Chronic Pain and Ambien

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Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 16
   Posted 5/16/2011 8:50 PM (GMT -6)   
Hello. I've taken Ambien (Zolpidem Tartrate 10 mg) mostly everyday, for at least two years, in order to sleep through the pain caused by interstitial cystitis. I still wake up at least twice during the night, and have realized that the Ambien has effected my memory and my ability to concentrate.

I'd like to discontinue the Ambien in order to regain my acuity, but I know that the nighttime pain might become intolerable. Has anyone dealt with a similar conundrum? How have those with nighttime pain approached the problems associated with sleeping pills?

I really appreciate any help.



Veteran Member

Date Joined Feb 2007
Total Posts : 553
   Posted 5/16/2011 9:39 PM (GMT -6)   
I have taken the same type/dose every night for 4 years. While I do have memory/concentration issues, it is mostly related to bipolar issues or pain meds. I see a direct connection there, but not to the ambien. In fact, with the addition of increased overnight pain I was increased to an optional 15 mg of ambien a night.
Daytime memory is not usually an issue with this drug. The memory issue is within the 5-8 hours after you take ambien. Morning sleepiness is an issue with some people, but should not continue through the day.
The 1/2 life on this med is rather short and should be completly out of your system early in the day. It is not a drug that builds in your system.
Although, if you have trouble with absorption it might remain in your system longer just because it takes longer to get in your system.
I took ambien nightly for sleep disorder long before CP was an issue. I dont see my letting it go anytime in the future.

Add- let me qualify this with saying that this is my personal, unofficial, unstudied, opinion. Looking up the actual chemical process of the medication, then discussing it with your dr is the way I would go. You and your dr, working together, knowing your condition and history is the best way to solve anything.
On the other hand, the more you know about the subject, the better you are at asking informed questions and joining the discussion.

Post Edited (_Christina) : 5/17/2011 6:27:10 AM (GMT-6)

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Jan 2005
Total Posts : 9258
   Posted 5/17/2011 1:49 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi Brad,

I do understand your desire to stop a medication that is messing with your mind. I take a small dose of an antidepressant that greatly helps my quality of life but if I get a tiny bit too much or if I have to change and the new one doesn't agree with me my head gets so 'fuzzy', I sleep way too much and the memory is shot. IMHO, that's not living.

There are other sleep aids on the market. You might want to ask your doctor about trying something different. One problem with Ambien is that it can become less effective the longer you take it. It's hard to say how it's helping you long term.

One question I have is do you take pain medications? If not I sure would ask the doctor about helping out this way. Sleep, being unconscious may not always be the best way to relieve pain. At times it's sure welcome but it's not very practical. Despite the media scare tactics there are very good ways of controlling pain and a doctor with good knowledge and a compassionate attitude can do wonders for your quality of life. My PCP has taken special training in chronic pain treatment so he prescribes what works best for me without me being a zombie.

Now that I've said all of that I want to qualify it. I'm not trying to convince you to take narcotic pain medications if it's not what you want or need. I'm not trying to tell you to switch from Ambien or stay with it. I'm only giving you ideas and tidbits from my own experience in hopes that you get enough information to make a decision that you can live with. The only thing I strongly suggest is to talk to your doctor about the problem. Ultimately he is the one who will be treating you. In the mean time lean all you can about the types of treatment available for insomnia and chronic pain.

Warm hugs,
Moderator on the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain forums
Daily Donnybrook: Fibromyalgia, Insulin Dependent Diabetes. Ulcerative Colitis, Rare form of Dermatitis, Collapsed Disk, Osteoarthritis (especially in right hand and neck) and a couple of other adjunct agitations.
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Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 538
   Posted 5/17/2011 9:08 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi Brad. I haven't looked up the half life, etc of Ambien but I do have to disagree with Christina a bit in that I know from personal experience that the drug can effect you way past morning. I was on it for awhile but had to stop because I started having intense fits of sadness/depression out of the blue in the middle of the day. They were kind of scary. Apparently that is one of the more unusual side effects. I stopped taking the drug and the episodes stopped also. There are many types of sleep aids out there including herbals that could help you. I guess you will just have to search for the right one with the help of your dr. Good luck, Lee
Hope and attitude are everything. Never, never, ever give up.

Screaming Eagle
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Date Joined Sep 2009
Total Posts : 5005
   Posted 5/17/2011 9:20 AM (GMT -6)   
          Hello Lee and all!
               I'm glad you posted this responce, as I had the same effect when I was on it, and quickly got off of it, before something worse happened. Of course, I was going through a terrible "Divorce" at the time, so depression was rampant with me. I was reluctant to say anything, since I had been on it only for a short while, and really do not have that much experience with it.
      I guess its a gentle reminder that each and everyone of us can respond differently to medications.
       SE wink
Moderator Chronic Pain Forum

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Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2011
Total Posts : 816
   Posted 5/17/2011 9:21 AM (GMT -6)   
hello cyrano, wanted to let you know my first and last experience with ambien ending with me on the psyc ward in a local hospital.  I dont remember much of that night, but every chance my daughters get to tell that story, they take it.  They werent sure to call when I began acting very strange, so the police and the EMS people came.  All I know is I woke up the next morning in full body restraints.  Not a good feeling.
Take care of yourself, and be very careful mixing medicines.
Hoping you are having low pain days, and many, many more
degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, neuropathy, lumbar laminectomy july 1998 no help, rechargeable neurostimulator unit low right back w/lead wires to left side and right leg unit not working just sitting there.i am 57 years young in may will turn 58. i have 2 grown daughters, 25 and 29. i have 2 grandchildren, 9 year old grandaughter and 5 yr. old grandson

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jan 2010
Total Posts : 3557
   Posted 5/17/2011 10:37 AM (GMT -6)   
The actual half life for Ambien 10mg is from 2-4 it works on a very specific part of the brain that works with REM sleep...but they are very careful in the information provided to say not to drive or do anything like this within 7-8 hours after taking...

That is why it is a much better choice for actual sleep related issues then benzos or antidepressants since those are not made as sleep medicines but cause one to be sleepy as a 'side effect'..and are considered 'off label' usage for sleep.....and their half life is closer to 12 hours or more...

so for most people...they shouldn't experience lethargy or loss of concentration or any ill effects from the medicine...

Cyrano, do you take other medications for your illnesses?

Obviously we all have to make our own choices, with our Dr.s on whether the side effects of a medication outweigh the benefits of them..

I have been on Ambien for over 4 1/2 years without having to change the strength of the medicine...and after 7 hours wake refreshed, alert, and ready to go throughout the day...It has been a life saver for me as the pain would keep me up all night...I still wake briefly every hour to switch positions for sleeping so I am not too sore on one side all night..

I agree with others if this medicine is intolerable to you...there are others like Lunesta and such to try as well as natural remedies...

For me personally..I only like taking medicine for their intended purpose and not use 'off label' one's...but again..this is a choice to be made for each of us with our Drs....

I wish you luck!
SB and "the pup who snores loudly" 
ACDF C5-C7, (no hardware), with autograft bone Nov. 2001
(reabsorption of bone 2 years later...still lost in body..expect to burp it out at anytime..haha")) 
ACDF with hardware, allograft bone Nov. 2005 
Anterior and Posterior CDF, allograft bone with BMP, removal of old hardware, use of titanium plates, rods, screws, & kitchen sink (lol) Oct 2006
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