Ambien is the brand name of the generic drug zolpidem. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for short-term use to treat insomnia, especially when the difficulty is falling asleep. Ten milligrams is the usual dose for healthy adults, but a 5 mg pill is also available. Side effects tend to be more severe and more common with increasing dosage. There is also a controlled-release drug called Ambien CR that can have some different side effects.
Anaphylactic reactions to Ambien are possible with only a single dose. This could cause swelling of the tongue and throat and spasm of the airways, leading to trouble breathing. Although rare, these reactions can be fatal.
Central Nervous System Changes
Changes in behavior and personality may occur while taking Ambien. Side effects could also include visual or auditory hallucinations. Sleepiness is one desirable effect of the drug, but decreased alertness may persist beyond the need for sleep. Headache, dizziness, and changes in balance are possible.
Sometimes people perform tasks while taking Ambien but have no memory of doing so. Sleep-driving or sleep-walking can be particularly dangerous.
Palpitations, a sensation of the heart pounding, has been noted in those taking Ambien, as has increased blood pressure.
Nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation may develop while on the drug.
Rashes, in a variety of appearances, have been observed in those taking Ambien. A rash could develop as part of a more-serious allergic reaction.
Spells of pharyngitis and sinusitis appear to be more common in patients taking Ambien. Also, due to effects on the brain, breathing could be slowed and compromised.
Eyes and Ears Affected
Blurry or altered vision is a known side effect of Ambien. Some people also experience ringing in the ears.
Muscle aches, joint aches and back pain have been reported with the use of this medicine.
Ambien is metabolized by the liver and may, infrequently, damage it. The dose should be decreased in those with pre-existing liver problems.
Urinary Tract Infection
The rate of infection of the bladder or kidneys is higher in those taking Ambien.
Ambien is classified as a Class IV controlled substance. It has a low potential for abuse, but can lead to physical or psychological addiction.