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Ambien And Alcohol: Can One Drink On Zolpidem?

drinking on zolpidem

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Mixing Ambien and alcohol, whether by accident or on purpose, can cause serious side effects that are sometimes life-threatening. These two drugs work drastically sedating the central nervous system and impacting severely the functions of major body organs.

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Learn About Zolpidem And Alcohol Mix:

Why Do People Mix Alcohol And Ambien?

There are numerous reasons why people mix Ambien and alcohol. While some do that intentionally, the others just are unaware of possible interactions and health hazards. Often, those who are social drinkers, endanger themselves by taking Ambien with beer. It is a common misconception that drinking a glass of beer or wine is okay when one is on sleeping pills. However, taking Ambien medication with any amount of alcohol always pose certain risks.

Also, people may use zolpidem with alcohol drinks to sleep better. The analysis of alcohol effects on sleep shows that those who drink liquors, do not get restful sleep. Moreover, they are more likely to experience sleepwalking and similar conditions being unconscious.

Sleep is an important element of maintaining a healthy living. Ambien does not immediately induce sleep. As a result, a person may experience a state between sleep and wakefulness. When zolpidem and alcohol are taken together, this condition is accompanied by the inability to fall into a deep sleep. Alcohol suppresses REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that prevents natural healing and resting of all body systems.

When one drinks on zolpidem intentionally, it signals about abuse. Taking Ambien with alcohol leads to increased sedation, and if the person keeps being awake, the euphoric effects are what one experiences.

What Happens When One Mix Ambien And Alcohol?

Zolpidem by itself poses many side effects to the users, even when taken as prescribed. When mixing Ambien and alcohol, the risks are aggravated. In most cases, the mild and moderate side effects become more intense that may lead to severe or even lethal outcomes. There is a high risk of overdose on Ambien, alcohol, or both substances, too. It may happen even when a normal dose of Ambien is taken. Such a reaction is explained by the Ambien-alcohol interaction.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, taking Ambien with alcohol will produce the following common side effects:

  • sleepiness
  • dizziness
  • loss of coordination
  • impaired motor functions
  • poor judgment
  • difficulty concentrating
  • slurring of speech
  • memory loss, including amnesia and blackouts
  • problems with breathing
  • unusual behavior
  • sharp mood swings
The effects of alcohol with zolpidem mix make the sleepwalking more likely to occur. People who sleepwalk are more vulnerable to injure themselves or others. Drinking on Ambien can also cause parasomnia, or participating in different risky activities while asleep. This may include eating, talking, unprotected sex, and even driving while asleep. Aggression and irritability may also be observed in some users.

Extreme Cases Of Mixing Zolpidem And Alcohol

While Ambien among the most prescribed sleep aids, when abused with liquors, it can be incredibly dangerous. In addition to the above mentioned short-term side effects, Ambien drug interactions can pose more severe and long-term side effects.

Most of the severe side effects and extreme cases are connected with Ambien and alcohol overdose. Symptoms of an overdose on both substances include but are not limited to:

  • extreme sedation
  • slowed breathing
  • hypoxia
  • trouble waking up or staying conscious
  • coma
Ambien mixed with alcohol increases one’s risk of a fatal overdose. Both substances work on similar brain receptors. Taking them together can produce compounding effects where the receptors are sent into overdrive.

Aside from overdose, abusing these two substances can result in multiple organ damage. Severe risks commonly associated with concurrent abuse of Ambien and alcohol include:

  • cardio-vascular problems
  • weakening lung functions
  • brain damage
  • skin problems
  • permanent liver damage, etc.

Can One Die From Ambien And Alcohol Mix?

Yes, Ambien and alcohol death is more than real. The chances of experiencing long-term side effects of Ambien and overdosing increase when zolpidem is taken with different liquors. As a result, extreme sedation, slowed breathing, hypoxia, coma, and any organ damage or failure can prove deadly. In fact, studies show that people who misuse zolpidem and alcohol together are more likely to require intensive care and emergency services. Some cases of Ambien overdose also involve intentional suicide.

Treatment For Alcohol And Ambien Abuse

While both alcohol and Ambien act on the same GABA receptors in the brain, they have some distinct side effects. Both can lead to more intense withdrawal, as people who have developed polysubstance dependence experience more severe withdrawal symptoms. In a case with alcohol as the second concurrently abused substance zolpidem withdrawal may last longer and require closer medical monitoring.

Detox programs are required for both substances to effectively manage the withdrawal processes. If one is at low risk of severe withdrawal, an outpatient setting may be sufficient. Progress will be monitored via regular visits. If a higher level of care is required, admission to a 24-hour inpatient detox facility may be a better option. These facilities also provide addiction treatment services.

As a part of a medically-assisted withdrawal, doctors often give benzodiazepines or other sedative medications to help control the symptoms. In the case of polysubstance abuse, the process of treatment should be under close medical supervision.

Getting Help With Addiction

Alcohol and Ambien misuse is extremely dangerous. If it turns into an addiction, things can get out of control easily. Luckily, the help is available in numerous drug rehabs over the US. Through detoxification, education, behavioral therapies, and peer support programs offered there, people can learn why drinking on Ambien is risky and develop skills to maintain a sober living.

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View Sources
  1. Roehrs T and Roth T. Sleep, Sleepiness, and Alcohol Use. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-2/101-109.htm.
  2. Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol With Medicines. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 2014. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/harmful-interactions-mixing-alcohol-with-medicines.
  3. Zosel A, Osterberg EC, Mycyk MB. Zolpidem misuse with other medications or alcohol frequently results in intensive care unit admission. American Journal of Therapeutics. 2011; 18(4): 305‐308. doi:10.1097/MJT.0b013e3181d169ed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20458214/.
  4. Gock SB, Wong SH, Nuwayhid N, et al. Acute zolpidem overdose – report of two cases. Journal of Analytical Toxicology. 1999; 23(6): 559‐562. doi:10.1093/jat/23.6.559. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10517569/.
Sharon Levy

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.

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