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Ambien, a member of the class of hypnotic medications, was approved by the FDA in the early 1990s, designed for short term use to treat insomnia, and was welcomed as a change from the prevailing sleep aid at the time, Halcion, which had been banned in several countries due to its implication in psychosis and suicide cases. Ambien works by activating the neurotransmitter GABA and binding it to the GABA receptors in the exact location as the benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax. The extra GABA activity triggered by the drug inhibits the neuron activity that is associated with insomnia, slowing down the brain. Ambien is very effective at initiating sleep, usually working within less than 30 minutes.
First used in Europe towards the end of the 1980s, it became the sleeping pill of choice amongst individuals across all demographics but was especially popular amongst those working in high-pressure jobs, thanks to its supposedly “non-groggy” properties (apparently leaving individual users feeling refreshed and revitalized, unlike many other sleep aids).
Zolpidem became available as a generic medication before 2010, becoming the most commonly prescribed sleep aid worldwide, with over 12 million prescriptions filled out annually in the USA alone.