What Happens When You Mix Ambien and Alcohol?

man holds ambien pills and a glass of alcohol

Many Americans take sleep aid medications like Ambien to combat insomnia. However, combing Ambien with other addictive substances like alcohol can lead to serious consequences.

Ambien and alcohol are both depressants, which will amplify side effects like drowsiness, dizziness, slowed heart rate, trouble breathing, and more. Combining any amount of Ambien and alcohol is not safe and mixing the two substances can cause overdose or death.

To further explain the health risks of mixing Ambien and alcohol, we’ll go into more detail about the side effects of mixing these two drugs, as well as their potential for addiction, health risks, and treatment options if you can’t stop using Ambien and alcohol.

Specialized detox centers like Briarwood Detox Center provide detox treatment for co-occurring addictions like Ambien addiction and alcohol use disorder.

Read our comprehensive list of 10 dangerous alcohol and drug combinations for more information.

What Is Ambien?

Ambien is the brand name for the drug zolpidem. It’s used for the short-term treatment of insomnia in adults. It can also help people fall asleep faster and get a better night’s rest.1 Ambien works by sedating the central nervous system and slowing down brain activity. Much like alcohol, Ambien produces depressant effects, which slow down breathing and heart rate.

Is Ambien Addictive?

Yes, Ambien can be highly addictive. It’s intended for short-term use but can be habit-forming after only two weeks of use. This is because it produces a euphoric dreamy state that many individuals find to be addictive.

In the past, medical professionals believed that people with a history of substance abuse were more likely to become addicted to Ambien. However, a study published in Behavioral Pharmacology suggests that the high associated with Ambien can also be addictive for people who have not previously abused any other addictive substances.2

Generally, when a person is prescribed Ambien for insomnia, they are prescribed the lowest possible dose. They’re also monitored very closely by a doctor while taking it.

What Happens When You Mix Ambien and Alcohol?

When you mix Ambien and alcohol, the depressant effects of both drugs are amplified and so are the withdrawal symptoms. 

So, what are the effects of Ambien and alcohol?

Common side effects of mixing Ambien and alcohol include:3,4

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Coordination problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Decreased breathing
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Sleep apnea
  • Impaired judgment
  • Sleepwalking 
  • Memory problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness

Ambien withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous on their own, but if you’re mixing Ambien and alcohol, the withdrawal symptoms may be even more severe. Common Ambien withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Intense cravings
  • Fatigue 
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Delirium
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Rebound insomnia
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing

Seizures may also occur during Ambien withdrawal although it is very rare. If this does happen, it usually occurs among people who quit Ambien cold turkey instead of gradually tapering off of the drug.

People who are addicted to Ambien and alcohol are highly encouraged to seek medical assistance to detox from these substances. Doing so greatly reduces the risk of seizures and also may reduce or prevent other severe withdrawal symptoms. This type of treatment can make getting sober much easier and safer.

What Are the Signs of Ambien and Alcohol Overdose?

Drug overdose is a common side effect of abusing Ambien and alcohol, especially when they are used in large quantities. The typical dose for Ambien is between 5 and 10 milligrams. Taking any more than this may result in unpleasant or harmful side effects.

If you take 70 mg or more of Ambien, you may be at serious risk of overdosing. Common signs of Ambien overdose include:

  • Severe drowsiness
  • Abnormal/slowed breathing
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

Deadly overdose is more likely if someone consumes Ambien and alcohol together, rather than just taking Ambien on its own. If you think someone is overdosing, you should call 911 right away.

What Are the Health Risks of Combining Sleeping Aids With Alcohol?

Mixing Ambien or other sleep aids with alcohol can also result in serious long-term health problems. Here are some of the most common health problems related to the chronic misuse of Ambien and alcohol.

