Generic for Ambien: dosage, side effects, and benefits

Generic Ambien or zolpidem tartrate is a helpful choice for treating insomnia for many people. But is an Ambien generic right for you? Let’s discuss.


Medically reviewed by

July 20, 2021

Generic Ambien was approved in 2007 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for short-term sleeping problems as well as for insomnia (for its sedating effects). The generic version of Ambien is zolpidem tartrate, or simply zolpidem. It is available in tablet or spray form. Zolpidem tartrate is in the family of sedative-hypnotic drugs.

The Ambien generic tablet generally is made in an oval or round shape; usually, it is pink or white in color. With the approval of generic Ambien, there now are a number of companies that manufacture it, with competition resulting in lower costs. But how do the generic versions compare to brand name Ambien?

In this post, we’ll consider the reasons for you to select generic Ambien over the brand name Ambien, important information to know before taking it, the proper dosage, and the side effects of Ambien generic.

Why select generic Ambien?

Cost is one of the main reasons for using Ambien generic. Brand name medications, such as Ambien, are typically more expensive. According to, the price for Ambien is approximately $20 per tablet (based on that website’s discount card and without insurance or payment methods other than cash.)

This same website lists the price for generic Ambien 10mg or zolpidem at approximately $13 for 6 tablets, or a bit more than $2 per tablet. Again, this price is based on using the discount card and without taking into consideration insurance or non-cash payments.

In other words, you are likely to pay more for Ambien than generic Ambien. The generic version is both less costly and has the same clinical indications and side effects as branded Ambien.   

Does generic Ambien work as well as the name brand?

The question of whether a generic is as effective as a brand medication is fundamental to knowing you will receive the treatment you seek.

Generic zolpidem has the same principle active ingredient as branded Ambien: zolpidem tartrate. Generic zolpidem also is available in two formulations: a quick release and extended release tablet, known as generic Ambien CR. Zolpidem also is made in a tablet that dissolves under the tongue.

Both Ambien and zolpidem have the same clinical effect: Each decreases the time it takes to fall asleep and increase the time asleep. 

To get FDA approval, the generic variant of the drug needs to be equivalent to the brand-name medication. But the FDA allows for a 20% variation of the active ingredient from the original composition. This fact contributes to why some patients experience stronger or weaker effects from different manufacturers’ generic products. 

Consider this information as you choose between generic zolpidem and brand Ambien. 

Is Ambien a “benzo”?

Ambien (zolpidem) is used to treat insomnia, as is the medication, Xanax. However, when Xanax is used to treat insomnia, it is used “off-label”, which means it does not have formal FDA approval as a treatment for insomnia. Xanax, and other benzodiazepine medications such as Valium, Ativan and Klonopin, have achieved a FDA indication for the treatment of anxiety disorders, including panic attacks. Ambien, on the other hand, is used specifically for insomnia and is not a benzodiazepine. Ambien is a sedative (also called a hypnotic).

What to know before taking an Ambien generic

Generic Ambien is recommended as a short-term treatment for insomnia, after sleep hygiene or cognitive behavioral therapy approaches have not worked.

If you have tried these other methods and are considering medication, here is further information for you to know before taking zolpidem. These include medical guidelines for taking an Ambien generic, its proper dosage, and side effects.

Medical guidelines for taking generic Ambien

Zolpidem is a prescription medication that produces a calming chemical in the brain, which helps in falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer. Generally, zolpidem is prescribed for 1-2 weeks. 

When taking zolpidem, consider these medical guidelines: 

