Trusted Content

The Dangers Of Abusing Ambien And Alcohol

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

February 27, 2019

Ambien is a prescription medication used for the treatment of individuals with insomnia. This drug produces calm and sedative effects which, when mixed with alcohol, can have serious consequences on the user. Abusing Ambien and alcohol together can leave the user feeling disoriented and weak and even cause them to participate in dangerous activities while sleepwalking.

Ambien is a sleep aid used to treat insomnia, which is a condition that keeps you from going to or staying asleep. It’s a popular brand for the generic Zolpidem. Many people require medications like Ambien to get to sleep, and when taken as directed, these drugs can make a difference in whether you get any sleep at all.

However, taking a sleep aid on a regular basis affects your daily life—you aren’t supposed to drink alcohol while taking the medication. When you do, you increase your risk of consequences, enhance the effects of Ambien, and are abusing the drug.

Polysubstance abuse happens when people abuse two or more substances together, and alcohol is common in this type of substance abuse. But the dangers of abusing Ambien and alcohol are greater than you might think, and truly not worth the risk.

What Are The Dangers Of Abusing Ambien And Alcohol?

Sleeping pills have a sedating effect—it’s the reason they are so helpful for people trying to get sleep. It’s also the reason it’s so dangerous to abuse these drugs with alcohol. Ambien can cause side effects like extreme drowsiness and lightheadedness, and make it hard to function.

Alcohol also has a calm, sedating effect. As Mayo Clinic explains, “alcohol increases the sedative effects of the pills.” Drinking alcohol with Ambien, even in small amounts, can leave you feeling confused, faint, or weak.

Ambien works by attaching to three benzodiazepine receptors in the brain, and induces a state of in-between: a sedated state between sleep and wakefulness. Ambien doesn’t cause you to fall asleep, but calms you enough for sleep to come soon.

It’s the period of wakefulness while taking Ambien that is dangerous, according to Psychology Today. During this period, you may not be fully aware of your actions. Some people have even sleepwalked, or drank alcohol and drove under the influence, causing auto accidents.

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While all sleeping pills may increase risk of side effects like sleepwalking, Ambien seems to cause it the most, Psychology Today reports. That’s why abusing it with alcohol is so dangerous; enhancing the sedative effects of both by taking them together can have disastrous results.

Before you harm yourself or others, seek help. Some people may abuse Ambien and alcohol together because they feel it’s the only way they can get some sleep, but the combination can cause you to make choices that have poor consequences.

We at can help you fight the pull of abuse, and subsequent addiction. Our inpatient rehab facilities are led by experienced, licensed staff in a supportive, welcoming environment.

What Constitutes Substance Abuse?

If you have taken Ambien with alcohol in the past, you might be hesitant to think of it as abuse. So, what constitutes substance abuse? Taking your tablets more often than prescribed, taking larger doses, or changing the way you take them (like crushing and snorting the tablets for faster effect) all contribute to substance abuse. Taking your sleep aid with alcohol is also abuse.

Directions for the medication expressly suggest that you not take Ambien with alcohol due to the increased sedation effects. In addition to the risks that come with abusing Ambien and alcohol together comes the risk of addiction. Any time you abuse a substance, you risk development of addiction.

Addiction comes with its own laundry list of consequences, and they are far-reaching. When you’re addicted, whether to prescription drugs like Ambien or to alcohol, your life becomes about seeking that substance at any cost. It could be easy to get used to the effects of a sleeping aid, develop tolerance to the effects of it, then start drinking alcohol to try to produce the same effects.

What’s not easy is overcoming that addiction once it’s started. There are numerous health risks associated with addiction, and the changes to your personal and social life simply aren’t worth the risk. Treatment for addiction, especially a dual diagnosis like Ambien and alcohol abuse, is the best solution.

What Are The Side Effects Of Ambien Abuse?

Just as with any other medication, taking Ambien can result in some side effects. It’s when you abuse Ambien that these side effects are enhanced and can be uncomfortable or harmful, especially when combined with alcohol.

The following are possible side effects of Ambien abuse:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Lightheadedness
  • Memory problems
  • Problems functioning during the day, after taking Ambien
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain

What Are The Side Effects Of Alcohol Abuse?

The effects of alcohol abuse are many. Short-term effects can include nausea and vomiting, sweating, headache, calming effects, blackouts, and memory loss. But prolonged abuse may result in greater risks to your health.

Just some of these include:

  • Changes to your mood and behavior, brain communication, and coordination
  • Development of disease in organs, such as liver and pancreas
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart arrhythmia
  • Weakening of the immune system
  • May contribute to development of several different types of cancer

What Is The Risk Of Overdose?

Risk of overdose nearly always increases when abusing more than one substance. Alcohol and Ambien both work to slow certain functions, like heartbeat and brain processes. This means that when taken together, these effects are increased and can slow functions to dangerous levels.

Symptoms of overdose for Ambien can include extreme drowsiness (to the point of inability to rouse the person), slowed breathing or heartbeat, or even coma. If you suspect someone close to you may be overdosing, treat it like a medical emergency and seek help right away.

What Treatments Are Available For Dual Diagnosis?

A dual diagnosis requires comprehensive treatment. This means that both substance use disorders must be treated, not just for the physical symptoms but for all the mental, emotional, and spiritual repercussions that come with abuse.

How can you accomplish such a feat? Our rehab centers use the multidisciplinary method, integrating multiple modalities of treatment to offer a unique healing experience.

The best treatment will be evidence-based, administered by experienced, licensed staff, and completed in a private, welcoming environment. You’ll find all of these key components to treatment at our renowned facilities.

Treat Your Dual Diagnosis, Recover In Tranquility

If you’ve been struggling with sleep, it’s understandable that you need a sleep aid to relax and rest. But abusing Ambien with alcohol can be dangerous, to your health and other aspects of your life. Don’t let addiction get the better of you.

Our rehab centers exist to help people let go of addiction, and to work through the issues that led to it. Contact us today at to learn how you can find help for dual diagnosis treatment.

National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism - Alcohol’s Effects On the Body

U.S. Food And Drug Administration - Drug Safety And Availability: Zolpidem

U.S. National Library Of Medicine - Zolpidem

Mayo Clinic - Prescription sleeping pills: What's right for you?

Psychology Today- - Alcohol and Sleeping Pills—A Strange Combination -

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