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Ambien Side Effects & Health Dangers

side effects of ambien

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Ambien side effects reported by patients include dizziness, body pains, abdominal cramps, stuffy nose, diarrhea, and vomiting. Emotional and cognitive changes, such as memory loss, hallucinations, anxiety, and depression, are also not uncommon.

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Table of Contents

Ambien Dangers

The side effects of Ambien include memory loss and hallucinations, which may lead to risk-taking behavior, such as sleep-driving. Anxiety and depression brought on by the drug may trigger suicidal thoughts. These dangers, compounded by Ambien’s high potential for addiction, can lead to a user’s death. Ambien has also been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer.

Ambien Side Effects

Ambien (Zolpidem) is a hypnotic medication used to treat insomnia. Some of its common side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Stuffy nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Body pains
  • Ataxia and involuntary body movements
  • Impaired vision
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Users are instructed to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep after taking Ambien. Reactions and alertness can be still impaired for up to four hours after a night’s sleep with Ambien, even after the user has woken up completely.
Ambien can become habit-forming and is not often prescribed or recommended for use over a period longer than four or five months.

Ambien abuse and withdrawal can have serious consequences.

Ambien may also affect a user’s cognitive and the emotional state. Many people experience:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of pleasure
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Impaired judgments
  • Poor concentration
  • Memory loss

Ambien Health Risks

Ambien can result in risk-taking behavior and aggression, which can be dangerous not only to the user but the people around them. Next-day impaired driving is a common effect and can be life-threatening. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warn all users about this in the medication leaflet.

Ambien & Allergic Reactions

Ambien is a drug that can cause severe allergic reactions. Patients should call their doctor immediately if they notice any:

  • Swelling
  • Hives
  • Difficulties with breathing
  • Chest pain

Always inform a doctor of any existing health conditions before taking Ambien.

Ambien & Anxiety

User reports and medical data show that one of the most common side effects of Ambien is anxiety. Depression often occurs with anxiety, and insomnia can also make the problem worse. Some users also might become more nervous, impulsive or outgoing due to the effects Ambien has on them.

Ambien & Memory Loss

As stated above, some of the side effects of Ambien include various mental and behavioral changes. Memory loss is another common side effect. Under Ambien’s influence people have reported experiencing sleepwalking, sleep-driving, and social behaviors (talking, making phone calls, having sexual intercourse) without retaining any memory of the events.
Taking Ambien with alcohol can increase the risk of such anterograde amnesia.
This memory loss effect might be caused by various chemical reactions and the way Ambien interacts with the GABA receptors in the brain, research suggests.
Other drugs can increase the potential dangers of Ambien and its side effects. Mixing sleeping pills with other drugs can be fatal. Let a doctor know what medications you are taking before seeking an Ambien prescription.

Ambien & Headaches

Another common side effect of Ambien is severe headaches with some users reporting developing migraines because of their Ambien intake. This condition can affect their social and emotional well-being, especially when not treated properly or on time.

Ambien & Weight

Weight loss due to a loss of appetite or upset stomach is a common side effect; however, some users also report weight gain after taking Ambien.
A unique study conducted by the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorder Centre in Minneapolis shows that this effect might be because some users consume food while asleep.

Ambien & Cancer

Last but not least, Ambien use has be linked to an increased risk of cancer and death.
A study published in 2012 suggested that the risk of Zolpidem users developing cancer later in life was greater than for non-users, and especially for men.

Medical Help For Ambien Addiction

The side effects described above are not a complete list of all the effects that Ambien may cause. The effect the drug has on users depends on various differences among individuals and other factors such as a history of abuse. Note that some users never experience any negative side effects.
Discuss any concerns you have with a doctor before starting a medication. Always ask for the right dosage and the best course of treatment; if Ambien is taken over an extended period, it can worsen insomnia instead of improving it. Dedicate enough time to sleep after Ambien intake to reduce the potential risks of dangerous activities, such as sleep-driving.

Remember that an effect of sleepiness may manifest the next day; one should avoid any activities that require accurate judgment, such as operating machinery until the body is completely clean.
View Sources
  1. Kripke D. F. Hypnotic drug risks of mortality, infection, depression, and cancer: but lack of benefit. F1000Res. 2018;5:918. doi:10.12688/f1000research.8729.3.
  2. Lai S. W. Risks and benefits of zolpidem use in Taiwan: a narrative review. Biomedicine (Taipei). 2016; 6(2): 8. doi:10.7603/s40681-016-0008-2.
  3. Inagaki T., Miyaoka T., Tsuji S., Inami Y., Nishida A., Horiguchi J. Adverse reactions to zolpidem: case reports and a review of the literature. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2010; 12(6): PCC.09r00849. doi:10.4088/PCC.09r00849bro.
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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