptitiously. The unsuspecting victim will not remember much, if any, of what has happened, making a court conviction against the rapist or other perpetrator much harder to obtain.
Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo and Zolpimist are all trade names for the generic drug which is called zolpimed, also named zolpimed tartrate. Ambien CR and zolpimed ER are the time-release versions of this medication.
Ambien side effects can worsen over time so dramatically that physicians are strongly cautioned by the FDA in the US and by the counterpart of the FDA in the UK not to prescribe sleeping aids such as Ambien for more than a three-to four-week period at most. Recommended doses have also been lowered, due to new findings about the intense and sometimes bizarre side effects of Ambien, especially when taken at higher doses. Drug makers have been directed to put additional black box warnings on the packaging, indicating the risks of certain side effects of Ambien. ¹
Here are some of the side effects to be cautious of:
Ambien is a drug that may require inpatient care for proper recovery and safe tapering. Full monitoring of someone who is experiencing Ambien withdrawals is highly recommended, sometimes requiring 24/7 observation.
Withdrawal effects include, and are not limited to:
One should not continue taking Ambien for longer than is recommended in medical literature and the FDA label. ¹
Even after as little as a week or two, withdrawals can emerge and can be problematic. Always seek competent medical advice, guidance and support for monitoring the process of tapering off Ambien safely.
There is much to learn about a drug that is as unpredictable and powerful as Ambien. Some of the most common questions are covered briefly below. We can provide more information by request on any of these or other important topics.
There is high risk in acquiring a dependency on sleeping aids such as Ambien as they are habit-forming. One of the common side effects of the drug is interrupted sleep, even when taking the drug as prescribed, which may lead to taking additional doses, or taking it for a longer time than is recommended. Impaired memory is another factor that can lead to dependence, i.e. not remembering if or when one took the drug, leading to over use.
Since one of the withdrawal effects of Ambien is rebound insomnia, this problem of lack of sleep can become a problematic, repeating loop, especially without proper protocols in place for tapering. There are many reasons one may decide to stop taking a drug like Ambien. The side effects of the drug can be debilitating to the extreme and this can happen after a relatively short time of taking the drug.
However, it is possible to find the help that is needed for safely tapering from Ambien. At the Alternative to Meds Center, we are committed to finding the initial problems with sleep that led to prescribing a sleeping pill in the first place. We have much information to offer on request about the comprehensive treatments available in our program for recovering from insomnia, and from the negative effects that were caused or aggravated by dependence on sleeping aids.
A healthy vibrant state includes being able to sleep soundly and restfully, which provides adequate energy for successful day to day living. The Alternative to Meds Center can provide the means to help you overcome the challenges that may have impacted your life negatively. There is hope for safe recovery, restored health and optimal living without further dependence on drugs like Ambien.
Dr. Michael Loes is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Pain Management and Addiction Medicine. He holds a dual license in Homeopathic and Integrative Medicine. He obtained his medical doctorate at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 1978. Dr. Loes performed an externship at the National Institute of Health for Psychopharmacology. Additionally, he is a well-published author including Arthritis: The Doctor’s Cure, The Aspirin Alternative, The Healing Response, and Spirit Driven Health: The Psalmist’s Guide for Recovery. He has been awarded the Minnesota Medical Foundation’s “Excellence in Research” Award.