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Ambien and Alcohol Side Effects

Ambien and Alcohol Side Effects

“Downers” or depressants are sometimes prescribed to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders.

These drugs usually produce enough sedation to help the person fall and stay asleep. However, for those who want to increase the state of relaxation produced by their medications, they may mix them with alcohol. Today, we’re looking into the effects of Ambien and alcohol and the dangers these substances pose together. 

What Is Ambien?

Ambien is the brand name for the medication zolpidem, which is used to treat insomnia and sleep disorders. It belongs to a class of drugs called sedative-hypnotics. 

Ambien works by activating the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which slows down activity in the brain and central nervous system to alleviate the person’s symptoms and promote sleep. Due to its potential for abuse and addiction, Ambien is usually only prescribed for short-term use. 

Although zolpidem was designed to produce insomnia relief without the adverse effects of barbiturates, it still produces undesirable symptoms. Common Ambien side effects include: 

  • Sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Aggression
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Allergic reactions
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Impaired vision
  • Slow breathing rates
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Emotional blunting (difficulty feeling emotions)
  • Depression and/or suicidal thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Addiction

As previously mentioned, Ambien is not designed for long-term use but is rather meant to be taken for no longer than two weeks. Ambien abuse, such as using higher doses or mixing it with other substances, can increase the likelihood of addiction and other adverse side effects. 

>Effects of Mixing Ambien & Alcohol  As with many other medications, labels on sleeping pills like Ambien warn against using alcohol while on the drug. That’s because mixing Ambien and alcohol can produce severe sedation and other adverse reactions and even pose a risk for overdose. 

Not only is heavy drinking common among people with insomnia, but drinking on Ambien is also done by some people with insomnia to promote deeper sleep. However, because alcohol also works similarly on GABA receptors in the brain as Ambien does, combining the two increases their sedative side effects, affecting various functions like heart rate and breathing. 

Similar to the effects of benzos and alcohol, both Ambien and alcohol suppress the central nervous system, which controls important functions like breathing, heart rate, and brain function. Together, these side effects are intensified. 

Common Ambien and alcohol side effects include: 

  • Extreme sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Slowed or impaired breathing
  • Disorientation
  • Memory problems
  • Unusual behavior
  • Impaired motor control and movement 

On its own, Ambien also carries some day-after risks, such as an impaired ability to drive, especially when the person has had less than a full night of sleep (7 to 8 hours). This is why doctors usually prescribe patients with the lowest dose possible (5 mg for women and 5 to 10 mg for men). 

Combining Ambien and alcohol can increase the risk of next-day effects. Additionally, it takes time for Ambien to be eliminated from the body. 

Age, weight, the use of other medications, existing medical conditions, kidney function, and liver function can all affect how long Ambien remains in a person's system. This medication is long-lasting, remaining in the body for around 14 to 17 hours. Therefore, it’s recommended that people who take Ambien avoid drinking alcohol completely while using the drug.  Ambien & Alcohol Overdose It’s also possible to overdose on Ambien and alcohol, which, in rare instances, can be fatal. The lethal dose of Ambien and alcohol is any dose, as these substances should never be mixed.  Due to Ambien’s fast-acting side effects, a person who takes higher doses than prescribed can quickly lose consciousness. Signs of Ambien and alcohol overdose include: 

  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Unresponsiveness 
  • Difficult or troubled breathing
  • Pale or blue lips, fingernails, or skin
  • Trouble waking up 
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Slowed pulse 
  • Irregular, fast, or shallow breathing
  • Coma
In the case of an Ambien overdose, call 9-1-1 immediately. A person who may have taken too much Ambien or mixed it with alcohol may need to have their stomach pumped and receive intravenous fluids to avoid intoxication.  Help for Polysubstance Abuse  Polysubstance abuse or polydrug abuse refers to the use of multiple substances at once. Taking Ambien and alcohol together is a form of polydrug abuse, as doctors warn against drinking while taking the medication.  In addition to the risk of overdose, taking Ambien and alcohol together also increases the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder or addiction. In this case, drug or alcohol addiction treatment may be required.  Our Stuart, Florida treatment center offers medically monitored detox and substance-specific treatment programs to help patients recover from the physical and psychological effects of addiction. Medical detox offers patients 24-hour care and medication-assisted treatment (as needed) to help them recover from withdrawals and intense drug cravings.  Once detox is complete, patients may then move onto one of our levels of substance abuse treatment, such as our residential treatment program. There, patients will work with our counselors in individual and group settings to address the contributing factors of their conditions.  From medical detox for withdrawals to relapse prevention skills development, Banyan Stuart offers everything you need to achieve sobriety. For more information about our addiction treatment in Stuart, call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4763. 

Related Reading: 
Neck and Shoulder Pain After Drinking Alcohol
Mixing Adderall and Alcohol: What You Should Know
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Ambien and Alcohol Side Effects
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