Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 28th, 2018.
What kind of drug is Ambien?
Ambien is a Brand name for a medication containing sedative drug called zolpidem as an active ingredient. Ambien is used to treat insomnia and other health conditions where major problem is falling or staying asleep. Zolpidem works by slowing down activity of the brain thus enabling to falling asleep. Ambien is available on the market in the form of tablets for oral use in doses of 5 mg and 10 mg.
It is approved for the short-term treatment of insomnia where major problem is initiation of sleep. Ambien is not used as anticonvulsant or muscle relaxant because high doses are needed for these effects of approximately 10-20 times higher compared to the dose needed to cause sedation and sleep. New finding showed that Ambien can dramatically improve health status in patients who have brain injuries.
FDA approved Ambien in 1992. It is originally manufactured by Sanofi-Aventis. Other common Brand names on the market containing zolpidem as an active ingredient are: Intermezzo, Edluar, Zolpimist, Dormizol, Nimadorm and Hypnogen.
What does Ambien do for you?
Zolpidem, the active ingredient of Ambien, is a non-benzodiazepine short-acting hypnotic substance that enhances effects of GABA neurotransmitter in the brain, which is known as the strongest inhibitory neurotransmitter in the CNS. Zolpidem binds to benzodiazepine receptors, located on the GABA-alpha subunits that are connected with chloride channel macromolecular complex.
Different from classic benzodiazepine drugs with non-selectively interaction with all three GABA subtypes of alpha receptors, zolpidem predominantly with high selectivity binds to the GABA – alpha-1 receptor. Zolpidem works very fast, within 15 minutes of administration, and has a short elimination half-life time of approximately 2-3 hours.
Ambien side effects
Ambien can cause following side effects with following incidence:
- Dizziness (5-12%)
- Headache (7-19%)
- Drowsiness (6-15%)
- Allergy (4%)
- Hallucinations (4%)
- Myalgia (4%)
- Sinusitis (4%)
- Memory disorder (3%)
- Visual disturbance (3%)
- Pharyngitis (3%)
- Lightheadedness (2%)
- Palpitation (2%)
- Rash (2%)
- Constipation (2%)
- Depression (2%)
- Drowsiness (2%)
- Asthenia (1%)
- Diarrhea (1%)
- Dry mouth (1%)
- Flu-like symptoms (1%)
- Respiratory depression
- Oral ulcers, blisters, and mucosal inflammation
- Liver and biliary system: Acute hepatocellular, cholestatic or mixed liver injury with or without jaundice
Ambien dosage may vary depending on different factors that may include: patient’s age, coadminsitration of other medicines and by existing medical conditions you are suffering from. Ambien should be always taken as directed by your health provider. Never adjust the dose of Ambien unless you doctor tell you otherwise.
Adults with Insomnia
The usual initial dose of Ambien is 10 mg taken once a day, just before bedtime. The daily Ambien dosage should not exceed 10 mg.
For patients taking other drugs that may depress CNS, Ambien dose should be adjusted to prevent potentially negative effects.
Ambien CR Dosage
For patients who have problems initiating and maintaining sleep, the extended release formulation, called Ambien CR may be needed. Ambien CR comes as a multi-layer tablet with covering that allows it to produce a continuous steady effect. Ambien CR dosage should be individualized.
Adult dose of Ambien CR for patients with Insomnia
The usual starting dose of Ambien CR is 12.5 mg taken once a day, just before bedtime. The daily Ambien dosage should not exceed 12.5 mg.
Ambien CR dose for special populations
Elderly and debilitated patients may be sensitive to the effects of Ambien because they are given lower doses of Ambien CR. Patients who have liver diseases may also have problems to metabolize and excrete this drug. For such patients, the usual starting dose of Ambien CR should be 6.25 mg taken once a day, just before bedtime.
Patients who also use other medications, especially drugs that work on the brain, may require adjusted doses of Ambien CR.
Is taking Ambien habit forming?
