Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed December 14, 2016
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Ambien (zolpidem tartrate) belongs to a class of medicines called central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which slow down the nervous system. Used for the treatment of insomnia, Ambien is manufactured by Sanofi-Aventis, and was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1999.
Ambien - News
Sources in print, television, and online media have reported occurrences of sleepwalking and sleep-related eating in patients who may also be taking Ambien. The media has also reported that a number of patients have taken Ambien and experienced temporary memory loss or "amnesia": unable to remember events that occurred while they used the drug.
Sanofi-Aventis issued responses to these stories, both in the media and on their website. The company stated that, while sleepwalking has occurred during treatment with Ambien, the instances reported cannot be systematically linked to the product. Furthermore, the company asserted that the U.S. Prescribing Information remains accurate: somnambulism (sleep-walking) is a possible rare adverse event.
In some cases, Ambien and other sleep medicines can cause a special type of memory loss or "amnesia." When this occurs, a person doesn't remember what has happened during the several hours between using Ambien and the time its effects wear off. In order to avoid memory problems, make sure to take Ambien only when you are able to get a full night's sleep (7 to 8 hours) before you need to be active again.
The effects of Ambien are more likely to occur in elderly patients, who are usually more sensitive than younger adults. In general, because sleep medicines may lose their effectiveness if they are used every night for a long time, they should only be used for short periods of time (1 or 2 days) and generally for no longer than 1 or 2 weeks. Talk to your healthcare professional if you think you need to take Ambien for more than 7 to 10 days.
Ambien may cause some people (especially older persons) to become drowsy, dizzy, lightheaded, clumsy, unsteady, or less alert than they are normally. Even though Ambien is taken at bedtime, it may cause some people to feel drowsy or less alert when waking up. Also, Ambien may cause double vision or other vision problems. Make sure you know how you react to Ambien before you drive, use machines, or perform any activity that requires alertness, good coordination, or the ability to think and see well
If you develop any unusual and strange thoughts or behavior while you are taking Ambien, be sure to discuss it with your healthcare professional. Some changes that have occurred in people taking Ambien are like those seen in people who drink alcohol and then act in a manner that is not normal. Other changes may be more unusual and extreme -- such as confusion, worsening of depression, hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there), suicidal thoughts, and unusual excitement, nervousness, or irritability.
Stopping Ambien use suddenly may cause withdrawal side effects. Your healthcare professional may want you to gradually reduce the amount you are taking before stopping completely. After taking Ambien for insomnia, you may have difficulty sleeping (rebound insomnia) for the first few nights after you stop taking it.
What Should I Tell My Healthcare Professional?
You should tell your healthcare professional if you:
- Have or have had any unusual or allergic reaction to Ambien (zolpidem), or if you are allergic to any other substances (foods, preservatives, or dyes).
- Are pregnant, may become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. Although Ambien has not been studied in pregnant women, animal studies have shown that Ambien may slow the development of offspring when the mother is given doses many times higher than the human dose. Although Ambien passes into breast milk, it has not been reported to cause problems in nursing babies.
- Abuse alcohol or have a history of alcohol abuse.
- Abuse drugs or have a history of drug abuse, or a dependence on certain drugs.
- Have emphysema, asthma, bronchitis, or other chronic lung disease.
- Have mental depression.
- Have sleep apnea (breathing problems during sleep).
- Have kidney disease.
- Have liver disease.
Ambien Side Effects
Tell your healthcare professional if any of the following side effects associated with Ambien use are severe or persistent:
- 'Drugged feeling'
- Loss of coordination
- Upset stomach
- Stomach pain or tenderness
- Changes in appetite
- Shaking of a part of the body that you cannot control
- Burning or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, or legs
- Unusual dreams
- Dry mouth or throat
- Cold symptoms
- Pain or pressure in the face
- Ringing, pain, or itching in the ears
- Eye redness
- Blurred vision or other vision problems
- Muscle aches or cramps
- Joint, back, or neck pain
Call your healthcare professional immediately if you experience any of the following side effects:
- Pounding heartbeat
- Chest pain
Are There Any Interactions With Drugs or Foods?
Ambien and certain other medicines can interact with each other. Tell your healthcare professional about all the medicines you take -- including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Ambien will add to the effects of alcohol and other CNS depressants, such as antihistamines, or medicine for hay fever, other allergies or colds; sedatives, tranquilizers, or sleep medicines; prescription pain medicine or narcotics; barbiturates; medicine for seizures; muscle relaxants; or anesthetics (including dental anesthetics).
Ambien - Getting Legal Help
While most medications have certain anticipated side effects, a drug manufacturer has a duty to make its products as reasonably safe as possible, and to inform the medical community and the public of known risks associated with its drugs. If a manufacturer fails to do so, it can be held legally responsible if patients are injured as the result of inadequate warnings or the unreasonably dangerous nature of the drug, under a legal theory called "product liability."
If you or a loved one have experienced any dangerous symptoms or unusual medical conditions while taking Ambien, you should first contact your doctor or other healthcare professional. You may also wish to meet with an experienced product liability attorney to discuss your options and to protect your right to a legal remedy for any injuries caused by Ambien use.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.