Ambien works by reducing nerve activity in the brain, promoting drowsiness and sleep in users. Although zolpidem is fairly safe when used as prescribed, taking higher doses than directed by the prescribing physician or combining it with other medications could produce lethal effects. Keep reading to learn more about Ambien overdose and how to recognize the signs.
Ambien (zolpidem) induces sedation and sleepiness and is prescribed for the short-term treatment of insomnia. An Ambien overdose can occur when it’s taken in higher doses than prescribed or when it’s with other illicit or prescription drugs.
Many people mix sedative medications with alcohol to intensify the side effects of both substances and produce an intense sense of drowsiness or a “buzz.” In the end, however, this only increases the risk of intoxication, overdose, and even alcohol poisoning. Opioids, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates may also be mixed with drugs like zolpidem for the same reasons.
The primary cause of Ambien or zolpidem overdose is the use of this medication along with illicit drugs or prescription medications. Illicit or street drugs often contain a variety of chemicals that are unknown to users, that are designed to intensify the drug’s effects or make it easier to sell. The combination of zolpidem with other drugs or alcohol can increase the likelihood of toxicity and overdose.
The form of administration or the way Ambien is taken can also increase the likelihood of overdose. For instance, some people may crush and liquefy Ambien to inject it intravenously to either experience faster-acting or more intense side effects. Intravenous, or IV, Ambien use is also done to mitigate a cocaine comedown or crash.
Using drugs in ways they’re not meant to be used, such as injecting or snorting them, can release larger amounts of the drug into your system all at once instead of allowing it to gradually take effect. This means the drug will impact the body more suddenly and strongly than it’s meant to, which can inhibit its ability to break down the drug, causing an overdose.
At therapeutic doses, Ambien can produce side effects like sedation and drowsiness, creating a pattern of sleep without the euphoric and muscle relaxant effects produced by benzodiazepines. When used as directed, there are minimal adverse side effects on memory or other functions like driving and work or school performance.
However, the intensity of these side effects is elevated when Ambien is taken in larger doses than directed to take. Common symptoms of Ambien overdose include:
Respiratory depression or shallow breathing is one of the most dangerous Ambien overdose effects. Increased heart rate above the normal resting heart rate (tachycardia) can also occur. Additionally, although death from Ambien overdose is rare, it is possible. It’s also more likely to occur if you take Ambien with alcohol, antidepressants, or other drugs.
The average dose of Ambien starts at 5 to 10 milligrams (mg). Taking anything higher than the prescribed dose can lead to detrimental side effects, including overdose. Although the risk of overdose depends on how much of the medication the person is accustomed to taking regularly, usually the Ambien overdose amount can start as low as 70 mg, and anything higher only increases the likelihood.
Recreational doses of zolpidem range from 400 to 600 mg, which can easily lead to overdose - especially if taken with alcohol or other drugs. A lethal or fatal dose of Ambien is approximately 2,000 mg. However, it may be possible for death to occur in cases where less Ambien is taken, but other substances are also used.
As we mentioned previously, the form of administration can also affect how much Ambien can make you overdose. This means that even if the dose is lower than the overdose amount, injecting or snorting Ambien could potentially lead to an overdose anyways.
If you witness or suspect that you or someone else has overdosed on Ambien, call 9-1-1 or seek medical treatment right away. Once help is on the way, make sure the person’s airway is clear and remove anything on their neck that may hinder their breathing, such as a necklace or tie.
Monitor the person’s breathing and check for any bluish hue in their face, lips, or fingertips. Do not give the person anything to make them vomit. Once they’re in the care of medical professionals, they will receive the appropriate treatment.
Ambien overdose treatment may include an overdose antidote called flumazenil to counteract the person’s sedation and other side effects. If necessary, medical personnel may choose to remove Ambien from the stomach entirely. This is most common in extreme cases, after which treatment consists of monitoring the person’s health until they’re clear to go home.
When taking Ambien under the care of a doctor, it can be difficult to recognize the signs of addiction. If you're struggling with a dependence on Ambien or any other substance, you’re not alone. Banyan’s Stuart, Florida, treatment center offers illicit and prescription drug addiction treatment to help clients heal from their substance use disorders under the care of compassionate and dedicated clinicians and specialists.
However, cocaine use in any form poses many risks, including paranoia, hallucinations, aggression, cardiac problems, and addiction. When someone injects cocaine, the danger is increased due to the risk of dependence and health issues like HIV and hepatitis C.
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