Polysubstance abuse involves the use of more than one substance at a time. Mixing drugs and alcohol can result in multiple addictions or dependencies, each of which requires its own detox and recovery. However, even when using prescribed medication as directed, you may find yourself in dangerous territory if you drink any alcoholic beverages around the same time as taking the medication. One prominent example of dangerous drug mixtures is Ambien and alcohol.
What Is Ambien?
Ambien (zolpidem) is a popular hypnotic sleep aid prescribed to relieve insomnia and other sleep disorders. Zolpidem is one of the Z-drugs that works as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant by slowing the brain activity down to cause sedation. The sedative effect is caused by Ambien’s influence on GABA, a messenger chemical in the brain. Given this, the mechanism of action of Ambien is similar to that of benzodiazepines, but Ambien is not a benzo. Rather, zolpidem is classified as a sedative-hypnotic and is available in an immediate and slow-release form.
Side Effects of Ambien
Ambien comes with a boxed warning, an FDA label on drug packaging explaining the risks that come with taking the medication. This is due to the significant side effects that are known to accompany Ambien use. Even when used as directed, Ambien can cause behaviors known as parasomnias and complex sleep behaviors. These behaviors contribute to the notorious Ambien stories that describe people engaging in activities that they later don’t recall. The activities performed during an Ambien blackout can be dangerous and may include sleepwalking, driving, and engaging in sexual activity.
There are many other side effects associated with Ambien use. A few of these include:
- Ambien hallucinations
- Allergic reaction
- Stomach issues
- Drugged feeling lasting into the next day
- Headaches and dizziness
- Ongoing fatigue
- Unsteadiness or loss of balance
- Memory loss
- Swelling in face and mouth
- Pounding heart
- Worsened mental health problems (anxiety, depression, mood disturbances, etc.)
These side effects are amplified when zolpidem is abused or combined with other substances. Combining Ambien and alcohol or other CNS depressants is especially dangerous and can result in life-threatening reactions.
Ambien is thought to be less addictive than other drugs that affect the GABA transmitters, such as benzos. However, more recent research indicates this may not be the case. Due to this, Ambien is meant for short-term use as zolpidem tolerance, dependence, and addiction do occur.
Taking Ambien for longer than two weeks or using it to get high increases the risk of zolpidem dependence and addiction. Ambien abuse can range from simply using it without a prescription, or it can be a result of mixing Ambien and alcohol or other drugs, even if this is by accident. Alternatively, a person may intentionally abuse the drug by injecting or snorting Ambien, or by taking larger doses than recommended. When Ambien is abused and an addiction forms, Ambien withdrawals will occur if the drug is stopped abruptly.
Ambien and Alcohol Interactions
Combining Ambien and alcohol is a common way zolpidem is abused. However, this is an incredibly risky decision. Alcohol is not only another CNS depressant but also affects GABA in the brain. This means that the Ambien alcohol combination is doubling the depressant effects. Even a small amount of alcohol taken with zolpidem can result in erratic behavior or an Ambien overdose. In addition, drinking alcohol with Ambien increases the likelihood of hallucinations, delusions, and parasomnias that put a person at great risk.
One of the benefits of Ambien is that it enters and leaves the body quickly. Therefore, when taken alone and as directed, zolpidem is unlikely to cause an overdose. However, when the medication is misused or combined with alcohol, overdose becomes a definite possibility.
Signs of Ambien and alcohol overdose are hard to miss. These include:
- Intense confusion
- Irrational behavior
- Extreme sedation
- Lack of balance or coordination
- Abnormal breathing
Ambien is a sedative that is meant to cause sleep which may mask symptoms of overdose. However, if there is any indication that a person may have taken too much zolpidem or combined Ambien and alcohol, medical attention is necessary. Although zolpidem is not a benzodiazepine, Ambien overdose treatment will likely include the benzo reversal agent flumazenil.
Treatment for Prescription Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Long-term effects of Ambien are known to cause a host of problems that interfere with a person’s mental and physical health. Along with chronic physical symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and digestive issues, long-term Ambien use can worsen anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. In addition, using zolpidem long-term is likely to result in dependence and addiction. Fortunately, addiction treatment can help. Once an Ambien dependence has developed, it is highly recommended to secure addiction treatment in a facility that is qualified to treat drug and alcohol addiction. This is due to both the added safety of 24/7 monitoring and assistance and also for the sake of comfort while transitioning away from drug use.
Drug and Alcohol Rehab in Las Vegas, Nevada
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, rest assured that you are not alone. Fortunately, there are many effective treatment methods for drug and alcohol addiction, leaving you with options in how to approach addiction treatment. However, when searching for drug rehabs, make sure the facility is accredited with qualified treatment teams.
Usually, addiction therapy begins after drug detox. This ensures that no drug remains in your system, and focus on behavioral components of drug use can begin. Detoxing from Ambien at an accredited facility will also allow for the medical staff to lessen any Ambien withdrawal symptoms that may occur when quitting the drug. Following detox, it is common to enroll in a residential treatment program in order to be able to fully focus on recovering.
At the Vance Johnson Recovery Center in Nevada, Las Vegas, we realize that committing to addiction treatment is a big step in acknowledging drug addiction. Rest assured that we are committed to you before, during, and after treatment at our facility. At VJRC, you will be fully supported in your transition to recovery.
You can take your life back from Ambien and alcohol addiction. And the Vance Johnson Recovery Center can help.
FAQs Regarding Ambien and Alcohol
Located in dynamic Las Vegas, Nevada, the Vance Johnson Recovery Center (VJRC) a 44-bed facility is run by a skilled multi-disciplinary team of medical and behavioral health professionals that includes nurses, counselors, and doctors, along with complementary and alternative medicine specialists to provide our clients with a transformational experience that encompasses mind, body, and spirit. Our approach is holistic and grounded in research and evidenced-based best practices that help people develop the awareness and skills required to achieve and sustain recovery.