I was prescribed Ambien (Zolpidem) for my persistent bouts with insomnia. I recall my mom had taken it but claimed that it didn’t work. However, for me, it not only “worked”, but it also brought on a slew of unexpected side effects.
First of all, you have to make sure to take it on an empty stomach. I’ve taken it after I had eaten (even if the meal was two hours prior to taking it), and the onset was delayed and the side effects were significantly minimized. One day, I took it on an empty stomach (I had not eaten for at least six hours), and within fifteen minutes, I felt this strange slow warmth (kind of like a buzz) creep over me. My mouth felt weird, tickly even, and my visual perception immediately changed. I recall going to the bathroom, and to my surprise, my face looked completely different, as if it were two-dimensional (of course, this was due to the change in my perception; my face itself did not actually change shape). This was the beginning to my brief experimentation with it, though I would never recommend doing so. In fact, I shall declare some of the negative side effects first, such as swollen, even darkened eyes after long-term usage, as well as memory problems. As for the memory problems, these were short-term but still disturbing. I would usually forget a large part of the night. (This is called anterograde amnesia, and I know this only because of a few psychology courses that I’ve taken). I remember one night, I had taken it for “fun”, and fought off the sleepiness by hanging out with my friends and drinking red bull. Apparently, as we were going over the events of the night, I had painted a picture that I didn’t even remember doing the following day! This is very unlike me; my memory is sharp as that of a hawk’s. Therefore, I was intrigued, if not a bit troubled by this occurrence.
As for the more interesting aspects of taking Ambien, I recall feeling almost a lunatic’s high-at one point, I had been conversing with the characters from “Roger Rabbit”. Another time, I attempted to write down the thoughts that raced through my head, convinced that they were sent from an other-world source. Of course, upon viewing the scribbles the next day, I saw that they were mere incoherency. I’ve taken other sleeping pills before, yet never have I experienced such strange effects as those of Ambien. After my month-long experimentation, I noticed that the iris of my eye was a lot darker, as I had written earlier (I’m sure this is an undocumented effect, but it occurred to me nevertheless and I am almost certain it’s due to Ambien itself). I also experienced increased irritability, and read that Ambien affects GABA, which is an amino acid that is implicated in mood and anxiety.
So maybe, and this is all conjecture, my GABA levels were depleted or otherwise messed with. Therefore, I quit using this drug. Though the experiences were quite unique, unlike any other I’ve ever had with other sleeping pills or mood-altering drugs, and the effects (when taking place) seemed to feel nearly magical. I still am wary of it. It just seems to bring on such strange and disconcerting negative effects that I decided that the hour-long happy delusional trip was just not worth it. However, if you feel that tripping in any form is worth it, then by all means, try it out. Yet of course, not without a legitimate prescription from your doctor (though this should be quite easy to obtain). If, however, you are insistent on using this for medical purposes (severe struggles with insomnia), then by all means, take it. If you’d like to mitigate the hallucinatory effects, then make sure to not take it on an empty stomach. While the sedative effects will take longer to set it, you’ll reduce the risk of disorientation.
“Zolpidem.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 11 Feb 2008, 23:16 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 13 Feb 2008 http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Zolpidem&oldid=190738126>.