Zolpidem is a popular sleeping aid that also goes by the trade name Ambien. For years since its discovery in 1991, the drug was only available as Ambien due to trademarking. In 2007, however, a generic form began to be available.
Zolpidem is a quick-acting sleep aid. Users claim that they can often fall asleep within 20 minutes after they take it. It is similar to other drugs like Valium and Xanax in the way it acts on the brain. Valium and Xanax, which are part of a class known as benzodiazepines, both are prescribed to relieve anxiety and calm a person down. Zolpidem acts in a similar way but instead of just calming someone, leads to sleep.
For many years investigators have been searching for a quality sleep aid that wouldn't affect someone the next day. Many over-the-counter sleeping pills were available before zolpidem, but users complained that they would experience grogginess and drowsiness the day after taking them. When zolpidem was developed, it was seen as a solution to this problem, as it puts people to sleep but they don't feel drowsy the next day.
However, zolpidem use isn't without its risk. Anyone who takes zolpidem should be aware of the signs of zolpidem addiction. When you take zolpidem for an extended period of time, your body builds up a tolerance to its effects. This simply means that you will need more and more of the drug to help you fall asleep. Whereas 5mg might have put you to sleep the first time you took it, may not do so a few weeks after using it. At that point, you may need 10mg to get the same effect. This is the definition of tolerance.
When tolerance occurs, it becomes more likely you will develop a dependence upon zolpidem. One of the signs of zolpidem addiction is rebound insomnia. This occurs when you stop taking the drug and experience severe insomnia immediately afterward. Often the rebound insomnia can be worse than the trouble sleeping that initially led the person to taking zolpidem. It also often causes people who are abstinent to go back to taking the drug.
If it has been used at high doses for a long period of time, very severe withdrawal effects can occur. These can include seizures and delirium, among other symptoms. This is relatively rare, but requires immediate medical attention.
Because zolpidem is in the benzodiazepine class, withdrawal from it resembles withdrawal from other benzodiazepines. The withdrawal can be very physically and mentally uncomfortable. Thus, it's recommended that someone who is stopping use of zolpidem do so under the supervision of a doctor. When a doctor oversees zolpidem withdrawal, he or she will usually reduce the dose over a period of several weeks. This gradual reduction will make the withdrawal effects less severe and reduce the likelihood the person will experience rebound insomnia.
In rare cases, if someone who is exhibiting signs of zolpidem addiction, a doctor may prescribe them another benzodiazepine like Valium or Xanax in place of the zolpidem. Then, they will wean the person off of the other benzodiazepine. In very extreme situations, rapid detox from zolpidem can be precipitated, but this is generally not necessary.
One of the major concerns in taking zolpidem is that it be taken when someone is already in bed. Many reports have surfaced about people taking zolpidem when they weren't already in bed, then engaging in strange behavior, driving, or sleepwalking. Because the person can be deemed asleep by some measures, it can be especially dangerous to drive in this state. Thus, taking it when you're already in bed can prevent potential sleepwalking issues.
Those who drink should avoid taking zolpidem for a couple of reasons. One is that alcohol exacerbates the effects of zolpidem. Thus, if you're drinking alcohol zolpidem can have a stronger and more unpredictable action. Also, if someone drinks regularly, they may have a pre-formed tolerance to zolpidem. This can cause them to need more of the drug to have an effect right from the beginning. This can be especially dangerous in predicting zolpidem addiction.
All in all, zolpidem is an effective drug. However, knowing the signs of zolpidem addiction is important if you are going to take the drug on a regular basis.