When someone uses a prescription sleep aid like Ambien for long periods of time, there is the potential for some fairly serious side effects. Most will lessen once a person has removed the substance from her system, but others may have a more prolonged effect on the individual, depending on the length of use or even abuse.
Long-term use of Ambien can result in some level of dependency to the substance, meaning that the body will begin to create a need for the drug to actually get to sleep.
This particular effect is different from dependency, but can go hand-in-hand. It is characterized by an abuse of the substance, meaning taking more or longer than prescribed, as well as "drug-seeking" behavior, which would be having multiple prescriptions from a number of doctors, acquiring early refills, manufacturing symptoms and even stealing or buying the medication.
Some people will begin to experience memory loss from long-term use of Ambien. This wouldn't be memories already formed, but those not retained while actually on the drug.
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that long-term use of Ambien can result in moderate to severe drowsiness upon waking.
Some people who have been using Ambien for prolonged periods of time may begin to suffer from episodes of dizziness or lightheadedness.
Loss of Balance
While this is more of a symptom of another symptom, Ambien can prompt a person to lose balance or coordination.