  • Always take the medication exactly as prescribed. Lowering or increasing the dosage on your own can lead to zolpidem not being as effective or causing undue sedation, which can arrest your breathing. If you need to adjust your dose, speak with your doctor, healthcare professional, or the experts at Minded.
  • Zolpidem can cause an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions occur with many medications. If you have had a previous allergic reaction, to any medication, be sure to let your doctor know when considering the prescription of zolpidem.
  • Try to take this medication on an empty stomach. Taking zolpidem after eating may prolong the onset of the medication’s effects. 
  • If you have an active medical condition(s)… for example, if you have obstructive lung disease (COPD), sleep apnea, liver disease (which can affect the action of a medication), multiple sclerosis (MS), or myasthenia gravis (an uncommon but serious condition) consult your doctor about taking this (or any) medication.
  • Generic, low-dose, dissolve-under-the-tongue zolpidem tartrate tablets may be taken if you wake in the middle of the night. Take another tablet only if there are at least 4 hours of sleep before you need to wake up. If you are taking a higher dose or brand Ambien, do not take another dose if you wake up, as this can increase your risk of overdose.
  • Crushing generic zolpidem tablets. You can crush immediate release tablets. Extended release tablets should not be crushed because that may decrease their effectiveness.
  • How to store the medication. Store zolpidem at room temperature.
  • If you have plans to become or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Avoid taking zolpidem if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. There is not sufficient research to determine whether zolpidem may be harmful to unborn children, or might pass through breast milk into your child’s body. Talk to your doctor or Minded if you become pregnant while taking zolpidem or if you are breastfeeding.

If you have been prescribed zolpidem, we here at Minded can answer any questions you may have. We provide information as well as assist with refills.

Generic Ambien (zolpidem) side effects

Zolpidem’s side effects range from the mild and common to those more severe. 

Common side effects include drowsiness and dizziness. Other mild effects include weakness, lightheadedness, or feeling “drugged.” Zopidem can also cause sleepiness and a loss of coordination, including difficulty with balance or ataxia (a loss of muscle control) or feelings of confusion or euphoria. Other side effects may include stuffy nose and nasal irritation, dry mouth and sore throat, or gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and upset stomach. You also may experience headaches, changes in your vision, muscle pain, and heart palpitations.

More serious side effects of Zolpidem include allergic reactions manifesting with a swelling of your face or tongue and breathing problems. You also may experience memory loss or become unexpectedly aggressive. Thought, mood, and behavior changes are also possible, including thoughts of harming yourself or wanting to die, agitation, loss of interest in the activities you normally enjoy, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, irrational thoughts, sleepwalking, even sleep driving, hallucinations, and having no recollection of these or other events. 

As mentioned earlier, certain medications may interfere with the desired actions of zolpidem, as well as increase the risk of side effects. Among these medications are antibiotics (such as clarithromycin and erythromycin), medications used to treat fungal infections (such as ketoconazole,) as well as ritonavir and atazanavir (medications used to treat HIV/AIDS).

Anticonvulsant drugs and antibiotics, such as rifampin, rifabutin, and rifapentine, can diminish the effectiveness of zolpidem. The medication guide that comes with your prescription provides this and other important information.

The proper dose for zolpidem

Zolpidem dosage is different for women and men. The dose may depend on the severity of your condition, your age, and any medical conditions you might have (noted above). In most cases, your doctor will start you off with a lower dosage and gradually increase it, as needed.

The recommended dose for women is generic Ambien 5 mg and is 10 mg for men. Take the tablet right before bedtime and only if you have at least 7-8 hours before you need to awaken. If the 5 mg dosage is not sufficient, let your doctor know so that changes might be considered. 

Keep in mind that immediate release tablets generally are prescribed if a person has trouble falling asleep. If you have problems staying asleep, speak to your doctor, because there are extended-release (ER) tablets.

Generic Ambien or zolpidem is not recommended for those younger than 18. Research, to date, is insufficient to endorse prescribing this medication to those less than 18 years of age.  

Similarly,  adults over the age of 65 are prescribed lower doses because the breakdown of this (and other) medication(s) is longer than that of younger people, resulting in higher blood levels or duration in the body.

Final thoughts about deciding if generic Ambien is right for you

Generic Ambien or zolpidem is as effective as brand Ambien for the treatment of insomnia. However, an Ambien generic is less costly than the brand name, if cost is a consideration.

Generic Ambien may have side effects, some of which can be serious.  

Consult your doctor before taking generic Ambien; provide information about medical conditions you may have as well as other medications you might be taking. If you are currently taking zolpidem and have questions, please feel free to reach out to the professionals at Minded. We are standing by to help you navigate considering a medication as well as the prescription refill process—for zolpidem and many other mental health prescription medications.

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