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Ambien is the trade name for the drug Zolpidem. It is a prescription drug used for the short-term treatment of insomnia. Ambien is a sleeping pill. It works quickly (usually within 15 minutes) and has a short half-life (2-3 hours), but will last longer in patients with hepatic failure. Its sedative effects are similar to those of the benzodiazepines, but it is actually classified as an imidazopyridine, and the anticonvulsant and muscle relaxant effects only appear at 10 and 20 times the dose required for sedation, respectively. For that reason, it has never been approved for either muscle relaxation or seizure prevention. Such drastically increased doses are likely to induce one or more negative side effects, including hallucinations and/or amnesia.

Ambien Uses
Ambien is approved for the short-term treatment of insomnia, but it has been studied for nightly use up to six months in a single-blind, open-label trial published in 1991, an open-label study lasting 180 days published in 1992 (with continued efficacy in patients who had kept taking it as of 180 days after the end of the trial), and in an open-label trial lasting 179 days published in 1993.

The United States Air Force uses Ambien under trade name Ambien® as "no-go pills" to help the pilots sleep after the mission; another drug used for the same purpose is temazepam (Restoril®). It is also used off-label to treat restless leg syndrome.

As is the case with many prescription sedative/hypnotic drugs, Ambien is sometimes used by stimulant users to "come down" after the use of stimulants such as methamphetamine, cocaine, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), or pharmaceutical amphetamines.

What special precautions should I follow before taking Ambien?
tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to Ambien or any other drugs.
tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications you are taking, especially allergy preparations, antihistamines, barbiturates, cold medicines, medications for depression or seizures, pain relievers, tranquilizers, and vitamins.
tell your doctor if you have, or have ever had kidney or liver disease, a history of alcoholism or drug abuse or depression, asthma, breathing problems, or allergies.
tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking Ambien , call your doctor.
if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking Ambien .
you should know that this drug may make you drowsy. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this drug affects you.
remember that alcohol can add to the drowsiness caused by this drug.

Ambien Abuse
Abuse of this drug is becoming more common in young people. Abusers claim that "fighting" the effects of the drug by forcing themselves to stay awake will cause vivid visuals and a body high. Some recreational users report decreased anxiety, and even mild to moderate euphoria.

Recreational Ambien use is speculated to lead to tolerance and dependence much more quickly than prescribed use. Recreational use is rising, as demonstrated by the use of street names for the pill, such as: "A-" (because of its sedative and calming effects, "A+" is a street name for Adderall, named so because of its stimulant effects) and "Zombie Pills" (Because of the waking sleep effect many users experience).

Ambien Side-effects
Larger doses of Ambien can result in a variety of unwanted side effects: hallucinations, delusions, poor motor coordination, euphoria (though many instead report dysphoric reactions) increased appetite, increased sex drive, poor judgment, and, following use, inability to remember events that took place while under the influence of the drug (anterograde amnesia).

Before a user becomes fully acclimated to these effects (or if the user does not become acclimated), these symptoms can be severe enough to be deemed as drug-induced psychosis. Incidentally, antipsychotics like ziprasidone (Geodon) or quetiapine (Seroquel) may be prescribed alongside Ambien to both combat these side effects and to aid in sleep-induction, as they can also act as hypnotics. However, because some antidepressants are known for being mildly sedating (i.e., paroxetine), it may be advisable not to use Ambien and an antidepressant simultaneously.

Some users take Ambien recreationally for these side effects; however, it is not as common as with the benzodiazepines because of its unique mental imagery (which can distract the user from reality without actually producing genuine hallucinations) and irrational behavior combined with the amnesia. Accordingly, Ambien can also become psychologically addictive if taken for extended periods of time, due to dependence on its ability to put one to sleep or to the unique sense of euphoria it can produce. Under the influence of the drug it is common to take more Ambien than is necessary due to forgetting that one has already taken a pill. Users are advised to keep additional Ambien away to avoid this risk.

Additional side effects caused by Ambien included but are not limited to:

  • drowsiness
  • upset stomach
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • headache
  • dry mouth
  • muscle aches
  • skin rash
  • itching
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • chest pain
  • difficulty breathing
  • fever
  • behavior changes
  • mental confusion
  • abnormal thinking or dreams
  • depression

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