Zolpidem is a prescription sedative used to treat insomnia, and it is not approved for use in treating other conditions. Doctors rarely prescribe zolpidem for anxiety, although some patients taking it for insomnia may notice a decrease in their anxiety symptoms. In other patients, the medication can actually worsen anxiety conditions, so it is important to take the medication only for the prescribed reason and not to rely on it for off-label uses.
As part of a sedative class of medications, zolpidem works by balancing certain chemicals in the brain and suppressing some signals exchanged between the brain and the nervous system. The active ingredient in zolpidem is very similar to benzodiazepine, a type of sedative known for its ability to help control anxiety. This similarity may lead patients to believe that they can also use zolpidem, but the drug's chemical structure is different enough that it does not work quite the same way.
Although doctors do not prescribe zolpidem for anxiety because it does not work in the same manner as other sedatives, some of its primary actions can help reduce anxious thoughts in select patients. Zolpidem inhibits the parts of the brain responsible for cognitive thought. Essentially, this feature of the medication works by quieting the mind so that the user can fall asleep faster. Racing thoughts and frequent worrying are part of anxiety disorder, and inhibiting the part of the brain responsible for these thoughts may help reduce the symptoms of the conditions, although further research is needed to validate this potential benefit.
If racing thoughts, constant worry, and feelings of anxiousness are caused by a lack of sleep rather than a chemical imbalance in the brain, zolpidem for anxiety may be beneficial. In this case, however, the medication is not actually controlling anxiety, but rather eliminating the condition that led to it in the first place. Sleep deprivation can cause numerous negative effects on the body that may be resolved once the patient is able to get several nights of quality rest.
The risks of taking zolpidem for anxiety may outweigh any possible benefits. Anxiety and depression often go together, and patients with a history of depression should not take zolpidem for anxiety or for any other reason, as the medication can actually worsen the symptoms of depression. This medication is highly addictive, both physically and psychologically. Patients with a history of addiction to drugs or alcohol should not take zolpidem. Doctors typically do not recommend it for long-term use, generally prescribing only enough for one to two weeks.
Zolpidem cannot be taken unless the user is able to spend an entire seven to nine hours sleeping without interruption, and it may cause side effects such as memory loss or sleepwalking. It should only be purchased through reputable sources and with a doctor’s prescription. Patients should never use a medication for reasons other than those for which it is approved unless under the guidance of a medical professional.