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20 min read

Halcion vs. Ambien

Written by Klarity Editorial Team

Published: Jan 4, 2023

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Zoe Russell

Table of contents

If you are not getting a good night’s sleep, you are not alone. With so many insomnia treatment options on the market, it can feel exhausting to understand the different types of medications, let alone decide which treatment option is best for you. 

In this article, we give a side-by-side comparison guide of two commonly prescribed medications used to treat insomnia: Halcion and Ambien. This guide is for educational purposes only and should not be used to self-diagnose or self-medicate your symptoms. Instead, we hope it can help you make a more informed decision when discussing insomnia treatment with your healthcare provider. 

If you are suffering from insomnia and believe that a medication like Halcion or Ambien could benefit you, speak to a psychiatric professional virtually on Klarity today. We’ll connect you with an insomnia specialist who can evaluate your symptoms and prescribe you a safe and effective dosage of insomnia medication if they determine it to be the best option for you. 

Schedule an appointment to begin affordable, convenient, and insurance-free insomnia treatment in just 48 hours. 

Halcion is a benzodiazepine, making it a potentially addictive substance. For this reason, many of the providers on Klarity won’t prescribe Halcion to insomnia patients. Instead, they will work with you to find a more suitable insomnia medication. Connect with a provider today to learn more. 

Drug ClassBenzodiazepine

Brand / Generic StatusBrand name for triazolam

Brand name for zolpidem
Form(s) of the DrugImmediate-release tablet• Immediate-release tablet
• Extended-release tablet
• Nasal spray
Standard DosageImmediate-release tablet
• 0.125mg
• 0.25mg
Immediate-release tablet:
• 5mg
• 10mg

Extended-release tablet:
• 6.25mg
• 12.5mg

Nasal spray:
• 5mg per metered spray

Conditions TreatedFDA-approved uses:
• Insomnia

Off-label uses:
• Oral sedation for outpatient dental procedures.

FDA-approved uses:
• Insomnia
• $200 for a 30-day supply
• $10 for a 30-day supply (with coupons)

Generic (triazolam):
• $36 to $52 for a 30-day supply
• $668 for a 30-day supply

Generic formula:
• $8.30 to $58 for a 30-day supply (with insurance)
• $21.64 per pill (without insurance)
Side-EffectsCommon side effects:
• Daytime drowsiness
• Dizziness
• Loss of coordination
• New or worsening depression
• Headache
• Issues with memory
• Paresthesias or numbness and tingling

Serious side effects:
• Anxiety
• Sudden changes in mood or behavior
• Confusion
• Memory loss
• Agitation
• Hallucinations
• Depression
• Suicidal thoughts
Common side effects:
• Dizziness
• Loss of coordination or balance
• Congestion
• Nausea
• Dry mouth
• Constipation
• Diarrhea
• Confusion
• Stomach ache
• Euphoria
• Muscle pain
• Visual changes
• Headaches
• Drowsiness

Serious side effects:
• Memory loss
• Changes in behavior
• Depression
• Anxiety
• Aggression
• Suicidal ideation
Warnings For UseContraindicated conditions:
• Mood disorders
• Psychiatric disorders
• HIstory of substance abuse

Drug interactions:
• Other central nervous system depressants
• Other sleep aid medications
• Opioid medications
• Certain psychiatric medications
• Peripheral neuropathy medicine
• Diabetic medications
Contraindicated conditions:
• Alcohol intoxication
• Depression
• Drug dependence
• Liver disease
• Glaucoma
• Renal dysfunction
• Liver disease
• Respiratory depression

Drug interactions:
• Tramadol
• Ativan
• Clonazepam
• Cymbalta
• Flexeril
• Gabapentin
• Klonopin
• Lexapro
• Lisinopril
• Lyrica
• Trazodone
• Xanax
• Zoloft

What is Halcion?

Halcion is the brand name of the generic drug triazolam, which belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines. Halcion works by binding to GABA inhibitory receptors, which slow down activity in the brain, causing sedation and promoting sleep. 

Halcion Forms and Doses

Halcion and triazolam are available in tablet form only. Triazolam is prescribed in 0.125 mg and 0.25 mg dosages. The name-brand Halcion drug is available in 0.25 mg dosing only but comes as a scored tablet that can be split into smaller dosages. The initial dose is 0.125 mg once daily before bed, but it can be increased to the maximum dose of 0.25 mg per day.  

Conditions Halcion Treats

Halcion is FDA-approved for the short-term treatment of sleep-onset insomnia, which can be described as difficulty initially falling asleep. This medication also has an off-label use of oral sedation prior to outpatient dental procedures.  

Halcion Costs

Halcion is a relatively affordable medication and is covered by most insurance plans. If you do not have health insurance, the use of coupon codes at large pharmacies can significantly lower the cost of the medication. 

For example, the retail price of Halcion is over $200 for a 30-day supply, but with the use of coupons, the cost is lowered to under $10 per month. 

