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Ambien Side Effects: Is Zolpidem Safe For All?

side effects of ambien

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Children, adults, and geriatric patients can be prescribed to take pills such as zolpidem to treat insomnia, and some users later suffer from common side effects of Ambien. Nowadays, there is much research done in the field of side effects of Ambien CR (extended-release) and Ambien, as well as other sedative medications. The information in this article is dedicated to highlighting the possible side effects & dangers of Ambien and caution users to be careful with using the drug.

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Learn About Zolpidem Side Effects:

Is Ambien Safe?

In general, Ambien is safe to take if a person has 7-8 hours for sleeping, otherwise, it is better to avoid usage. Like any other medication, there is a range of Ambien side effects, both mental and physical. Acting like benzodiazepines by slowing down brain activity, zolpidem uses may provide side effects like sleep-walking, sleep-eating, sleep-driving, sleep sex, and other activities when a person is not fully awakened. Taking the medicine for more than a few weeks, one can suffer from dependence and obtain an addiction.

If any of the adverse side effects occur, the patient should refer to a doctor for changing the dosage or prescribing Ambien alternatives. Users should avoid taking Xanax and Ambien together to treat insomnia.

Common Short Term Side Effects Of Ambien

The statistics show that about 4% of all patients who receive zolpidem during premarketing clinical trials terminated the treatment due to the occurred adverse side effects. The short term side effects of zolpidem include:

  • drowsiness
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • lightheadedness
  • drugged feeling
  • unsteady walking
  • difficulty in keeping the balance
  • nausea
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • heartburn
  • stomach pain or tenderness
  • changes in appetite
  • shakiness, pain, burning, numbness, or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, or legs
  • redness, burning, or tingling of the tongue (with sublingual tablets)
  • dry mouth or throat
  • pharyngitis
  • eye redness, yellow eyes or skin
  • muscle aches or cramps
  • joint, back, or neck pain
  • heavy menstrual bleeding
  • rash
  • hives
  • itching
  • swelling of the eyes, face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • shortness of breath
  • pounding heartbeat
  • chest pain
  • blurred vision or other vision problems
  • depression

Does Ambien Cause Constipation?

Yes, constipation is one of the gastrointestinal system side effects along with diarrhea and abdominal pain. Such side effects were noticed in 2-3% of all patients who participated in the clinical trial.

Does Ambien Lower Blood Pressure?

Yes, it is a rare severe side effect of Ambien that performs in orthostatic hypotension, a form of low blood pressure. Zolpidem can slow sympathetic nervous system activity and nocturnal blood pressure in patients suffer from hypertension. Thus, the usage of such a sleeping pill can influence blood pressure without affecting sleep. Typically, patients with hypertension need to take Ambien sublingual to treat insomnia more often than their normotensive counterparts.

Does Ambien Cause Headaches?

Yes, headaches are the frequent Ambien adverse effects. According to the study, both pediatric patients and adults can suffer from headaches provoked by zolpidem.

Long Term Side Effects Of Ambien

Ambien stays in one’s system for several days. Tests could be useful to conduct if one suffers from unusual health disorders caused by the drug. There is a list of long term effects of Ambien:

  • vomiting
  • staggering
  • falling unconscious and inability to wake up
  • sleep-related disorders (getting out of bed while not being fully awakened and perform activities unconsciously)
  • breathing problems
  • excessive drowsiness
  • increased cancer risk
  • pregnancy complications
  • slowed heartbeat
  • severe allergic reactions.

Long term effects of Ambien on the brain include:

  • memory loss, amnesia
  • coma (loss of consciousness for a period of time)
  • abnormal thoughts and behavior anxiety
  • developed dementia

Ambien Hallucinations

Hallucinations on Ambien are a severe side effect. They can occur both after taking the drug alone and in combination with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants. Apart from having visual and auditory hallucinations, some users report having delirium. The duration of such adverse side effects can be from several minutes to hours, depending on the dosage and presence of other substances. Both adults and elderly people can hallucinate on Ambien. In different studies, patients can recollect visible activities.

Does Ambien Cause Dementia?

Being a sedative drug, Ambien memory loss is one of the possible short-term side effects. Also, the side effects of Ambien in the elderly is associated with the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Higher cumulative dosages have more risk in the progress of such diseases, especially in patients with hypertension, diabetes, and stroke. According to the results of the supervised curing program, the drug was useful in treating nighttime wandering associated with the progression of Alzheimer-like dementia in elderly patients.

Ambien dementia is likely to occur twice as often in patients with long-term insomnia aged 50 to 65 years that those older than 65 years. That’s why zolpidem should be taken with caution to avoid side effects, especially in the elderly, in order to prevent Ambien brain damage.

Does Ambien Cause Weight Gain?

