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What Is Zolpidem Tartrate?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated May 17, 2024
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Zolpidem tartrate is a medication that can help people with insomnia to get to sleep. The drug's mechanism of action is on signals in the brain, slowing down excitatory activity to calm the brain into sleep. It is also known by the brand name Ambien®.

Doctors may prescribe the drug for people who have trouble getting to sleep or for people who cannot stay asleep. Two forms of the drug are available, as a regular tablet and as an extended-release tablet, which delivers the drug steadily over longer periods of time. Zolpidem tartrate is usually a short-term solution to insomnia problems, and if a patient takes the medication for longer than a a few weeks, the sedative may not work as efficiently, and the patient may even become dependent on the drug.

A week's treatment with the sedative generally helps resolve the insomnia. Sudden cessation of the drug, however, can cause symptoms like stomach cramps, shakiness, and even seizures in rare cases. The insomnia may appear to return for a night or two after the treatment is stopped, but this is usually temporary.

As the sedative acts to put patients to sleep, it should be taken only at bedtime. The drug takes effect within minutes and stays active up to eight hours. During this time, if the patient gets up, he or she will still be under the influence of the drug and may have issues with memory.

Side effects of the drug include weakness, headaches, and gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea and heartburn. Some of the other possible side effects are ringing in the ears, pain in the muscles, or bodily twitching. Allergic reaction is also a possibility, where a patient may experience facial swelling, problems breathing, or hives. Mental issues such as depression, aggression, or loss of inhibitions may also arise from taking the drug.

Pregnant and breast-feeding women may be unsuitable candidates for zolpidem tartrate treatment. As the drug can cause drowsiness and incoordination, driving or using heavy machinery is not recommended for users who are unfamiliar with the effect the medication has on their bodies. Th sedative may also cause some people to act as if they are awake when in fact they are in a form of sleep, even driving and cooking but not being able to remember the activities after they wake up. The associated side effects can also be made worse by alcohol, so drinking alcohol is not recommended while taking zolpidem tartrate.

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