Ambien vs Valium

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For individuals suffering from insomnia or anxiety disorders, certain medications that modulate the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain can help manage symptoms and promote sleep. Ambien and Valium are two such drugs often prescribed for these conditions. These medicines affect different neurotransmitter systems within the brain but both have calming effects on patients with anxiety or sleep disturbances.

Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic medication primarily used to treat insomnia. It works by enhancing the action of GABA, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that inhibits activity across many pathways.

Valium, on the other hand, is classified as a benzodiazepine which also increases GABA activity but has wider uses beyond treating insomnia including managing anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, muscle spasms, and seizures.

What is Ambien?

Zolpidem (the generic name for Ambien) is a sedative, also known as a hypnotic. It was first approved by the FDA in 1992. Ambien affects chemicals in the brain that may be unbalanced in people with insomnia, helping them fall asleep faster so they can get a good night’s rest. On the other hand, Diazepam (the generic name for Valium), which belongs to benzodiazepines class of drugs and was first approved by the FDA in 1963, treats anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal symptoms or muscle spasms. Valium works by enhancing the effects of GABA neurotransmitter thus providing calming effect on body and mind. While both medications are used to treat different ailments and have similar side effects such as drowsiness or lightheadedness, it's important to remember that their mode of action varies significantly due to their influence on distinct types of neurotransmitters.

What conditions is Ambien approved to treat?

Ambien is approved for the treatment of various sleep-related disorders:

  • Insomnia characterized by difficulties with sleep initiation
  • Some cases of chronic insomnia may be treated, although it's typically used short-term

Valium, on the other hand, has a broader range of applications:

  • Anxiety disorders and symptoms
  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures (in conjunction with other medications)
  • Preoperative sedation

How does Ambien help with these illnesses?

Ambien helps to manage insomnia by increasing the activity of GABA, a neurotransmitter that inhibits brain activity. It does this by binding to specific subunits of the GABA receptor complex and enhancing its effects which leads to sedation. GABA is a crucial chemical in the central nervous system that plays an important role in reducing neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system, helping with relaxation and sleep. In contrast, Valium also increases the activity of GABA but it has a broader effect on different types of receptors for this neurotransmitter across various parts of the brain and body. This explains why Valium doesn't just aid with sleep but can also alleviate anxiety, muscle spasms, seizures and more due to its widespread interaction within our biological systems.

What is Valium?

Valium is the trade name for diazepam, a medication that falls under the benzodiazepine class, used primarily to treat anxiety, seizure disorder and withdrawal symptoms from alcohol and certain other drugs. Valium enhances the effect of GABA (gamma amino butyric acid), a neurotransmitter that inhibits activity in the brain; this results in reduced anxiety and relaxation of muscles. Diazepam was first approved by the FDA in 1963. Unlike Ambien (Zolpidem) which is primarily used as a sedative or hypnotic drug to treat insomnia, Valium has broader applications including muscle relaxant properties and anti-convulsant effects besides its use in treating anxiety disorders. Its side-effect profile differs from Z-drugs like Ambien as it may cause drowsiness or dizziness but less likely to cause complex sleep behaviors such as sleep-walking or sleep-driving often associated with z-drugs. The effects on GABA receptors can be beneficial especially for patients who suffer from conditions like generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks or muscle spasms where typical sedatives like Ambien may not be effective.

What conditions is Valium approved to treat?

Valium is a widely recognized medication and has been approved for the treatment of several conditions, including:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures (as part of combined therapy)

It's worth noting that Valium should be used according to the doctor's prescription due to its potential for dependence and withdrawal syndrome.

How does Valium help with these illnesses?

Valium, or diazepam, is a medication that belongs to the benzodiazepine family of drugs. It acts on GABA receptors in the brain to produce calming effects and is commonly used for treating anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal symptoms and muscle spasms. In contrast to Ambien which primarily promotes sleep onset, Valium not only helps with falling asleep but also aids in maintaining sleep throughout the night due its longer half-life. Moreover, its broad spectrum action makes it beneficial when patients are dealing with issues beyond insomnia such as anxiety or muscle tension conditions. Because of these additional benefits and its long track record of safety when used properly under medical supervision, Valium may sometimes be preferred over other medications like Ambien which mainly target sleeping difficulties.

How effective are both Ambien and Valium?

