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Mixing Ambien and Alcohol: Dangers, Side Effects, Overdose & More

Last Updated: November 3, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Ambien and alcohol act as sedatives on the central nervous system. These sedative effects can become stronger when mixed, resulting in dangerous consequences.

Insomnia, the persistent inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, is a widespread issue affecting 33% of adults in the U.S. Millions of people worldwide experience insufficient sleep compared to the recommended duration.

In search of a good night’s rest, many turn to prescription sleep aids, with Ambien emerging as a popular choice for its effectiveness in combating sleeplessness. Many people mix Ambien and alcohol, hoping for a stronger sedative effect, but this choice is quite dangerous.

What Is Ambien?

Ambien, known by its generic name, zolpidem, is a prescription medication that helps with sleep disorders. It falls into the class of drugs called sedative-hypnotics. Ambien works by inducing and maintaining sleep. For individuals grappling with insomnia or other related sleep disturbances, Ambien is often prescribed to provide them with the restorative sleep they need. 

However, it’s important to use Ambien strictly as prescribed by a healthcare professional, as misuse or combining it with other substances like alcohol can lead to serious health risks and side effects. 

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Side Effects of Mixing Ambien With Alcohol

When alcohol and Ambien interact, they can magnify each other’s effects, leading to many side effects and risks. If you use Ambien after drinking alcohol, it can slow down your breathing, heart rate and brain function, which could lead to a coma or even death.

Other potential side effects of combining Ambien and alcohol include:

  • Increased drowsiness 
  • Mood changes
  • Digestive issues
  • Worsened sleep quality
  • Addiction and dependence
  • Impaired coordination 
  • Memory problems
  • Respiratory depression
  • Long-term health consequences

Recognizing Signs of Ambien Overdose

Ambien can make you feel drowsy and relaxed, facilitating a restful night’s sleep without the euphoria and muscle relaxation seen with benzodiazepines. When used as prescribed, it typically has minimal adverse effects on memory or other activities such as driving, work or school performance.

However, these side effects become more pronounced when Ambien is taken in larger amounts than prescribed. Usual signs of an Ambien overdose include:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow or difficult breathing
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Bluish or pale skin
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weak pulse
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures

Remember that the danger of an Ambien overdose can escalate if it goes unnoticed. If you suspect someone is experiencing an Ambien overdose, act swiftly by calling 911 or seeking emergency medical assistance. Timely intervention can be life-saving.

Treating Ambien Overdose

When someone experiences an Ambien overdose, prompt medical attention is important to ensure their safety and well-being. Typically, treating an Ambien overdose involves several steps and interventions, including:

  • Call 911: If you suspect someone has overdosed on Ambien, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number. Quick action is essential.
  • Stabilization: Healthcare professionals will focus on stabilizing the individual’s condition. This may include ensuring they have a clear airway and providing oxygen if their breathing is compromised.
  • Activated charcoal: In some cases, activated charcoal may be administered to absorb any remaining Ambien in the person’s stomach, limiting its absorption into the bloodstream.
  • Gastric lavage (stomach pumping): In rare and severe cases, healthcare providers may perform gastric lavage to remove the drug from the stomach.
  • Monitoring: Continuous monitoring of vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation, is essential to tracking the individual’s progress and promptly addressing any complications.
  • Administration of flumazenil: In some instances, especially if the overdose is severe and causes significant central nervous system depression, healthcare professionals may administer flumazenil. Flumazenil is a medication that can reverse the sedative effects of Ambien.
  • Supportive counseling: Depending on the circumstances and the individual’s needs, supportive counseling or therapy may be recommended to address any underlying emotional or psychological factors contributing to the overdose.

Other Dangers of Combining Alcohol With Ambien

Mixing alcohol with Ambien presents additional dangers and health risks beyond immediate concerns. Ambien has been associated with sleepwalking, sleep-related eating disorders and even sleep driving. These conditions, known as parasomnias, involve engaging in complex activities while asleep, often with altered consciousness and impaired judgment. Although these effects are relatively rare, affecting less than 1% of Ambien users. The risk of experiencing automatism (amnesia) and parasomnia rises significantly when Ambien is taken with even small to moderate amounts of alcohol or other sedative medications.

There is a high potential for respiratory failure, as both substances individually suppress the respiratory system, and together, they can slow breathing to a higher level. The combination can also lead to severe memory problems, making it challenging to remember events during intoxication.

Frequent mixing of these substances can lead to tolerance and dependence on them. It may also worsen symptoms of mental health conditions and contribute to long-term health problems, such as liver damage, cardiovascular issues and mental health disorders. Given these risks, it’s essential to avoid combining alcohol and Ambien and seek professional guidance.

Treatment Options for Ambien and Alcohol Misuse

Remember, each person’s path to recovery is unique. The Recovery Village Kansas City offers comprehensive support to help individuals overcome Ambien and alcohol misuse.

Our dual diagnosis treatment is designed to help those struggling with Ambien and alcohol addiction. We provide therapy for mental health concerns and addiction treatment. Our expert team is dedicated to helping you regain control over your life or assisting your loved one in this journey. Contact us today to get started on the path to a substance-free future.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Sleep and Sleep Disorders.” Updated September 7, 2022. Accessed October 11, 2023. “Ambien.” Updated September 22, 2023. Accessed October 11, 2023. “Ambien and Alcohol/Food Interactions.” Accessed October 11, 2023. 

Drug Enforcement Administration. “Benzodiazepines.” August 2023. Accessed October 11, 2023.

Bouchette, Daniel; Akhondi, Hossein; Quick, Judy. “Zolpidem.” StatPearls, Updated October 1, 2023. Accessed October 11, 2023.

Hoque, Romy, M.D. and Chesson, Andrew L. Jr., M.D.Zolpidem-Induced Sleepwalking, Sleep Related Eating Disorder, and Sleep-Driving: Fluorine-18-Flourodeoxyglucose Positron Emission Tomography Analysis, and a Literature Review of Other Clinical Effects of Zolpidem.” October 15, 2009. Accessed October 11, 2023.

Poceta, J. Steven, M.D.Zolpidem Ingestion, Automatisms, and Sleep Driving: A Clinical and Legal Case Series.” December 15, 2011. Accessed October 11, 2023.