Although Ambien is not considered as habit-forming medicine as benzodiazepines, it is an addictive substance. Studeis found that addiction to this medicine can form in only two weeks. Many patients don’t know that they have a real problem until they suddenly stop taking the medicine and after that realize they cannot sleep without it. The presence of withdrawal symptoms is one of the main signs of an addiction.
Most Ambien habit forming actions begin with cases of short-term insomnia. Some patients underestimate Ambien’s habit forming potential because it’s prescription medicine and they only take this drug just before bed. Ambien is known to become less effective after using it for more than a couple weeks. Some patients can’t stop taking Ambien because their insomnia is worsening and they become incapable to sleep without Ambien.
Can you overdose on Ambien? How many ambien does it take to overdose
Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic medicine that causes CNS depression. It is approved for a short-term treatment of insomnia in adults. Although insomnia is not considered as an illness and health condition, it can be hard stress for normal life.
In most cases, patients with insomnia are at increased risk for Ambien overdose. Another way to overdose Ambien is to try to get “high” on this drug, since euphoric effect takes larger amounts of the drug than are normally prescribed. And some people attempt to overdose Ambien as a way to commit suicide or self-harm.
The symptoms and signs of Ambien overdose may vary depending on many factors that may include the total dose of Ambien taken, frequency of use, and coadministration of another medications or substances.
Most common symptoms of Ambien overdose may include the following:
- Excessive tiredness (somnolence)
- Light coma or loss of consciousness for a long time
- Slowed heart rate or heart failure
- Slowed breathing or lung failure
How much Ambien is too much?
Patients will usually only be given 5-10 mg of Ambien once a day, to be taken just before they go to sleep. 10 mg of Ambien is the normal maximum daily dosage. At 70 mg, patients usually begin to experience serious side effects of taking too much dose of Ambien, though this dose is still low enough and you probably won’t suffer permanent injury.
How much Ambien can kill you?
The amount that is needed for serious overdose can range from 400-600 mg. But most probably this dose won’t kill you – as the reported fatal dose for Ambien is much higher and is about 2000 mg.
Patients are much more likely to overdose Ambien or experience adverse effects of Ambien when they crush, chew, inject, or snort Ambien pills. Patients should also avoid mixing Ambien with alcohol because sedative effects are far more intense when these two are combined.
The most dangerous complications of taking high doses of Ambien are related to breathing and heart rate. At very high doses, Ambien may cause breathing or heartbeat issues. But taking high doses may also cause loss of memory and acting out physical behaviors in sleep such as driving. Excessive dizziness and tiredness may also put you at risk of accidents.
The prognosis after Ambien overdose is usually good. It is needed a very high amount of Ambien to overdose, and even higher doses are needed to experience long-term health effects or death. Medically speaking in terms of overdose liability, Ambien isn’t a very dangerous drug.
If you suspect an overdose, you must contact the healthcare provider right away or visit the Emergency Department.
How to Treat Ambien Overdose?
Ambien overdose treatment depends on the condition of the patient. Your healthcare provider may prescribe you medicines or irrigate your stomach by placing a tube. However, if Ambien has already been absorbed there is little that can be done to remove this drug quickly.
Normally, overdose treatment requires supportive care such as managing symptoms caused by overdose. The patient must be monitored very closely for any effects on the lungs or heart.
Ambien abuse is considered as taking this drug without a prescription or in any other way that is not directed by a doctor. Even when some patient takes an extra dose for a little help for sleeping is also considered abuse. When tolerance on Ambien is build, larger doses are needed to fall asleep. This strengthens dependence effect of the drug to sleep and causes many patients to increase their doses without medical approval.
Ambien is known to be a safer alternative to benzodiazepine drugs because there is less potential to overdose this medicine. It may be hard to detect an Ambien overdose because the signs of overdose are similar to the effects of the drug.
One study found that some individuals who abuse Ambien do that because the drug does not make them feel sleepy or tired. Instead, Ambien seems to cause them to feel better and euphoric and able to handle the stresses of life, and they never do feel sedated, even when taking very high doses of the drug.
More than half a million people in the United States are currently abusing Ambien and other sedatives, as estimated by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.