Zolpidem (Ambien) and diazepam (Valium) are both effective medications for treating insomnia; however, they are utilized under different circumstances due to their differing pharmacological properties. Both drugs were approved by the FDA within a decade of each other and have gained widespread acceptance in medical practice.

A double-blind clinical trial conducted in 1991 compared zolpidem with diazepam directly. The study found that both drugs had similar safety profiles and effectiveness at inducing sleep onset and maintaining sleep throughout the night. In this same study, none of the various metrics used to evaluate efficacy differed significantly between patients taking zolpidem or those taking diazepam.

In terms of side effects, Ambien is generally better tolerated than Valium. A review carried out in 2004 suggested that Ambien's side effect profile is more favorable than many other sedatives, including Valium. It also noted that it was well-tolerated even among elderly populations who often exhibit heightened sensitivity to such medications.

On the other hand, a 2016 meta-analysis indicated that while Diazepam appears more effective than placebo when it comes to facilitating sleep onset and reducing nighttime awakenings, its use as first-line treatment for chronic insomnia has been questioned due to potential issues related to dependency development over time along with lingering next-day cognitive impairment experienced by some users.

While Zolpidem is frequently prescribed as an initial treatment option due its lower risk profile regarding dependency development compared to benzodiazepines like Diazepam-- there remains significant research on co-prescription approaches involving SSRIs or non-benzodiazepine hypnotics for long-term management strategies for chronic insomnia sufferers where monotherapy may not be optimal or sustainable over time.

Thus, these two medications offer viable options depending upon individual patient needs--those seeking short-term relief from acute episodes of transient insomnia might find Ambien preferable whereas those dealing with comorbid anxiety disorders alongside their sleeping difficulties might experience greater overall benefit from incorporating Valium into their treatment regimen instead given its dual action on GABA receptors which can alleviate both conditions simultaneously albeit at higher risk potential regarding habituation concerns if taken beyond short term periods without strict doctor supervision.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Ambien typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Ambien typically range from 5–10 mg/day, but studies have indicated that 5 mg/day is sufficient for treating insomnia in most people. Elderly or debilitated patients may be started on 5 mg/day to decrease the risk of side effects. If there is no response, dosage can be increased to a maximum of 10mg after a few weeks. For Valium, oral doses usually range from 2-10mg taken two to four times per day for anxiety disorders and short term symptom relief. The starting dose varies and can be increased if needed, but it's important not to exceed the maximum prescribed by your healthcare provider as this medicine has potential for abuse and addiction.

At what dose is Valium typically prescribed?

Valium treatment typically begins at a dosage of 2-10 mg, two to four times per day in adults for anxiety disorders. For the relief of symptoms related to alcohol withdrawal, Valium may be administered at doses of 10mg, repeated every six hours as needed. The maximum dose is typically capped at 40mg per day divided into several smaller doses throughout the day. This maximum dose may be tested if there's no sufficient response to lower dosages after a period of time recommended by your healthcare professional. As always with medications such as this one, it's critically important that you follow your doctor's instructions regarding dosage and frequency.

What are the most common side effects for Ambien?

Common side effects of Ambien (zolpidem) include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness
  • Sinusitis (inflammation of the sinus cavities in the head)
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle pain or cramps

In contrast, Valium (diazepam) may cause:

  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue, muscle weakness
  • Ataxia (lack of coordination) -Nausea
    -Dry mouth
    -Decreased libido

Both these medications can lead to dependency if not monitored properly. Always consult with your healthcare provider about potential side effects when choosing between these medications.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Ambien?

When comparing Ambien to Valium, it's important to note the potential serious side effects that could occur. Though rare, these can include:

  • Complex sleep-related behaviors such as sleep-driving or engaging in other activities while not fully awake
  • Memory loss or confusion
  • Severe allergic reactions characterized by hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or throat
  • Changes in mood or behavior such as new/worsening depression or thoughts about suicide/self-harm
  • Unusual changes in thought patterns like hallucinations and/or extreme agitation/anxiety
  • Physical responses including fast/pounding/irregular heartbeat; shortness of breath; feeling lightheaded (as if you might faint)
  • Symptoms indicating a possible liver problem - nausea/vomiting that doesn't stop, stomach/abdominal pain, yellowing eyes/skin (jaundice), dark urine

If any of these symptoms appear while taking either Ambien or Valium, immediate medical attention should be sought.

What are the most common side effects for Valium?