  • Organ damage: Mixing Ambien and alcohol can cause severe and permanent liver damage over time. It can also cause liver cancer, cirrhosis, or alcoholic hepatitis. Ambien and alcohol abuse may lead to respiratory system damage, such as an enlarged, weakened heart, irregular heartbeat, or respiratory arrest. 
  • Cognitive problems: Mixing Ambien and alcohol regularly can also make a person feel very confused, cause memory problems, or inhibit their judgment. It can also cause psychiatric problems like hallucinations, which can be extremely disorienting or dangerous.
  • Aggressive behavior: It’s not uncommon for people who abuse Ambien and alcohol to develop aggressive or irrational behavioral patterns. This can cause relationship problems among friends and loved ones or even lead to legal trouble.
  • Polydrug addiction: Of course, since both Ambien and alcohol are extremely addictive, misusing both regularly can quickly lead to polydrug addiction. Co-occurring addictions like this can be extremely dangerous because the side effects of substance abuse are amplified, the risk of overdose is high, and withdrawal is often unpredictable and severe.
  • Fatal overdose: Misusing Ambien and alcohol greatly increases a person’s risk of fatal overdose, since both substances produce depressant effects on the body and central nervous system.

How Long Should I Wait to Take Ambien After Drinking Alcohol?

Mixing Ambien and alcohol is never recommended. However, if you take Ambien for insomnia and you decide to have a drink, you should always make sure the alcohol is completely out of your system before you take your prescribed dose of Ambien. 

Depending on the size and type of drink you have, the time it takes your body to metabolize the alcohol will vary. Generally, here’s how long the following types of drink take to metabolize, although it can vary from person to person.5

  • One glass of wine – 3 hours to metabolize
  • One shot of liquor – 1 hour to metabolize
  • 16 ounces of beer – 2 hours to metabolize
  • A few drinks – several hours to metabolize

Mixing alcohol and Ambien is never safe, so if you drink often you should discontinue your Ambien use. However, if you’re purposely abusing Ambien with alcohol to enhance the effects of the Ambien and feel like you can’t stop, you should seek treatment. Mixing these two substances can lead to serious health problems or an overdose, as described above.

Why Is It Important to Get Professional Treatment for Ambien and Alcohol Detox?

It’s not uncommon for people suffering from Ambien addiction to take larger doses of Ambien as their tolerance increases. This is particularly dangerous when a person abuses large doses of Ambien with alcohol due to the high risk for overdose.

As a result, someone who is addicted to both Ambien and alcohol should seek professional treatment immediately. Completing Ambien detox in a specialized detox center can provide many benefits for people struggling with multiple addictions.

  • Medical supervision: Detoxing from several different drugs at the same time can be dangerous and unpredictable. Completing Ambien detox with medical supervision allows for proper treatment of withdrawal symptoms and round-the-clock medical monitoring. It can also prevent severe medical emergencies like seizures.
  • Lack of access to Ambien and alcohol: Completing Ambien detox or alcohol detox at an inpatient detox center removes the individual from their home environment. This greatly limits access to Ambien and alcohol. This is particularly important when the cravings set in. At that point, staff members can provide much-needed support to help individuals stay strong, cope with cravings, and avoid giving in to them.
  • Behavioral therapy: During Ambien detox, patients will spend some time with counselors, therapists, and in group treatment settings to cope with the psychological symptoms of Ambien withdrawal. Although medical detox is intended to help people break their physical dependence on addictive substances like Ambien and alcohol, continued inpatient treatment at a rehab center will help patients remain sober. They’ll uncover the causes of their addiction, learn how to manage triggers and cravings, and make life changes to support their ongoing sobriety.
  • Social support: During Ambien detox, social support is so important. Patients receive this from therapists and support groups as they gradually return to a stable state of sobriety. Ambien withdrawal and alcohol withdrawal can be very difficult, so individuals often need all the support they can get to successfully get sober.

After completing Ambien detox, individuals who are recovering from Ambien addiction and alcohol use disorder may also receive additional support and care through various Ambien treatment programs like:

  • Residential rehab
  • Outpatient rehab
  • 12-Step Program group attendance
  • Individual counseling and therapy

Addiction treatment staff or medical professionals may also be able to recommend natural sleep aids or less addictive medications to help patients cope with lingering insomnia after Ambien detox.

Get Help For Ambien Addiction and Alcohol Addiction

If you’ve been abusing Ambien and alcohol and you feel like you can’t stop, please give us a call right away. Waiting to get help is not worth the risk. We are available now to provide safe and effective detox treatment for Ambien and alcohol addiction.

Take the first step toward healing and call (888) 857-0557 to learn more about Ambien detox at Briarwood Detox Center.

References:

  1. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2008/019908s027lbl.pdf 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3077937/ 
  3. https://www.drugs.com/food-interactions/zolpidem,ambien.html 
  4. https://www.wellrx.com/ambien/lifestyle-interactions/ 
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-your-system
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