Ambien weight gain is a side effect usually associated with a sleep-related eating disorder. Users may unconsciously start preparing food and eating while being in partially sleeping conditions. According to the study, a 46-year old woman noticed nocturnal eating episodes after 3 weeks of taking the zolpidem. The patient gained 50 pounds during the treatment. The woman had amnesia or partially remembered her actions. After the zolpidem usage termination, nocturnal eating stopped. Other users also report about gaining extra weight under the same circumstances during zolpidem treatment.

Does Ambien Cause Depression And Anxiety?

Side effects like worsening of depression, suicidal thoughts and actions were reported in patients with primary depression cured with sedative-hypnotics. In addition, it is more likely to get intentional overdose in subjects with such a disorder. In these cases, patients should be prescribed to take an as little amount of pills as possible to prevent suicide and other Ambien side effects

In a 6-month study in adult patients, 8,5% of the patients terminated the medical treatment due to the occurred side effects. The study shows that Ambien causes depression, including major depression and depressed mood, and the indicator is much higher compared to the treatment with placebo. Ambien and anxiety, as well as restlessness and/or agitation, were associated together in the same amount of cases as depression.

Sleepwalking, Sleep-Driving, And Sleep-Eating

Zolpidem may cause serious life-threatening sleep behaviors. Some people were noticed doing different activities while not being fully awakened. Ambien sleepwalking is one of the most popular sleeping side effects that occur unconsciously sometime later after the drug administration. Ambien sleep-eating occurs as a result of sleep-walkings that frequently leads to gaining extra weight. Usually, after waking up, people do not remember what happened earlier and what they were doing. If a patient has any of the parasomnias, one should inform the doctor and discuss the further usage of the medicine or changing the prescription.

It is recommended to tell family members or caretakers about the experienced side effects. If one finds the Ambien sleep-driving effect or doing other dangerous activities while partially sleeping, the patient should stop taking the pills. Multiple cases show how the drug causes complex behaviors that may lead to serious side effects and legal complications.

Does Ambien Cause Hair Loss?

There is no research-based information in the official literature about the interconnection between hair loss and Ambien. However, some users report having issues with hair loss during taking the drug. Over an extended period of taking zolpidem for treating sleeping disorders, several users mentioned side effects like increased rate of hair loss, hair thinning, head skin irritation, and itching. Such side effects of Ambien may depend on personal tolerance toward specific ingredients in the drug. Being a prescribed medicine, one should discuss the side effects with a doctor and reconsider taking the drug.

Is Ambien Safe During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding?

Zolpidem is not recommended for taking during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Ambien pregnancy category is C. That means that the study conducted on animals has shown side effects in unborn babies when mothers were taking zolpidem. However, there is not much research done in humans to see how these side effects manifest in humans.

Zolpidem crosses the placenta and may produce respiratory depression and sedation in neonates that may need artificial ventilation or intratracheal intubation. Still, animal research showed embryo-fetal death and delayed fetal development (incomplete fetal skeletal ossification) at a maternally toxic dose 40 times the MRHD (Maximum recommended human dose) based on mg/m2 body surface area. Human data did not show any major Ambien birth defects.

The official information declares the presence of Ambien while breastfeeding in human milk. The data shows the excessive sedation, hypotonia, and respiratory depression in infants influenced by zolpidem during lactation. That is why women should consider stopping breastfeeding during treatment or for 23 hours (approximately 5 elimination half-lives) after the pill administration in order to minimize the influence on the infant through the milk.

Sexual Side Effects Of Zolpidem

According to the report, the patient with OCD mentioned the decreased libido after clonazepam was replaced by zolpidem. Another report states that sex is a susceptibility factor for adverse side effects. Some users make unconscious activities after taking zolpidem before going to bed, including sexual intercourse.

All users should note that having sex with strangers during a blackout or sleepwalk may be fraught with sexually transmitted infections such as HIV and herpes.

Other users intentionally take the drug for unapproved recreational purposes, such as sex benefits. Instead of taking the drug in the bed before sleep, users take the pills and stay awaken intentionally, which causes Ambien sexual side effects such as an increased desire for sex and a more passionate attitude with increased arousal and lowered inhibitions. However, the drug needs to be taken only as prescribed because even great Ambien sex does not worth possible risks.

What To Do In Case Of Occurred Adverse Effects

Users should avoid taking alcohol and Ambien together as both substances are sedatives and, when mixed, may cause severe side effects. If one is prescribed to take medication, it means that the doctor considered that benefits are greater than the risks. If any of the adverse effects of zolpidem occur or the general condition begins to worsen after taking the drug, one should promptly refer to the doctor for necessary changes in the treating program.

Severe side effects are more common in those who abuse zolpidem. That’s why it is important to stop abusing as soon as possible to prevent addiction. In extreme cases, centers for substance abuse are among the best options. Addiction treatment programs are designed to help in beating drug abuse and assist in maintaining a sober life.

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View Sources
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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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