Over one-third of Americans suffer from sleep disorders. Zolpidem, or Ambien, is the most commonly prescribed medication for insomnia. However, Ambien doesn’t mix well with one of the other most commonly used substances: alcohol.
Mixing alcohol and sleeping pills is a dangerous cocktail with multiple adverse effects on your nervous system. While there are no immediate health risks associated with mixing Ambien and alcohol, ultimately, the effects of combining these two substances can be dangerous or even deadly in some cases.
What are the side effects of mixing alcohol with Ambien?
Ambien is the brand name for the sedative zolpidem. It’s most commonly used for short-term insomnia treatment in adults. It alters how your brain reacts to external stimuli, helping you to fall asleep and stay asleep more easily.
Both Ambien and alcohol work on the brain’s GABA receptors, increasing the effects of both drugs. At the same time, both drugs also suppress the central nervous system (CNS), which controls heart rate, brain function, and breathing. When these two drugs work together, their effects can be intensified and lead to serious physical problems.
Ambien and alcohol interactions
Mixing Ambien and alcohol can cause serious health problems such as overdose, sleepwalking and driving, memory problems, withdrawal symptoms, and addiction.
To make matters worse, mixing Ambien with any other drug—including common over-the-counter medications like Tylenol – can also be dangerous because it increases your chance of experiencing these adverse reactions. In fact, more than 100 medications interact with alcohol in some way – either by increasing the effects of each other or causing dangerous side effects when taken together.
Other potential side effects of alcohol and Ambien include:
- Slowed heartbeat
- Memory loss
- Trouble breathing
- Uncontrollable shaking
These side effects are widespread in heavy drinkers; however, dangerous interactions can also occur when Ambien is mixed during a single episode of alcohol consumption. This is because the body takes 14 to 17 hours to get rid of Ambien in its system. This is why it’s recommended that while taking Ambien, individuals avoid drinking entirely.
When can you safely drink alcohol when taking Ambien?
Individuals with a valid Ambien prescription often wonder if there’s ever an occasion when drinking alcohol is safe. However, there’s no specific timeline because age, weight, height, and sex determine how long it takes the body to metabolize alcohol and Ambien. On average, this is how long it takes the body to metabolize popular alcoholic beverages:
- Shot of liquor: 1 hour
- Pint of beer: 2 hours
- A glass of wine: 3 hours
Again, because these timelines vary and Ambien can accumulate in your system, there’s always a risk of overdose. Medical professionals don’t recommend mixing Ambien with alcohol.
Ambien overdose signs and symptoms
Combining Ambien and alcohol can also significantly increase the risk of overdose and, in rare cases, death. Since Ambien is a fast-acting sedative, people under the influence of the drug can quickly lose consciousness. The most common signs and symptoms of Ambien overdose include:
- Decreased levels of consciousness
- Difficult breathing
- Irregular or shallow breathing
- Pale or blue lips, fingernails, or skin
- Difficulty walking
- Slowed heartbeat
In case of an overdose, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately. Treatment for an Ambien overdose often includes getting the stomach pumped and administering intravenous fluids. If someone suffers an overdose, they’re also likely to get a drug addiction evaluation to find the right rehab program for their recovery.
How to treat Ambien and alcohol abuse?
Polydrug addiction – becoming addicted to more than one substance – is prevalent and can be dangerous.
If you or someone close to you is abusing alcohol and Ambien, it is essential to reach out to the appropriate medical services.
Attempting to go through the detox process at home may seem like a good idea, but you will likely lack the knowledge and resources to see it through. Willpower can only take you so far. It may also lead to more time spent under the effects of addiction, complicating symptoms and recovery.
The withdrawal symptoms from Ambien and alcohol addiction can be intense and challenging to manage without the right medical supervision.
Polydrug addiction is treatable, surrounded by the right environment and professionals. It will usually involve a detox period, followed by inpatient (where your treatment will be monitored constantly) and outpatient treatment (where you can slowly regain normality while staying in treatment).
If you or someone you know is struggling with Ambien abuse, please know there’s help available. Speak to your doctor or reach out to an addiction specialist to discuss your options.