Is Ambien a controlled substance?

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Medically reviewed by Neil Chatterjee, MD

Yes. Ambien is considered a controlled substance, a group of regulated medications due to their potential risk of abuse and addiction.  Ambien is a level IV controlled substance, meaning that it has a lower potential of risk and abuse compared to most other controlled substances, like opioids. Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic and is used for insomnia, preferably for short-term use. The generic form of Ambien is called zolpidem. 

How does Ambien work? 

Zolpidem or Ambien are GABA receptor agonists and work by enhancing the GABA effect in the central nervous system. These work at the same location as benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Valium. It is pertinent to fall asleep immediately after taking Ambien. Ambien comes in an immediate form as well as an extended relief version. 

Is Ambien Addictive?

Yes. Ambien is an addictive medication, so it is advised to use this only for a couple of weeks and not long-term. Zolpidem is a mood-altering drug, leaving room for addiction due to hallucinations, especially when not going to sleep right away. Ambien is a well-sought after drug and has been known to be diverted. Some patients even require inpatient rehabilitation centers secondary to their addictive nature. Ambien addiction can be a serious condition leaving room for accidents, hurting others, or inappropriate behavior.  


Parasomnia is a medical term to describe activity performed while sleeping, which can vary from sleep-walking to inappropriate or dangerous behavior. Patients not falling asleep right away can experience these behaviors, and with time, become dependent. 

Most Common Side effects of Ambien

These are the most common side effects of zolpidem. There are more rare side effects, and the patient should be aware of these prior to starting Ambien. 

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Worsening depression and feelings of sadness
  • Fever and loss of appetite 
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeat or pulse, usually fast and irregular
  • Irritability and difficulty concentrating
  • Problems with coordination and balance
  • Problem with concentration

Signs of Ambien Overdose

These are the most common signs of overdosing on zolpidem. Family and friends of patients who seem to be relying on Ambien for daily insomnia should pay special attention to the following signs and symptoms: 

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Respiratory depression
  • Irregular breathing either fast, slow, or shallow
  • Lips, skin, and fingernails turning blue
  • Sleepiness or severe drowsiness
  • Sleepiness or unusual drowsiness

Opioids and Alcohol Should Be Avoided 

Opioids and Ambien together increase the chances of respiratory depression, which can lead to death. Ambien should be used as a short-term adjunct medication. Alcohol and zolpidem can enhance effects and is a deadly concussion that can lead to death as well.

This post is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address any individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. When in doubt, speak to your doctor.

If you think you may be experiencing overdose or have any other medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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