Risks of Long-Term Use of Ambien

Ambien, a branded version of zolpidem, is a sedative-hypnotic. Like zaleplon and zopiclone, zolpidem is categorized as a Z-drug. 

There are two versions of Ambien:

  1. Quick-release formulation: For initiating sleep.
  2. Extended-release formulation: For promoting and maintaining sleep.

Ambien is a schedule IV controlled substance. Possessing or using the medication without. A supporting prescription is illegal. Misuse of this medication can cause dependence and other side effects to develop.

All forms of Ambien are only suitable for short-term use. The medication should only be used for the treatment of severe insomnia for no more than one month. Today’s guide explores the many long-term risks of Ambien use.

A man is deep in thought representing side effects of ambien and long term ambien use


According to NLM (National Library of Medicine), these are the most common Ambien side effects:

  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Weakness
  • Loss of balance
  • Difficulty walking
  • Acid reflux (heartburn)
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Appetite changes
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Redness of eyes
  • Tremors

If you experience any of the following symptoms after taking Ambien, this is indicative of an allergic reaction and requires medical attention:

  • Breathing problems
  • Hives
  • Skin rash
  • Chest pain

There is also a specific disorder associated with Ambien known as paradoxical excitation. When a paradoxical reaction to Ambien occurs, the opposite of the expected effects manifest. In the case of Ambien use, this can involve eating, walking, or even driving a car in a sleep state.

There are many other risks of long term Ambien use beyond these immediate adverse effects.


Ambien is only indicated for the short-term relief of severe insomnia. Using the medication long-term without taking breaks can trigger many dangerous side effects.

The most common adverse effect of sustained Ambien use is the development of tolerance. As your body becomes accustomed to the medication, the potency of its effects diminishes. To achieve the same benefits from Ambien, you’ll need to increase the dosage. This can lead to the development of physical dependence if you continue using Ambien, or rebound insomnia if you discontinue use.

Both tolerance and dependence occur due to biochemical changes as the brain adapts to the presence of Ambien in the system.

Using high doses of Ambien long-term can trigger severe withdrawal symptoms such as seizure if you try to abruptly stop using the medication – more on detoxing from Ambien safely below.

Long-term Ambien abuse can also heighten the chances of an overdose.

Common symptoms of an Ambien OD include:

  • Loss of motor control
  • Sedation
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

Ambien abuse can be even more dangerous among seniors. Older adults cannot metabolize Ambien or other depressants as effectively as younger adults. Research shows that Ambien use in the over-65s increases the risk of reversible dementia. This risk is further inflamed among seniors with a history of diabetes, high blood pressure, or stroke.

Using Ambien long-term also increases the presentation of less common side effects, such as:

  • Hearing loss
  • Heartburn
  • Joint pain
  • Hallucinations
A man with folded hands, after he has learned about long term effects of ambien use


If you use Ambien short-term and as directed, there is minimal risk of physical health effects. Those risks become more pronounced if you continue using Ambien long-term, though. Problems can develop with digestive health, cardiovascular health, sensory systems, and respiratory processes. 

The most reported physical side effects associated with long-term Ambien use include:

  • Sedation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Dry mouth
  • Appetite loss
  • Skin rashes
  • Vision problems
  • Abnormal bodily movements
  • Muscle cramps
  • Aggression
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia

If an allergic reaction to Ambien occurs, the effects can be life-threatening. You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience shortness of breath, hives, or swelling in the mouth, lips, and tongue.

Taking Ambien long-term can also lead to the development of chronic health complications, such as:

  • Persistent and excessive drowsiness: Drowsiness during the day is a standard side effect of using Ambien. If you abuse the medication long-term, this can trigger persistent sedation and sleepiness. Long-term users of Z-drugs like Ambien may fall unconscious without warning, potentially dangerous in many situations.
  • Memory loss: Blackouts and memory loss are associated with chronic Ambien abuse.
  • Dizziness and loss of coordination: All Z-drugs work on the brain similarly to alcohol by agitating GABA receptors. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an amino acid and the main inhibitory chemical messenger for the CNS (central nervous system). If you use Ambien long-term, you may appear or act drunk to others. Dizziness and loss of physical coordination after sustained abuse of Z-drugs can lead to injuries like broken bones or brain trauma.
  • Complications during pregnancy: Using Ambien could potentially harm fetal development. Consult your prescribing physician to discuss the side effects of Ambien in unborn children.
  • Increased risk of cancer: This study shows a correlation between long-term Ambien use, mortality, and cancer. While correlation does not mean that sedative-hypnotics like Ambien cause cancer, there is an increased risk among those who abuse prescription medications like Z-hypnotics.


Physical effects like tolerance and dependence can develop rapidly if you use Ambien long-term. Additionally, Ambien abuse can also prompt the development of the psychological effects of substance abuse. 

According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), addiction – clinically known as substance use disorder – is a progressive and relapsing brain condition. Central to addiction is the compulsive use of substances in the face of clearly negative outcomes.

In most cases, Ambien abuse begins with a legitimate prescription for the treatment of insomnia. Psychological cravings for Z-drugs can manifest rapidly, meaning you will find it hard to focus on anything else as you experience powerful urges to use Ambien.

If addiction to Ambien develops, you could find yourself both psychically dependent on the substance, as well as psychologically addicted.

Fortunately, with a supervised medical detox and ongoing treatment, you can fight back against the long-term risk of Ambien abuse at Gratitude Lodge.

group of people celebrating representing ambien addiction treatment


At Gratitude Lodge, we offer both inpatient and intensive outpatient treatment for Ambien addiction. Our affordable luxury rehab centers are located in Southern California at:

All Gratitude Lodge treatment centers are inclusive and pet-friendly, allowing you to detox from Z-drugs safely and comfortably before transitioning into ongoing treatment.

Whatever level of treatment intensity best suits your needs, you will have access to the following services and interventions at Gratitude Lodge:

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Daily meetings
  • 12-step immersion program
  • Holistic therapies 

Whether you require the structure of inpatient Ambien rehab or the flexibility of an IOP (intensive outpatient program), we can help you from detox to discharge and beyond here at Gratitude Lodge. Call admissions right now at 800-994-2184 and check your insurance coverage right here.


Taking Ambien (zolpidem) every night for an extended period can be potentially harmful. Prolonged use of Ambien can lead to tolerance, dependence, and an increased risk of adverse effects. It’s essential to use Ambien under the guidance of a healthcare professional and follow the prescribed dosage and duration to minimize the potential risks.

Ambien (zolpidem) has been associated with certain memory-related side effects, particularly in the short term. Some individuals may experience memory impairment, amnesia, or difficulty recalling events that occurred during the period of medication use. However, it’s important to note that these effects are typically temporary and resolve upon discontinuation of the medication.

The duration of safe use for Ambien (zolpidem) varies depending on individual circumstances and should be determined by a healthcare professional. Generally, Ambien is prescribed for short-term use, usually no longer than two to six weeks, to minimize the risk of tolerance, dependence, and other adverse effects.