How Long Does Ambien Last?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on

Ambien is a popular prescription medication that’s approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a temporary sleep aid. How long Ambien lasts can depend on factors like the size of the dose, age, and more.

How Long Does Ambien Last?

Ambien is the brand name of zolpidem tartrate, a prescription Z-drug that is used to treat insomnia. It’s typically given as a short-term treatment until long-term solutions are established.

Zolpidem is a sedative-hypnotic central nervous system (CNS) depressant that slows down brain activity. Like benzodiazepines, it works on the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors.

Ambien is designed to work for about eight hours, but the total duration of its effects may vary depending on factors like age, weight, and metabolism.

Understanding the length of a drug’s effects can help people safely take prescriptions and lower their risks for overdoses or harmful side effects.

What Are The Effects Of Ambien?

When taken correctly, Ambien produces a calm, relaxed, and sleepy feeling. If the person stays awake, they may experience more unusual effects like sleepwalking or sleep eating.

People who recreationally abuse Ambien may take higher doses than recommended or mix Ambien with other substances like alcohol or opioids to amplify the effects.

While less addictive than some drugs used for sleep, Ambien still has the potential for misuse. People should only take Ambien as prescribed by a healthcare provider.

How Long Do The Effects Of Ambien Last?

Ambien starts working very quickly once it is taken. It only takes between 30 minutes and an hour for the effects to set in. For this reason, it’s usually taken immediately before sleep.

The effects of Ambien are at their peak after 90 minutes and remain highly effective for two to three hours. Afterward, the effects may begin to taper off.
Ambien CR, which is an extended-release version of Ambien, has peak effects that last closer to seven hours. This is designed to help people with sleep disorders fall asleep and stay asleep.

Some people report feeling the Ambien effects when they wake up the next morning, causing what’s known as a “sleep hangover.” They experience headaches, drowsiness, or memory loss.

How Long Does Ambien Stay In The Body?

All substances that are metabolized by the body have a half-life. This term is used to measure how long it takes for a substance to be reduced to half its original levels by the average person.

Ambien has a relatively short half-life of two hours. As a result, it takes between 10 and 14 hours for the last dose of Ambien to leave the body. This can vary between individuals.

Older adults and people with existing liver issues may take longer to fully process Ambien out of their system.

Drug Test Detection Times For Ambien

Although Ambien is only in the body’s systems for a short time, the use of zolpidem leaves behind markers called metabolites in the body that can be detected longer.

While Ambien is a Schedule IV controlled substance, the standard five-, 10-, and 12-panel drug tests are not generally designed to detect Ambien metabolites.

However, individual employers or other parties can order special tests that look for zolpidem metabolites.

Detection times in drug tests are as follows:

  • blood tests: detectable between two and 14 hours
  • urine tests: detectable up to three days
  • hair tests: detectable up to 90 days
  • saliva tests: detectable between 15 minutes and eight hours

How Long Does Ambien Withdrawal Last?

When people take a drug for an extended period, they may develop physical dependence that leads to withdrawal symptoms. Ambien withdrawal is rare, but it does happen occasionally.

Since Ambien is typically prescribed for short-term use, there is an increased risk of withdrawal for people who engage in zolpidem abuse or have a co-occurring substance use disorder.

Ambien withdrawal is not usually life-threatening, but it can still be uncomfortable. People experiencing addiction may need help via a medically-assisted Ambien detox.

Ambien withdrawal typically begins within 48 hours of the last dose of Ambien and may last up to a week.

Ambien withdrawal symptoms include:

  • irritability
  • nausea and vomiting
  • cramps or muscle pain
  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • insomnia
  • trouble concentrating

How Long Do The Side Effects Of Ambien Last?

People who experience Ambien side effects notice them within a few hours of taking the medication, but they lessen in severity as Ambien is metabolized through the body.

Most of the side effects are fairly standard, but others are rare occurrences that most people who use Ambien will never experience.

One of these is paradoxical excitation, an unusual sleepwalking effect that many people associate with Ambien that can cause people to drive, eat, or walk while asleep.

This side effect is not common with appropriate use. However, abusing Ambien or engaging in polysubstance abuse can increase the risk of sleepwalking with no memory of it the next day.

Other side effects of Ambien include:

  • drowsiness
  • dry mouth
  • headaches
  • lightheadedness
  • poor coordination and balance
  • changes in appetite
  • cramps
  • joint or muscle pain

FAQs About Ambien Use

If you have further questions about Ambien, the answers below may be able to help.

Ambien is far less likely to be habit-forming than similar sleeping pills like Xanax or Restoril. However, the rarity of Ambien addiction does not make it impossible.

The risk of drug addiction is actually increased when a person engages in common forms of substance abuse, including mixing Ambien with alcohol or taking it for longer than prescribed.

Being addicted to Ambien can pose threats to the person’s well-being due to its side effects, which can make daily activities like driving or preparing food potentially lethal.

Ambien is a Schedule IV controlled substance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which means it has some potential for abuse.

Ambien falls into the same class as similar medications like Xanax and Valium.

Illegally purchasing Ambien for the purpose of drug abuse means paying whatever price the dealer sets, which can vary based on location, the popularity of Ambien in the area, and dosage.

Typically, the street prices for Ambien range from $2 to $10 a pill.

Overdosing is a danger associated with many common drugs, even over-the-counter ones. Although uncommon, there is a risk of overdose associated with the use of Ambien.

A standard Ambien dose ranges from five to 10 milligrams (mg). It takes around 70 mg for Ambien to trigger an overdose.

People who abuse Ambien are at a higher risk of overdose due to combining Ambien with drugs or alcohol and using higher doses to amplify the effects.

Getting Help For An Ambien Addiction

Ambien addiction may be rare, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. Fortunately, there are many addiction treatment options out there that can help.

Our trained specialists can help you find the right inpatient or outpatient drug treatment center near you to help you recover from prescription drug abuse.

To learn more, call our helpline today.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.

These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on
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