How Long Does Ambien Stay In One’s System? Drug Test

Last Updated: June 30, 2020

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Anyone who is taking Ambien needs to have an understanding of how long zolpidem stays in the system. Whether this is to take other medications safely or to pass an Ambien drug test, it is critical information. Here is what users should know about zolpidem metabolism and drug testing.

How Long Does Ambien Stay In One’s System?

Within minutes of taking zolpidem, users start to experience the effects of Ambien. These effects remain in place for many hours, allowing the medication to help users sleep. Despite how long the effects last, the Ambien half-life is relatively short, at just 2.5 hours on average for the instant release formula. For the extended-release version, that only increases to 2.8 hours

Users should keep in mind that clearance takes longer for women than it does for men, putting women at greater risk of complications from the medication. Other factors can slow down clearance as well, including:

  • the overall health of the individual
  • the individual’s metabolism
  • any problems with the organs, especially the liver
  • whether or not the medication is taken with food
  • hydration of the patient
  • the body fat percentage
  • how old the individual is

Ambien Drug Test

Ambien drug tests are not standard, nor are they very common. Because Ambien use is FDA approved and it is not a top medication of abuse, most people testing for drug use won’t even think to look for it. The exception is when abuse is suspected. In this case, a zolpidem drug test looking for the presence of the substance in the body may be requested.

How Long Does Ambien Stay In Urine?

Because zolpidem metabolism is rapid, it does not remain detectible in the urine for long. At the regular zolpidem dosage, it can become undetectable in as little as 24 hours. If the user is taking high doses, it could remain detectable in the urine for 72 hours.

How Long Does Ambien Stay In Blood?

While most would assume a blood test offers a better testing window than urine, with zolpidem, this is actually quite short. Zolpidem can become undetectable in the blood in as little as 6 hours. When taken at a high dose, Ambien shows up on a drug screening for as long as 48 hours in some patients.

How Long Does Ambien Stay In Saliva?

Saliva tests for zolpidem are very uncommon. However, they can be useful in some settings. These tests can reveal the presence of the drug within 15 minutes of taking it; though, after 8 hours, they are typically unable to pick up traces anymore.

How Long Does Ambien Stay In Hair?

Hair follicle testing offers the largest window of detection. With this type of test, technicians can pick up traces of the drug up to five weeks after use. However, these are quite rare and may require extra effort to get.

Does Ambien Show Up On A 12 Panel Drug Test?

Anyone who gets tested for their job, custody agreements, parole, and more worries about what shows up on a standard 12-panel drug test. While these tests can pick up a wide variety of substances of abuse, zolpidem is not one of them

Ambien Drug Test: False Positives

Because Ambien acts in a similar manner to barbiturates, users may worry that it could result in a false positive on a zolpidem drug screening. While their effects have their similarities, these are two very different types of substances, and zolpidem will not cause a false positive for barbiturates. This does not mean that false positives on any drug screening are fully ruled out; it just means that thus far, zolpidem interactions with testing materials have not been demonstrated to cause a false positive. However, there is a possibility that Ambien interactions with other medications concomitantly taken can cause unpredictable reactions and results in drug screening.

Ending Ambien Misuse

If someone is misusing Ambien, they need to get help before the abuse turns deadly. While beating dependence and addiction can seem daunting, users can get through it with the right support in drug rehabilitation centers. Thanks to addiction treatment programs there, sober and healthy life is possible.

Page Sources

  1. Bouchette D, Akhondi H, Quick J. Zolpidem. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020.
  2. Ambien CR (zolpidem tartrate extended-release tablets). Sanofi-Synthelabo Inc. 2005.
  3. Greenblatt DJ, Harmatz JS, Roth T. Zolpidem and Gender: Are Women Really At Risk? Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. 2019; 39(3): 189‐199. doi:10.1097/JCP.0000000000001026.
  4. Gunja N. The clinical and forensic toxicology of Z-drugs. Journal of Medical Toxicology. 2013; 9(2): 155‐162. doi:10.1007/s13181-013-0292-0.
  5. Piergies AA, Sainati S, Roth-Schechter B. Lack of cross-reactivity of Ambien (zolpidem) with drugs in standard urine drug screens. Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. 1997; 121(4): 392‐394.

Published on: June 5th, 2017

Updated on: June 30th, 2020

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.


Leave a comment

  • Josephine Maggio
    Ambien is a bad drug to be on. My doctor gave me a 12.5 dose and the next morning it caused me still to be groggy and receive a dui. The higher the dose the worse. It is. I also receiver a “long term interval” from using ambien. I now have to worry about fainting spells seizures and sudden death from a cardiac arrest. My sister has sleepwalked from it and it worsens dimentia. I am now tapering off of ambien and the only way to do this is to ween it and then go cold turkey from it which will cause you to not sleep from 2 nights to 2 weeks AT ALL!
  • Ann
    The thing that is scary about Ambien is the effects can seem so subtle though dramatic, you don’t realize it’s the medication. It got me to sleep just fine, then it affected my thinking and mood (negatively) during the day. While it put me to sleep and got me through the entire night, I wasn’t sleeping well at all. I woke up tired, my memory became increasingly horribleee. Things ramped up when I consistently took 10 mg. I went off it myself and felt better but still working on a good night’s sleep. After I was off it for various days, I took it one night to test the effects again, to be sure. No doubt, this drug is toxic for me. Just be careful.