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Ambien Overdose: Can One Overdose On Zolpidem?

zopidem overdose symptoms

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Greater dosage quantities, than the ones prescribed, can lead to Ambien overdose. Being a strong hypnotic and sedative, high amounts of this drug can result in Ambien overdose death. Paying attention to Ambien overdose symptoms and acting on time can save lives.

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Can One Overdose On Ambien?

Like many other sedatives, overdose on Ambien is possible. This can happen when a large amount of the drug is taken in a short period of time or if mixing Ambien with alcohol or other substances. Zolpidem is safe, and there are minimal risks for overdose (OD) if the drug is taken in prescribed doses. Once this dosage is exceeded, the risk for adverse side effects and zolpidem overdose are dramatically increased.

Those who have substance use disorder are under greater risk of Ambien overdose, as they often mix the drug with other substances or inject zolpidem via snorting. People with the highest risk are those who use the drug only for getting high on Ambien. The line between the dosage to get high and the one to overdose is very thin. So, they are likely to take more in an attempt to achieve the expected results.

Another reason for a non-prescription zolpidem overdose is the quality of the drugs illegally bought on the Internet or the streets. Many buy the drug on the streets because of the low price, without thinking about quality. Often, the lower cost of zolpidem is explained by the fact that the drug is cut with other substances of unknown origin.

Risk Factors

There are some risk factors that can increase the chances of an overdose on Ambien.

  • Overmedication – as mentioned above, taking more zolpidem than prescribed can increase the risk.
  • Gender – women are more susceptible to zolpidem overdose because they are more sensitive to the drug. That is why women are usually prescribed lower doses.
  • History of substance abuse – patients who have a history of substance abuse are more likely to misuse the drug and, therefore, have an increased to zolpidem overdose.
  • Polysubstance abuse – mixing zolpidem with other drugs and substances, especially painkillers, alcohol, sedatives (such as Klonopin and Ambien), and anxiety medications, can contribute to an OD.
  • ToleranceAmbien long term use can lead to drug tolerance. Once this level is reached, the user does not feel the effects on the prescribed dose. So, the patient may increase the dose without consulting the doctor, making Ambien overdose more possible.
Any change in dose should be discussed and agreed with the treating physician to avoid an overdose.

How Many Ambien To OD?

Usually, the initial dose of zolpidem is between 5 and 10 mg per day. When this level is surpassed, without the doctor’s recommendation, the drug becomes dangerous to the user’s health. This means that everything exceeding the prescribed amount is potentially lead to zolpidem overdose. At these levels, the result may not be lethal, but the side effects might be permanent, including Ambien memory loss, anxiety, depression, or nightmares. 

What Happens When One Takes Too Much Ambien?

Taking too much zolpidem will most likely lead to an OD, and the Ambien overdose symptoms are easy to identify, and they usually appear shortly after the ingestion of the drug. Because zolpidem is a fast-acting drug, the user can quickly become unconscious and even go into a coma.

Symptoms of Ambien overdose include:

  • confusion
  • extreme drowsiness
  • irrational thoughts
  • abnormal breathing
  • slowed heart rate
  • slowed blood pressure
  • slurred speech
  • loss of consciousness
  • significant loss of reflexes and coordination
  • delusions and hallucinations
  • seizure
  • coma
If treatment is applied immediately, a zolpidem overdose is usually survivable. But when immediate action is not taken and if Ambien is combined with other drugs and substances, OD-related death is a high possibility.

Ambien Overdose Death

High amounts of zolpidem often can lead to a fatal outcome. However, even low doses may entail a lethal outcome. There were many documented cases of zolpidem overdose. A fatal dose depends on several factors, such as age, body weight, gender, tolerance level, and the concomitant use of other drugs. Some experts believe that the highest dosage of Ambien known to be lethal would be at around 2,000 mg, but it some cases 300 mg are enough to kill a person. In 2016, zolpidem was among the top 10 most used drugs for suicide attempts in the US.

Ambien Overdose Treatment And Prevention

In the case of Ambien overdose, immediate action is needed. If an OD is suspected, medical help should be sought as soon as possible, and only a medical professional should treat an Ambien OD. The sooner the treatment is given, the higher the chances for the victim to make a full recovery.

There is not a specific treatment for zolpidem overdose, but there are general recommendations approved by the FDA. they include:

  • immediate gastric lavage if needed
  • symptomatic treatment accompanied by supportive measures
  • intravenous administration of fluids if needed
  • the use of flumazenil to contract sedation (should be used with caution as flumazenil can contribute to neurological complications such as convulsions)
  • the patient’s state is constantly monitored
  • the drugs with sedative effects are not recommended to use
  • a patient is closely monitored for hypotension and CNS depression

Because zolpidem is a powerful drug, the possibility of an OD is high for those who do not take the medication exactly as prescribed, too. The doctors inform properly the patients on the potency of this substance, how to take it, and advise against combining it with other medication or alcohol. Information is the best way to prevent zolpidem overdose.

There is another level of overdose prevention: the medication is available by prescription only, so it cannot be easily accessed in any pharmacy. Only patients with legitimate reasons can get a prescription.

When zolpidem is a too powerful drug for a patient, or if there are unpleasant side effects that interfere with the patient’s daily life, the doctor might consider substitutes for Ambien to prevent overdose.

Ambien Abuse And Misuse Help

Ambien addiction is possible when the treatment lasts longer than prescribed. When addiction is installed, the patient will feel tolerance to the substance and physical dependence that might result in rebound insomnia. More severe side effects can develop over time and mane the user’s life a constant chaise for more potent drugs.

Anyone struggling with zolpidem addiction can find help at substance abuse treatment centers that are specialized in this type of addiction. With the right addiction treatment and therapies, the patient will be able to return to a drug-free life.

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Sources
  1. Mortaz Hejri S, Faizi M, Babaeian M. Zolpidem-induced suicide attempt: a case report. DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2013; 21(1): 77. doi:10.1186/2008-2231-21-77. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3878174/.
  2. Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Drug Overdose Deaths: United States, 2011–2016. National VitalStatistics Reports. 2018; 67(9). https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_09-508.pdf.
  3. AMBIEN® (zolpidem tartrate) tablets, for oral use, C-IV: HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION. sanofi-aventis U.S. LLC. 2014. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/019908s036,021774s017lbl.pdf.
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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