Halcion Side Effects

As with any medication, there is a risk of developing side effects when starting Halcion. If you begin to experience serious adverse effects, contact your healthcare provider immediately. 

The most common side effects associated with Halcion include: 

  • Daytime drowsiness 
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of coordination 
  • New or worsening depression 
  • Headache 
  • Issues with memory 
  • Paresthesias or numbness and tingling 

Halcion Warnings For Use

While Halcion is considered to be a relatively safe and effective medication to take for the treatment of insomnia, some important safety precautions should be kept in mind before starting the medication. 

Complex Sleep Behaviors 

A rare but serious side effect of Halcion is complex sleep behaviors, which can be described as activities or behaviors that occur when the individual is not fully conscious or awake. Some examples of this include sleepwalking and sleep-driving, which can both end in dangerous outcomes for those involved. 

If you begin to experience complex sleep behaviors when starting Halcion or any sleep aid, it is important to immediately discontinue the medication and contact your healthcare provider. Most people do not remember these events and, therefore, should be closely monitored when starting the medication. 

Limit Long-term Use 

Medication misuse warning: Halcion belongs to the class of medications known as benzodiazepines, which have the potential for habit formation and dependence. It is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance due to its abuse potential. 

Prolonged use of Halcion can lead to physical and psychological dependence, and abrupt discontinuation or rapid dose reduction may result in withdrawal symptoms or rebound insomnia. It is crucial to strictly follow your healthcare provider’s prescribed dosage and duration of treatment. Avoid exceeding the recommended dose or using Halcion for an extended period without medical supervision. 

If you have a history of substance abuse or dependency, it is important to discuss this with your healthcare provider before starting Halcion. Regular monitoring and close communication with your healthcare provider are essential to manage the risks associated with Halcion use and ensure a safe treatment plan.

Psychological and Behavioral Changes

Reports have found that with long-term use of Halcion, there is a potential risk of developing changes in mood and behavior. This may include new or worsening depression, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, or bizarre behavior. 

Before starting the medication, your healthcare provider should evaluate you for any underlying mood or psychiatric disorders that can exacerbate these symptoms. 

Halcion Interactions

Be sure to disclose all medications you are currently taking with your healthcare provider, including all over-the-counter medications and supplements. 

The most common drug interactions with Halcion include:

  • Other central nervous system depressants, such as alcohol or other benzodiazepines
  • Other sleep aid medications, such as Ambien
  • Opioid medications
  • Certain psychiatric medications, such as Cymbalta, Lexapro, or Buspar 
  • Peripheral neuropathy medicine, including Gabapentin and Lyrica 
  • Diabetic medications, such as Metformin 

Licensed providers on Klarity provide personalized treatment. Find a provider that matches your needs and preferences.

What is Ambien?

Ambien is the name-brand for the generic drug zolpidem and is one of the most commonly prescribed medications used to treat symptoms of insomnia. Ambien is considered to be a sedative-hypnotic medication that acts on GABA receptors in the brain. 

GABA receptors are considered to be inhibitory and, when activated, slow the activity within the brain, producing its sedating effect. Ambien works at the same site on the receptors as benzodiazepines, which likely explains its potential for abuse and dependence. 

Ambien Forms and Doses

Ambien is available as an oral solution and various tablets, including immediate-release, extended-release, and sublingual tablets that dissolve under the tongue. The average dose of Ambien is started at 5 mg and can be slowly increased as needed, with a maximum dose of 12.5 mg.  

Conditions Ambien Treats

Ambien or generic zolpidem is solely prescribed and FDA-approved for the treatment of traditional insomnia symptoms in individuals over the age of 18 years of age. 


The symptoms of insomnia vary from person to person, but there are generally two types of insomnia. Sleep-onset insomnia is the inability to fall asleep, and sleep-maintenance insomnia is the inability to stay asleep throughout the night. While some may struggle with one or the other, others may experience both.

The different formulations of Ambien tablets are useful in addressing different insomnia symptoms. For example, if you primarily experience difficulty falling asleep, the immediate-release or sublingual tablets will help you get to sleep faster. On the other hand, extended-release tablets would be useful for those with difficulty staying asleep throughout the night.  

Ambien Costs

The price of Ambien varies depending on your insurance coverage, which dose you are on, and which pharmacy you use. Most health insurance plans cover Ambien, and if you are uninsured, coupon codes are widely available and significantly reduce the cost of the medication. 

For example, the average retail price of Ambien is typically over $730 for a 30-day supply, but with the use of coupon codes, the price for the same medication ranges between $4-$40. 

Ambien Side Effects

Ambien is associated with a number of different side effects that vary in severity from mild to severe, and it can be potentially fatal. It is important that you are closely monitored when initially starting Ambien for some of the severe adverse effects, such as complex sleep behaviors. 