Valium, while being a potent medication for anxiety and sleep issues, can cause the following side effects:

  • Dry mouth or increased salivation
  • Nausea, constipation, or upset stomach
  • Dizziness, tiredness
  • Blurred vision
  • Memory problems
  • Restlessness, excitement, irritability or nervousness
  • Sleep disturbances (insomnia)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Problems with coordination or balance.

It's also important to note that long-term use of Valium may lead to dependency. Always consult your healthcare provider when considering using medications like Valium.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Valium?

While Valium is generally safe and effective, there are potential side effects that could indicate more serious problems. These include:

  • Allergic reactions such as hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue or throat
  • New or worsening symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • Thoughts about suicide or self-harm
  • Unusual changes in mood or behavior
  • Confusion, agitation, aggression
  • Hallucinations (seeing things that aren't real)
  • Memory issues (forgetfulness)
  • Muscle weakness, lack of balance and coordination
  • Drowsiness to the point where you could fall

If you experience any of these signs while using Valium, it's important to stop taking the medication immediately and seek professional medical help. Remember: It's always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health.

Contraindications for Ambien and Valium?

Both Ambien and Valium, as well as most sedative-hypnotic or anxiolytic medications, may deepen symptoms of depression in some individuals. If you notice your depressive state worsening or any increase in suicidal ideation, thoughts, or behavior while taking these drugs, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Ambien nor Valium should be taken if you are currently using or have recently discontinued certain other medications like inhibitors of the CYP3A4 enzyme (a protein involved in medication metabolism). Always inform your physician about all the medicines you are taking; these specific inhibitors will require a period to clear from your system to prevent hazardous interactions with Ambien and Valium.

How much do Ambien and Valium cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of 30 tablets of Ambien (10 mg) averages around $150, which works out to about $5 per day.
  • The price for a pack of 100 Valium (diazepam) 2mg tablets is approximately $400, working out to about $4/day if you are taking the typical dose of 5-20mg per day.

Thus, unless you require a high dosage range for Valium (i.e., above 20 mg/day), then brand-name Ambien is more expensive on a per-day treatment basis. Please note that cost should not be your primary consideration in determining which of these drugs is right for you.

For generic versions - zolpidem (Ambien) and diazepam (Valium):

  • Zolpidem tartrate costs around $10-$15 for a supply of thirty 10mg tablets with an approximate daily cost ranging from as low as $0.33 up to around $0.50.
  • Generic diazepam costs between roughly less than one dollar up to three dollars or so for thirty 2mg pills; this translates into an extremely low daily cost starting at mere cents ($0.02/day if taking two pills at once), but will rise slightly with increasing dosages.

Remember that prices might vary based on location and specific pharmacies or drugstores where they are purchased.

Popularity of Ambien and Valium

Zolpidem, commonly known by the brand name Ambien, is a frequently prescribed medication for short-term treatment of insomnia. It was estimated that about 8.8 million people in the US were prescribed zolpidem in 2020. This accounts for almost 85% of all prescriptions within its class (non-benzodiazepine sedative hypnotics). The prevalence of zolpidem as an insomnia treatment has been relatively constant over the past decade.

Diazepam, often branded as Valium, is a versatile drug used to treat anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal symptoms and seizures. In addition to these uses, it also serves as a muscle relaxant. Approximately 14 million prescriptions were written for diazepam in the United States during 2020; this accounted for roughly under 15% of benzodiazepine prescriptions nationwide. The use of diazepam has seen marginal fluctuations but overall remained stable over the last ten years.


Ambien (zolpidem) and Valium (diazepam) have well-established records in the management of insomnia and anxiety, respectively, with strong evidence from numerous clinical studies supporting their efficacy over placebo treatments. While they can be used together in some instances, this should always be under the careful supervision of a healthcare provider due to potential interactions between them. The main difference lies in their mechanisms of action: Ambien primarily acts on GABA-A receptors to promote sleepiness while Valium works on several neurotransmitter systems including GABA to produce its anxiolytic effects.

Both drugs are available as generics which could mean substantial savings for patients paying out-of-pocket. It's worth noting that both Ambien and Valium may require some time before their full effect is felt.

The side-effects profile for these two medications is quite similar; common ones include drowsiness or light-headedness. However, it should be noted that there is a higher risk for physical dependence with prolonged use of Valium than there is with Ambien. As such, patients must monitor any changes closely when starting treatment -- especially if symptoms worsen or new ones develop -- and seek immediate medical help if dependency signs emerge.