FRENY MENEZES
By Freny Menezes

Pharm. D

05 September 2022
Medically reviewed by
Kajal Jain
M. Pharm
consequences-of-taking-ambien-for-10-years
Table of Contents

A sedative-hypnotic medication called Ambien is usually recommended to treat insomnia. Even though Ambien is touted to be less addictive and habit-forming than many benzodiazepines, users may develop dependence and addiction to the drug.

Ambien slows brain activity by binding to neuroreceptors. This makes it easier for the user to sleep and stay asleep. It is intended to be taken a right before bed.

Given that Ambien is a Schedule IV controlled substance, Abuse is a concern. Though drug addiction may begin unsuspecting, taking more than the recommended dose can cause tolerance and dependence.

Ambien works similarly to benzodiazepine family medications like diazepam (Valium), which have been used as sleep aids for many years. Because of this, many long-term health hazards of Ambien are comparable to benzodiazepine side effects. Let us take a peek at the long-term effects of Ambien use.

What Is Ambien?

Zolpidem is a prescription medicine that belongs to the class of sedative-hypnotics and is sold under the brand Ambien. It is primarily used for the short-term treatment of sleeping problems (insomnia) and usually takes nearly 60 min to show its effect.

The guidelines recommend that it be used only after cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia and behavioral changes, such as sleep hygiene, have been tested. This drug is recommended for people older than 18 years.

The usual dose is one 10mg tablet, taken 1 hour before bed. If you are 65 years or above or have a hepatic or renal disorder, the doctor may start you on the lowest effective dose of 5mg.

Swallow the tablet whole with a drink of water. Do not crush or chew it. You can take zolpidem with or without food. 

How Long Can Someone Be On Ambien?

Nearly 30% of people find sleeping difficult, and at least 10% of these individuals suffer from severe enough insomnia to affect their daily activities.

Sleep medications, i.e., hypnotic or sedative drugs, can help people with insomnia fall asleep more quickly or get more satisfying sleep. 

Ambien (Zolpidem) is one such sleep aid on the market. This drug should be prescribed for shorter periods and is usually prescribed for not more than six weeks. However, some people get addicted to Ambien and may have difficulty sleeping without it; they may continue to use it beyond the recommended time frame. 

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Taking Ambien For 10 Years Long-Term Side Effects

Self-medicating or long-term Ambien usage can lead to considerable physical and psychological reliance, increasing the likelihood of withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop taking it.

Administration of Ambien for longer periods than prescribed or taking it for longer periods without prescription might experience the following side effects:

  • Constant sedation
  • Falling unconscious
  • Severe memory loss
  • Breathing problems
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Stumbling
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme changes in mood
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Becoming unresponsive to certain stimuli

Anyone taking Ambien for longer might fall unconscious during daily activity or driving. Or a person might overeat under the influence of this drug which may lead to excess weight gain.

Long term effects of ambien abuse

Ambien affects the CNS and motor functions, the users might experience night terrors or sleepwalk.
Although all of the above-mentioned side effects might not occur, there would be side effects other than those mentioned. If they do occur, they might need immediate medical attention. 

Will Ambien Lose Its Effectiveness Over Time?

Ambien (Zolpidem) belongs to the class of drugs called Sedative-Hypnotics. It treats insomnia and works by activating the GABA neurotransmitter, which slows down the central nervous system (CNS).

There are two formulations of Ambien, i.e., an immediate-release form used for initiating sleep and an extended-release form used for maintaining sleep. The use of either formulation can lead to this drug addiction.
The significant long-term effect of taking zolpidem consistently for more than fifteen days is physical dependence and tolerance. 

Ambien loses its effectiveness quickly as the brain gets habitual to the presence of sedatives. Typically, it should only be taken for two nights in a row; if a person does not fall asleep after taking this drug, they should consult a doctor and go for a different approach to treat their insomnia.

Taking Ambien longer than prescribed or at higher doses is a form of prescription drug misuse and abuse, which is incredibly dangerous. Not only can Ambien lead to dependence and tolerance, but it is possible to overdose on the sedative. 

Ambien’s Impact On Personal Life And Relationships

Ambien (Zolpidem) is available as a prescription drug for the treatment of insomnia. It is also sold under the brand Ambien CR and Intermezzo. It works as a hypnotic drug, which induces a state of unconsciousness, similar to natural sleep.

However, Ambien may cause some side effects, which get more severe with prolonged use, such as a symptom of amnesia seen in the person taking Ambien, especially at higher doses. If you take this medication and do not go to bed, there is more certainty of this condition. Also, some concern is that Ambien could affect long-term memory and contribute to dementia or Alzheimer's disease development. 

Over time, the awakenings at night and recurrent drops in oxygen levels might stress vulnerable brain cell populations, including the memory system.

Another problem arises when a person, after taking Ambien, wakes up in the middle of the night. The concerns are related to complex sleep-related behaviors, similar to parasomnias, while under the influence of Ambien. This might include sleepwalking (which occurs commonly anyhow) or more troublesome behaviors, such as sleep eating, sleep driving, or sleep sex (sexsomnia).

These behaviors might lead to unintentional harm, including falls among the elderly.

Ending Ambien Abuse

Working with addiction specialists can be essential for people who cannot quit taking the drug after trying it several times or who have abused Ambien specifically to get high. The withdrawal symptoms of Ambien typically last for 48 hours.

A rehabilitation program is needed to get over substance Abuse after detox. The withdrawal symptoms from zolpidem can mimic mental conditions, including nighttime insomnia and anxiety, so it may be difficult to stop taking this medication even if it is prescribed. Getting medical help during this process is vital.

Bottom line From Practical Anxiety Solutions

Ambien (Zolpidem) can be a safe, reliable, and effective medicine for sleeping difficulty or insomnia. But it should be taken with extreme precautions and under the supervision of the healthcare practitioner. Its long-term use can cause severe side effects. Fortunately, treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI) can be helpful without any risk of side effects.

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