Ambien is the brand name of the drug Zolpidem, which is used to treat the problem of trouble sleeping. The drug is has sedative properties and is great at initiating sleep. The hypnotic effects of Ambien make the drug seem similar to benzodiazepines though the drug is a non-benzodiazepine. Considering the potency of this sleep drug, it is very useful for treating insomnia and other sleep disorders where the sleep-wake cycle is in disorder.
What is the working mechanism of Ambien?
Ambien is a short acting drug that starts to produce drowsy effects within fifteen minutes of taking it, but which last for only about three hours. The drug works by binding with the GABA receptors in the brain and enhancing the effects. The increased activity of the GABA neurotransmitters helps to sedate the user. The drug is recommended for use for a short-term of few weeks only as it is possible to quickly build tolerance and drug dependence.
Ambien dosage information
Ambien is available in the dosage strengths of 5mg and 10mg as orally administered compressed tablets. The nature of the drug is such that it is effective in initiating sleep but not in maintaining it throughout the night. For this purpose, Ambien CR (controlled release) tablets were created in the strengths of 6.25mg and 12.5mg to efficiently maintain sleep throughout the night. Ambien CR is made of two coatings wherein the first layer induces sleep and the second one dissolves slowly to retain sleep.
The standard dose prescribed is 5mg for both men and women according to recommendations by the FDA. This is because women tend to feel greater next day drowsiness, while men process the drug faster. The dosage may be modified by the doctor according to the effectiveness of the treatment.
How to take Ambien?
Ambien should be taken only as directed by the healthcare provider without taking higher doses or for longer than prescribed. Take the single Ambien dose just before going to bed and you will feel the effects within a short span of time. The dosage should be taken only when there is at least seven to eight hours of dedicated sleep time in order to avoid drowsiness the next day. The sleep medication should never under any circumstance be shared with someone not prescribed for it, even if the symptoms are similar.
Prolonged use of Ambien can lead to tolerance and dependence. Do not stop the medication on your own without the doctor tapering the dosage. There can be severe withdrawal symptoms or rebound insomnia if the drug is discontinued abruptly. The controlled release pills should always be swallowed whole without crushing or chewing them.
Ambien is taken only on an as needed basis before going to bed and hence, it is not likely to miss a dose.
If Ambien overdose is suspected, the individual should immediately be taken in for emergency medical assistance. The commonly experienced overdose symptoms include confusion, shallow breathing, sleepiness, fainting, and coma. The overdose symptoms can even become fatal if the drug has been combined with other substances.
Common side effects
- Muscle pain
- Loss of coordination
- Upset stomach
- Nasal congestion
- Throat irritation
Severe adverse effects that require immediate medical help are:
- Chest pain
- Feeling like passing out
- Difficulty in swallowing or breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
It is advised to always report any new or worsening symptoms to the healthcare provider.
- Do not take this medication if you are allergic to Zolpidem.
- Ambien can produce next day drowsiness. Wait until the effects wear off before doing any hazardous tasks or those that require concentration.
- Avoid sharing the sleep medication with anyone not prescribed for it.
- Do not increase the dosage or take the medication for longer without the doctor’s assistance. Follow the dosage instructions while discontinuing the medication as well.
- Avoid taking Ambien if you have consumed alcohol during the day or before bedtime.
- Inform the doctor of any health problems like kidney or liver issues, sleep apnea, breathing disorders, depression, history of drug addiction or alcohol abuse to ensure that the drug is safe for use.
- Ambien should not be used in pregnant or breast-feeding women.
Ambien should be taken with suitable precautions when using other drugs as well, particularly those that produce the effect of sleepiness like painkillers, muscle relaxants, narcotics, cough medications, anti-depressants, anxiety drugs, seizures pills. Other drugs that you need to be wary about using and informing the healthcare provider on include rifampin, sertraline, chlorpromazine, and ketoconazole. To be on the safer side, it is advised to disclose all drugs being taken to all your doctors.
Store the medication in their original package at room temperature out of direct sunlight, heat and moisture. Keep the pills out of reach from children and pets in a locked cabinet.