Mixing Ambien And Alcohol: Side Effects, Drug Interactions, And Overdose Risk

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 14, 2020

Ambien and alcohol can both be dangerous substances on their own, but when a person takes them together, the risks can be life-threatening. If you or someone you know may be mixing Ambien and alcohol, the combination can come with a number of side effects, drug interactions, and risks.

Dangers Of Mixing Ambien And Alcohol

Ambien is a sleeping aid that’s used for the short-term treatment of insomnia in the United States. It can be a dangerous drug on its own, but when a person chooses to mix Ambien with alcohol, the risk of adverse side effects becomes even more severe.

A few of the most commonly reported interactions between Ambien and alcohol include:

  • drowsiness and sedative effects
  • sleepiness
  • dizziness
  • slowed or difficulty breathing
  • motor control impairment
  • unusual behavior
  • sleepwalking
  • memory loss

In addition to these unpleasant side effects, abusing Ambien and alcohol together can lead to an increased risk of addiction and overdose.

Dangers Of Mixing Ambien And Alcohol

Mixing drugs, including alcohol, is almost always a sign of substance abuse. Unfortunately, if a person decides to drink alcohol while also taking Ambien, the dangers can be serious. This is because Ambien and alcohol are both central nervous system depressants (CNS depressants).

CNS depressants work to slow down brain activity and create a sedative effect. If a person mixes CNS depressants or takes too much of one, it can have potentially life-threatening effects on the body.

Some of the long-term dangers of mixing Ambien and alcohol can include:

  • chronic liver damage
  • liver cancer
  • heart damage
  • irregular heart rate
  • irregular blood pressure
  • stroke
  • aggressive behavior
  • confusion
  • hallucinations
  • difficulty breathing
  • coma

The risk of addiction, overdose, and death is also increased with prolonged alcohol use and Ambien abuse.

Risk Of Ambien Addiction And Alcohol Addiction

Unfortunately, both alcohol and Ambien can be habit-forming substances. A person can develop a physical dependency on either one (or both), and the risk is only increased when the two are used together.

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A person may be intentionally participating in drug abuse, or they might not even realize that they may have developed a drug addiction. Either way, it can be difficult to stop taking Ambien and to stop drinking alcohol.

When a person does stop, it’s possible that they’ll experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that can actually be quite severe.

These may include:

  • headaches
  • nausea or vomiting
  • tremors
  • sweating
  • anxiety or panic attacks
  • insomnia or difficulty sleeping
  • hallucinations
  • seizures
  • mood swings or irritability
  • cravings

Because of the severity of some of these symptoms, it’s important to get medical advice on how to safely beat an alcohol or Ambien addiction.

Overdose Risk

The risk of overdose may be one of the biggest dangers that come from combining CNS depressants like Ambien and alcohol.

Ambien is a common brand name for the drug zolpidem, which has been attributed to several overdoses on its own. When taken alone or alongside alcohol, it could lead to physical impairment ranging from sedative-like effects to a coma. It can also cause sudden major changes in the heart rate, difficulty breathing, or seizures.

Additionally, alcohol alone has been linked to overdose cases that have led to slowed or stopped breathing, changes in heart rate, heart attacks, and seizures.

Both Ambien and alcohol can also cause a person to participate in unusual or dangerous activities, and both substances can lead to memory loss or blackouts. For these reasons, it’s important not to mix the two substances.

A few common signs of an Ambien overdose and/or alcohol overdose may include:

  • increased heart rate
  • high body temperature
  • chest pain
  • difficulty breathing
  • confusion and irritability
  • nausea or vomiting
  • blue fingers or lips
  • dizziness
  • seizures
  • unconsciousness

If you’re afraid that someone may be experiencing an overdose, seek emergency health care as fast as possible.

Side Effects Of Ambien Abuse

Ambien is most commonly used to treat sleep disorders. It belongs to a class of prescription drugs labeled as “sedative-hypnotic.” Similar to benzodiazepines, these sleeping pills work with receptors in the brain to calm the central nervous system.

Still, even if taken as prescribed, it can lead to short-term side effects that are not only unpleasant but dangerous.

Some of the possible side effects of Ambien use can include:

  • drowsiness
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • loss of coordination
  • nausea
  • gas, constipation, or diarrhea
  • heartburn
  • changes in appetite
  • unusual dreams
  • memory loss

Side Effects Of Alcohol Abuse

In addition to the long-term dangers of drinking or mixing alcohol with other drugs, alcohol abuse can lead to a variety of undesired side effects, including:

  • slurred speech
  • drowsiness
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • headaches
  • difficulty breathing
  • difficulty thinking straight
  • blackouts (memory loss)

Some of these side effects are the same or similar to those of Ambien. This makes them more dangerous to take together because the side effects of one can be worsened by the other.

Treatment Programs For Polysubstance Use Disorder

If you or a loved one may be having problems with Ambien abuse, alcohol abuse, or both, know that help is available. Addiction treatment may take the form of an inpatient or outpatient program.

For severe substance use disorders, inpatient treatment may be the most effective option. In these programs, people will stay at a treatment center day and night to safely go through the detox process.

Outpatient programs are more flexible and allow people to visit treatment facilities on a schedule while still living at home.

Treatment options for mixing Ambien and alcohol may include a mix of treatment methods. Some of these may include cognitive behavioral therapy and evaluation or treatment for other mental health disorders.

To find a treatment center and program that works best for you and your loved ones, contact an AddictionResource.net specialist as soon as possible.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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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 December 14, 2020
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