How Is Zolpidem Used?

Prescribed primarily as a short-term insomnia treatment, zolpidem is a generic drug. Zolpidem is classified as a nonbenzodiazepine sedative-hypnotic, but it works similarly to benzodiazepines. Like benzodiazepines, zolpidem affects the GABA neurotransmitter and receptors in the brain. GABA has a calming impact on neural activity. Zolpidem can increase GABA’s effects, producing calming sensations that encourage sleep. Zolpidem shouldn’t be prescribed for more than a few weeks due to the fact that it is habit-forming and can lead to physical dependence. Using it for no more than a few weeks reduces this risk.

Zolpidem is also sold under several brand names -the most common is Ambien. The drug is also available in an extended-release version called Ambien CR. The drug can come as a sublingual tablet, called Intermezzo, or in a mouth spray version called Zolpimist. Regardless of the version used, patients are advised to take the drug right before bed. They are also instructed to make sure they can get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep. If someone wakes up before they get a full night’s sleep, they may have impaired coordination, alertness and memory. When someone uses zolpidem in a standard version, it starts to take effect within about 15 minutes. Effects can take longer to surface if zolpidem is taken right after a meal.

How Long Does Zolpidem Stay in Your System?

People may want to know how long zolpidem stays in the system for several reasons. First, if someone is dependent upon zolpidem, they may want to anticipate how long it would take withdrawal symptoms to appear after the last dose or between doses. People may want this information if they have an upcoming drug test. Since zolpidem can have adverse side effects, such as sleepwalking, confusion, memory loss or day drowsiness, people may want to know how long it stays in the system in order to sync their sleep cycle with the drug’s cycle in the body. The answer to this question depends on several factors, including:

  • Age: Age is one of the most significant factors that affects how long zolpidem stays in the system, beyond dosage and the specific type of the drug used. Younger people will usually metabolize drugs more quickly, eliminating the zolpidem from their systems faster than older people.
  • Body fat and chemistry: Individual factors such as body mass and percentage of body fat can affect how quickly zolpidem leaves the system.
  • Dosage: The dosage someone takes may influence how quickly the drug is metabolized. Also relevant is how often someone uses zolpidem. Frequent or chronic use results in zolpidem accumulating in the system, which can mean it takes longer to be eliminated.

Zolpidem’s half-life is between two and three hours -which is very short. The average half-life of the drug is around 2.6 hours in healthy adults. So, after taking a dose of zolpidem, the body will have eliminated half of it within two-and-a-half hours, or so. Full elimination of zolpidem can take anywhere from 11 hours to 16.5 hours. The average person will have cleared zolpidem from their system within 14 hours after taking it. Even after the parent drug is eliminated from the system, metabolites may linger in the body. Longer-lasting metabolites can cause zolpidem to show up on drug tests beyond 14 hours. Some evidence suggests zolpidem may show up in a urine drug screen for one to three days.

Substance use disorder treatment is available now. If you, or a loved one, is struggling with addiction to zolpidem Contact The Recovery Village to learn more or get the answers to questions you may have.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.