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Alternatives To Ambien And Over The Counter Substitutes

other drugs like Ambien

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The brain can develop tolerance to drugs like Ambien (zolpidem) over time. That is why substituting it with Ambien alternatives may be effective. Most of these zolpidem alternatives also come with health risks and side effects, but there are a few options that may become safer and healthier for certain patients.

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Learn About Zolpidem Alternatives:

Medical Alternatives On Prescription

Lunesta vs Ambien

Both zolpidem and Lunesta are non-barbiturate hypnotics that work by interfering with the GABA receptors to create anxiolytic and sedative effects. Although both drugs are for short-term use, they differ in strengths and the period they work in the body.

The main difference between Lunesta and Ambien is that Lunesta is slightly longer acting, and it is more efficient in helping the patient fall asleep, compared to the immediate-release form of zolpidem. On the other hand, the immediate release zolpidem can provide a longer sleep duration to patients who wake up in the middle of the night.

Both drugs are Schedule IV medications, with a potential for dependence and abuse. That is why switching from Ambien to Lunesta should be done only with the close attention and supervision of a health professional.

Ambien vs Trazodone

Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic, while Trazodone is an antidepressant; therefore, both act in different ways to help improve sleep. Trazodone boosts serotonin availability in the brain, while zolpidem works on the GABA receptors. For some patients, Trazodone is better than Ambien because it is appropriate for long-term treatment of insomnia. Long term use of Ambien is not recommended.

Restoril vs Ambien

Both zolpidem and Restoril are sedative-hypnotics, but the first one is a non-barbiturate hypnotic, and the later is a benzodiazepine. Despite this difference, the two drugs act similarly: they bind to GABA receptors. The result is a calmed, relaxed state which helps the patient fall not only asleep but also stay asleep. Both drugs are for short-term treatment for insomnia. That’s why Restoril can be considered as a zolpidem alternative.

Ambien vs Xanax

Xanax is a drug for anxiety disorders and panic attacks, but it proved to be efficient in treating insomnia. So, the doctors use it off-label. The two medications are in different drug classes, but the effects are similar. Both medications affect the GABA receptors, but while Ambien binds only to the GABAa receptor, Xanax acts non-selectively on the same neurotransmitter. That is why Xanax, as an alternative, is efficient for both insomnia and anxiety, while zolpidem only for insomnia.

Sonata vs Ambien

Sonata and zolpidem are included in the class of medications called Z drugs. Medications act in a similar way to benzos, causing sedative effects and making the patient sleepy.

For some patients, especially those who have difficulty in falling asleep, Sonata is better than Ambien, as it works faster than zolpidem. Sonata works three times faster than zolpidem and will keep the patient asleep for a longer time. It is also a good option for those who tend to wake up during the night because the drug leaves the body faster.

Melatonin vs Ambien

Melatonin is an antidepressant and a hormone that is naturally produced by the pineal gland in the brain. The hormone is responsible for regulating the sleep and wake cycles. Melatonin supplements are the natural alternative to Ambien. Although both zolpidem and melatonin are efficient in regulating the sleep patterns in the brain, the second one is natural; therefore, the possibility of side effects is minimal and less intrusive compared to zolpidem.

Belsomra vs Ambien

Belsomra is another sedative-hypnotic alternative to Ambien. It acts on the orexin receptors. If zolpidem works by increasing the GABA signal promoting sleepiness, Belsomra acts by blocking orexin, the chemical which is used by the brain cells to wake up.

Doxepin vs Ambien

Doxepin is a tricyclic antidepressant that, in lower doses, helps people dealing with insomnia. This zolpidem alternative slows down the activity in the brain to help the patients fall asleep.

Silenor vs Ambien

Silenor, another alternative to Ambien, is efficient in helping people to fall and stay asleep. The drug acts by allowing the histamine neurotransmitter to build up in the spaces separating the nerve cells by stopping its uptake into the cells nearby. The drug is not a controlled substance, and it is touted as a non-abusable insomnia drug, being a comparatively safer option for patients that are concerned about developing an addiction.

Rozerem vs Ambien

Both Rozerem and zolpidem are sedative-hypnotics. The difference is that the first one is not known to be habit-forming; so it can be safely prescribed for the long term. Rozerem acts by mimicking melatonin. This means that Rozerem does not come with the groggy side effects given by sedatives.

Rozerem is efficient for those who got their circadian rhythms messed up due to jet lag, for example, or for blind people who do not have the light/dark environmental cues to naturally transition into sleep. When it comes to traditional insomniacs, the drug is not very efficient.

Halcion vs Ambien

Halcion acts by potentiating the GABA neurotransmitter, inhibiting activity among neurons. Like zolpidem, the Halcion is not prescribed for long term treatment. This alternative can make the patient fall asleep quickly and stay asleep for up to eight hours. Similar to zolpidem, Halcion poses the risk of dependence and abuse.

OTC Alternatives To Zolpidem

The Ambien cost without insurance may become an unbearable burden for many. There are some natural and OTC substitutes for Ambien, which are safer and more cost-effective.

Among different substitutes, the natural alternatives to Ambien mostly include herbal remedies. Some of them can prove efficient for certain patients. Still, there are many risks associated with natural sleep-aids, too. There is a range of potential adverse reactions that cannot be projected in advance. So, a doctor’s consultation on any Ambien alternative and further monitoring is important. In case of any signs of abuse, patients should join the addiction treatment program as soon as possible.

Herbal Alternatives to Ambien

  • valerian root
  • chamomile
  • lavender
  • hops
  • passionflower
  • Ginseng
  • Diphenhydramine, etc.

Switching To Alternative

There are people for whom zolpidem is not efficient; they have developed tolerance to the drug, or experience zolpidem side effects that interfere with their normal lives. In these situations, the doctor can end Ambien prescription and recommend zolpidem alternatives to treat sleeping problems.

Switching to a substitute for Ambien should be done only under the doctor’s careful supervision and by their recommendation. Self-treatment may lead to health complications, including potential Ambien withdrawal symptoms.

Before switching to zolpidem alternatives, the patient undergoes an examination so that the exact cause of the sleeping issue could be determined. Zolpidem should never be stopped suddenly since it can cause severe withdrawal symptoms. The doctor will slowly taper off zolpidem under close supervision and then suggest or prescribe one of the Ambien alternatives.

Ambien Addiction Treatment

Because zolpidem is subject to misuse, abuse, and addiction, a long-term treatment is not recommended. A patient can become addicted to the drug after a few weeks since starting it.

For people who struggle with zolpidem addiction, the best way to overcome it is a professional treatment in specialized drug rehab clinics. With professional help, the patient will be able to safely overcome addiction.

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  4. Silenor™ (doxepin) tablets for oral administration: HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION. Somaxon Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 2010.
  5. ROZEREM (ramelteon) tablets: HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION. Takeda Global Research and Development Center, Inc. 2008.
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Sharon Levy

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.


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