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Xanax vs. Ambien - A Comparison Of The Two Sleep Enhancing Medications

Updated on February 19, 2011

According to the review of the Medical Clinics of North America in the year 2010, insomnia is ranked first among common sleeping disorders. It is also commonly seen and reported in routine medical evaluations. To remedy this sleeping disorder and to keep it from recurring, sleeping pills are prescribed and administered to patients. Taking these kinds of medications could be very helpful. However, patients have to know which kind of medicine to take for their sleeping disorder, as these medicines could pose a health hazard if not properly handled.

Modern treatments for this sleeping disorder usually includes nonbenzodiazepines and benzodiazepines. When it comes to these kind of medications, the popular brand among the benzodiazepines is Xanax, and the nonbenzodiazepine counterpart is Ambien. Both are administered to patients with sleep problems, but they have unique characteristics. Read on and know which medication to take, if you are suffering chronic sleeplessness or anxiety.

Brief History

Xanax is otherwise known as alprazolam, was patented in the year 1976 by Upjohn (which later became a part of Pfizer, now a very famous company manufacturing various well-known medicines). This medication has properties that prevents anxiety, convulsion, and aids sedation as well. Xanax is FDA approved, and is well-prescribed for the treatment of sleeping disorders due to anxiety.

Ambien, on the other hand is also known as zolpidem. Synthelabo/Sanofi-Aventi patented this drug in the year 1983. This medication has similar characteristics with Xanax, but Ambien is approved and more known to address sleeping disorder in particular.

Classification And Its Popularity Among Consumers

Xanax belongs to the benzodiazepine group of drugs, together with Valium. Ambien on the other hand, is a nonbenzodiazepine together with Sonata and Lunesta.

Both of these sleep inducing medications belong to the top 200 list of the "Prescription Drug Info". In April 2010, Xanax became the most popular medication, while Ambien is on the 96th spot.

How It Works

Both Xanax and Ambien stimulate sleep by targeting the GABA receptor, a very important neurotransmitter situated in the CNS, or the central nervous system. These medicines work by stimulating the receptors in the brain, not in the spine, thus it allows patients to sleep comfortably without having to alter body coordination. Both these sleep inducing drugs increase GABA and reach the said receptor.

One thing to note about Ambien is its ability to enhance deep sleep. Xanax provide a relaxing sleep for those who are suffering from moderate to severe anxiety, however, it is not to aid deep sleep among those with difficulty in sleeping.

Xanax and Ambien both aids sleep, in cases when a person suffers insomnia due to anxiety, or any other factors. However, both of these medication is not recommended for long term use.

Should these medications be used for a long time, the patient will more likely develop dependence leading to tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms when stopped. Thus, Xanax and Ambien should be taken with medical supervision. The safe and recommended dose should be followed, as well as the recommended time frame for medication.

Effects Of Ambien And Xanax
Side effects of Ambien and Xanax are similar to each other. Both of these sleep inducing medication are associated with withdrawal symptoms when the patient becomes dependent and develops tolerance in any of these drugs. Xanax and Ambien is also reported to be one of the most commonly abused drugs, among others. Some suicide cases are reported to be caused by the withdrawal symptoms of both Ambien and Xanax.

Patients should take precaution in taking any of these medicines for the cure of anxiety, insomnia and other related disorders. It is encouraged that patients should always consult their doctor before taking a higher dose, or extending the treatment. Aside from some life-threatening withdrawal associated with these medicines, nonbenzodiazepines are also reported to be a potential cancer-causing agent. Both Xanax and Ambien are found to be carcinogenic in rats, and it could be true to humans as well.


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