Ambien/Zolpidem & Addiction Potential

Goals

Understand the addictive and manageable features of Ambien (as a treatment for sleep disorder) in order to inform the decision on whether to take the medication.

Early Findings

  • Ambien’s generic name is zolpidem (zol' pi dem). It is in the "sedative-hypnotics" class of medicines.
  • The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a notice on zolpidem (Ambien) and a few other prescription sleep medicines: "The FDA is advising that rare but serious injuries have happened with certain common prescription insomnia medicines because of sleep behaviors, including sleepwalking, sleep-driving, and engaging in other activities while not fully awake. These complex sleep behaviors have also resulted in deaths."
  • The use of alcohol or a history of heavy alcohol use can affect/worsen the medicine’s side effects.
  • The Addiction Center notes that while Ambien was created to offer the same sedative benefits of a benzodiazepine like Xanax, it was "designed and marketed to be a less addictive alternative." However, it is still an addictive substance with a "similar potential for abuse as [benzodiazepines]."
  • Dr. Eric Olson of the Mayo Clinic, provided an online answer to the question, “My doctor prescribed Ambien, and it's worked great for me. But I'm afraid I might become dependent on it. Is that likely?” The crux of Dr. Olson’s answer was that the medication is not as dependency-forming as benzodiazepines but there some side effects to be mindful of (like doing active things while still asleep such as driving or preparing food). Dr. Olson also advised to use sleep medications in the short-term and try to focus on the underlying reason for the sleep problem.
  • In April 2019, the FDA came out with its strong mandate that warning labels should be placed on prescribed sleeping medications like Ambien due to the serious injuries that have consistently occurred with the product in the past 26 years. Injuries include "'accidental overdoses, falls, burns, near drowning, exposure to extreme cold temperatures leading to loss of limb, carbon monoxide poisoning, drowning, hypothermia, motor vehicle collisions with the patient driving, and self-injuries such as gunshot wounds and apparent suicide attempts. Patients usually did not remember these events.'"
  • There are some additional anecdotal customer reviews on Ambien.
    • (a) "I took the quick-release Ambien for 5 years. It worked great for sleep. I did have some bad side effects of doing things on Ambien that I don't remember the next day. It's similar to amnesia. I would take long grocery shopping trips and not remember them the next day. Things you have done just don't even exist in your memory so be careful only take them when you are in a safe situation. I give it an 8 because I did sleep--but the side effects were pretty bad."
    • (b) "I have been on Ambien for several months. It helps me fall asleep."
  • Some withdrawal symptoms noted by those who have discontinued the medication include anxiety, cravings, insomnia, and seizures.
In addition to this public search, we scanned our proprietary research database of over 1 million sources and were unable to find any specific research reports that address your goals.

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