Some of the common side effects associated with Ambien include: 

  • Headache 
  • Drowsiness or dizziness 
  • Nausea, abdominal pain, dry mouth, constipation, or diarrhea 
  • Loss of coordination or balance 
  • Confusion or altered consciousness
  • Changes in mood or mental state 
  • New or worsening anxiety or depression, including suicidal ideation 
  • Complex sleep behaviors, such as sleepwalking or sleep-driving
  • Visual changes 
  • Muscle pain 
  • Congestion 
  • Allergic reaction 

Ambien Warnings For Use

Although Ambien is a relatively common drug that is used to treat insomnia, there are a few warnings for use that should be mentioned. Due to the sedating effects of Ambien, other central nervous system depressants such as alcohol and benzodiazepines should be strictly avoided.

Before starting Ambien, it is important that you are screened for any underlying serious psychiatric conditions. Studies have shown that the use of Ambien can cause changes in mood and behavior, likely in those with undiagnosed conditions. 

Complex Sleep Behaviors 

Complex sleep behaviors are actions performed while the individual is not fully awake or conscious. Some examples include sleepwalking or sleep driving, which is dangerous not only for the person involved but also for those surrounding the individual. 

If you experience complex sleep behaviors while taking Ambien, it is important to immediately discontinue the medication and contact your healthcare provider. 

Not Intended for Long-term Use 

Medication misuse warning: Ambien, classified as a sedative-hypnotic medication, is considered a Schedule IV controlled substance due to its potential for abuse and physical and psychological dependence. This risk increases when Ambien is taken for longer or in greater doses than prescribed.  

Do not exceed the prescribed dosage or continue using Ambien beyond the recommended period without medical supervision. Additionally, you should not abruptly stop taking Ambien—only discontinue use under the direction of a healthcare provider.

If you have a history of substance abuse or dependency, it is crucial to inform your healthcare provider before starting Ambien. Regular communication with your healthcare provider and adherence to the prescribed treatment plan will help manage the potential risks.

Ambien Interactions

As always, it is important to disclose all current medications you are taking with your healthcare provider, including all over-the-counter medications and supplements. 

Some common drug interactions with Ambien include: 

  • Other central nervous system depressants, including alcohol and benzodiazepines 
  • Opioid pain medications
  • Certain antidepressant medications, such as Lexapro, Lyrica, Zoloft
  • Specific antihypertensives, such as lisinopril 
  • Muscle relaxants, including Flexeril

Which Insomnia Medication Should I Take?

As previously mentioned, insomnia presents itself in different ways from person to person. Each medication has a unique ability to target symptoms, so you should never attempt to self-medicate or take Halcion or Ambien without a prescription. In order to find the best insomnia treatment plan for you, discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider. 

Klarity can help you find an experienced healthcare provider for simple and affordable online insomnia treatment. If you struggle with insomnia and are unsure which medication will be right for you, your provider can evaluate your symptoms to determine whether you would benefit from Halcion, Ambien, or another prescription medication. 

Schedule an appointment with a provider on Klarity, and within 48 hours, you could have a prescription sent directly to your local pharmacy to finally start getting a good night’s sleep. 

Halcion and Ambien Frequently Asked Questions

Comparing two different medications that are both used for the same condition can get confusing. We went over a lot of information, and it is normal to have questions. 

Below we have listed the most frequently asked questions about Halcion and Ambien.

Are Halcion and Ambien the same class of drug?

Although Halcion and Ambien act in a similar fashion on the same group of receptors, they belong to two different classes of medications. 

Halcion is a benzodiazepine and Ambien is considered a sedative-hypnotic medication. Both medications act on GABA receptors to calm the mind, leading to sedation and entering a sleep state.  

What’s better for Insomnia? Halcion or Ambien?

While both medications have been shown to be highly effective in treating insomnia, they each have unique properties which help with different symptoms. For example, Halcion is primarily used to treat sleep onset insomnia and helps you fall asleep faster. 

On the other hand, Ambien can help you fall asleep and stay asleep, which may be a more beneficial option for someone with both sleep onset and maintenance insomnia symptoms. 

How should Halcion be taken? How should Ambien be taken?

Due to the sedating effects of either medication, both medications should be taken at night. It is recommended that each medication should be taken immediately before going to bed. 

Can Halcion cause depression? Can Ambien?

A shared potential side effect of both Halcion and Ambien is the development of new or worsening depression. It is important to disclose if you have any underlying or undiagnosed mood or psychiatric disorders before starting either medication. 

Can I drive on Halcion or Ambien?

No, driving and operating heavy machinery should be strictly avoided after taking either medication. Due to the sedating effects of these medications, driving after taking either medication can be very dangerous for not only the individual but those surrounding them. 

Can I drink alcohol when taking Halcion or Ambien?

Alcohol and other central nervous system depressants should be strictly avoided when taking Halcion or Ambien. Mixing the two substances increases the risk of experiencing adverse effects, as well as sedating effects associated with both substances. 

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