Citation: benzo. "Psychedelic Sleeping Pill?: experience with Zolpidem (ID 14039)". Erowid.org. Dec 22, 2004. erowid.org/exp/14039
I am quite experienced with zolpidem (US: Ambien, Europe: Stilnocht, Stilnox etc.). I suffer from insomnia and over the recent years I have used zolpidem about 200 times... not only because it's good for sleeping but also because I find its effects on me strange, magical and enjoyable. At the same time I have learned about its potential dangers the hard way. This report is a summary of my experiences with this drug for those who are interested in this substance, I hope it's readable as English is not my first language.
Some basic info: I am 25 years old and not a highly experienced drug user in general but have tried amphetamine, mushrooms and cannabis on a few occasions. And..since alcohol is very common around here I have used lots of that. I have also used a few benzodiazepines and tried a few other sleeping pills than Ambien.
So whats so special about Ambien? Doctors have always described it to me as a 'mild, benzodiazepine-like sleep-aid that will make me tired and has little or no addiction potential'. I do not agree.. Benzodiazepines in general only give me a very alcohol-like intoxicated, relaxed feeling, Ambien does a whole lot more.
I normally used Ambien while being on no other medications or drugs and this report is about zolpidem effects alone. The typical experience with 10 mg taken late evening goes as follows:
T+00: 10 mg taken, always on an empty stomach, works poorly if not. After this I am really supposed to go to bed but the whole trick is to stay up and see what happens...
T+10-30 mins: At a sudden point, virtually from one minute to another, the effects begin. It always begins with a strange light feeling in the head, sometimes a pounding sensation in the front and back of the head. Then mouth and throat become somewhat dry. Something odd happens to the light in the room, it seems to fade slightly. There is a sense of movement in the peripheral vision. Relaxation and sudden joy build up, almost makes me want to laugh.
As the effects keep coming up over the next 10 mins or so, relaxation becomes more pronounced. There is a feeling of beeing light and free and worries/anxieties are swept away. Skin feels different, almost fuzzy. Movement in the peripheral vision increases and spreads to entire field of vision. As long as I constantly look around the room nothing is unusual but as soon as I keep still and stare at the same point strange things happen: Patterns on floor, wallpaper, furniture etc. start to breathe and move in wave-like motions. Curtains seem to move in a light breeze of wind. Objects in the room are moving, but without going anywhere. Entire surfaces like floors or walls can become completely liquified and it looks so real I sometimes touch the wall/floor, almost expecting my fingers to melt into it. Strong light looks odd and fuzzy. Every strong source of light leaves afterimages and tracers normally not seen. If all light is turned off for a long while and then suddenly turned on, it is not unpleasant, but seem to fade in slowly without hurting the eyes.
Not usually, but sometimes I have experienced disturbances in sound perception too: sound is altered, seems to come from from a remote place. If I keep my eyes shut for a while in a darkened room, there is actually some visual activity. There is a sense of a geometric pattern, it's so faint it's almost not there, but yet I always see it on Ambien while I have never been able see it in a 'sober' condition without Ambien. It's as if the pattern lies deep down in a hole or tunnel, a hole that I can travel into, into the pattern. Very bizarre, but magical. I have seen geometric patterns on mushrooms too, but they were very different in nature, brighter but fast moving and short-lived. But I am surprised that Ambien actually does this to me.
Apart from all this, there are a some physical effects. Motor skills are slightly impaired, muscles seem to weaken and loose precision, and walking is slightly odd in a way different from staggering on alcohol. Speech is slurred. Dryness in throat/mouth which can sometimes develop into a bad cough.
T+1 hour: At this time the effects are usually peaking. After this point nothing new happens, and the visual effects starts fading away now. Relaxation and deep mental effects persist for a couple of hours more though. These mental effects are quite strong actually. Worries, anxieties, all sorts of complex mind-noise disappear and thoughts seem to clear and simplify and concentrate about basic things like breathing and being alive. Sometimes there is joy, sometimes mellowness. Feelings of sudden affection are common. I easily get very philosophical too on Ambien. There is also another interesting effect, you could call it 'mind-drifting'. As soon as I don't concentrate on specific thoughts, my mind seem to drift off and produce chains of sudden random thoughts, which are difficult to control or explain. Very similar to what happens during the seconds just before falling asleep. But on Ambien it tends to happen when you are still fully awake.
T+1.5-2 hours: At this point effects are generally wearing off and I go to bed, falling asleep almost at once.
T+8-10 hours: No after-effects felt beyond this point. After-effects before this point include drowsiness and a 'hangover' feeling not unlike one from alcohol.
Effects of high doses:
I usually use 10 mg, one pill, but have experimented a few times with up to 100 mg dosed over a few hours, out of curiousity. This amount is NOT recommended. I found that the 'fun' effects, like visual distortions did not increase beyond 15 mg. Instead I fell into a trance-like state in which I basically did not know what I was doing and why. There was severe memory loss and I have only fragmented memories about what I have been doing on these high doses. But I remember being in a dream-like trance where I had a few actual hallucinations, talking nonsense to myself or to people who were not there. At one time I fell on the floor and for a few seconds I was sure there was someone there trying to help me up, but there wasn't. Sometimes I have tried to write stuff down on paper while in this state. The next day when I find this paper many of the words are misspelled in a strange way: some of the letters have been repeated, for instance 'bizarre' turns into 'bbizzarrre'. I never meant to misspell those words and it illustrates well what kind of state I was in. Muscles are weak, it's almost impossible to stand or move around and I knocked things over.
The whole thing usually ended with sudden, involuntary vomiting.
Zolpidem is not that toxic itself and I knew the 100 mg would not kill me, but it surely went very bad for me the few times I have done it. And combined with other drugs or alcohol it can be very dangerous.
Tolerance and dependency: Ohh yes, there is. I am not taking Ambien at the moment, but one time I used it 4 months in a row, 10 mg, every night. First 3 months went fine, the 4th it started to go bad, tolerance had built to a level where 10 mg was not effective any longer. Then I decided it was time for a break and stopped Ambien abrutly. Bad idea. I expected some withdrawal and I prepared by using 15 mg of oxazepam (minor tranquilizer) before bedtime. That helped only a little. The next 2 days I hardly slept. There was a lot of anxiety and bad headaches both night and day and seizure like activity with sudden attacks of discomfort, muscle tremors, near-fainting, confusion and even blue light flashes with eyes closed. I was able to sleep again efter 2 days, but other effects took about 6 days to disappear. Horrible. The worst shit I have ever gone through. I would recommend not taking it for more than a week without giving it a rest. I have done that often and avoided withdrawal that way. And, yes, I should mention that very high doses of zolpidem like 100 mg or so can produce marked withdrawal signs after only one night of use. Another reason to keep doses low.
Conclusion: Zolpidem/Ambien is in my view a quite interesting drug, with some effects that are almost psychedelic in nature. Big time visual distortions and a deep mental impact. Not just another sleeping drug like so many others. A substance called zopiclone is said to be quite similar to zolpidem but longer-lasting. I have tried it and it produced relaxation and tiredness, but nothing interesting. I hope I can someday try the new, also related zaleplon/Sonata and see how that behaves. Ambien is quite harmless if taken alone in smaller quantities, but it definitely produces dependency and withdrawal signs in long-term use, so take care.
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