Ambien is a brand name version of zolpidem tartrate. Zolpidem is similar to benzodiazepine tranquilizers like Valium, Ativan and Xanax.

These drugs can make you feel drowsy and tranquil by activating the brain cells that bind with GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps with sleep. Doctors prescribe Ambien and other hypnotic drugs to help patients fall asleep. Ambien is meant for short-term use. Long-term use comes with increasing numbers of possible side effects including overdose and addiction. Zolpidem is considered less addictive than benzodiazepines, barbiturates and other prescription sleep aids. However, this medication can still cause harmful side effects, especially when you take it in combination with other drugs or alcohol.

Many people mix zolpidem or other sleep aid medications with other drugs or alcohol. Some people do this intentionally to increase or change the effects of the drugs involved. Others don’t stop to think about how their painkiller prescriptions or glass of wine may interact with Ambien. No matter why you take other drugs, mixing substances is dangerous. The Drug Abuse Warning Network found that about 50 percent of patients who sought emergency treatment related to zolpidem use also had additional drugs in their systems. These drugs included prescription pain relievers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications. Mixing zolpidem with other substances that suppress the activity of the brain and nerves can slow down your vital functions to a dangerous rate.

Mixing Zolpidem (Ambien) with Alcohol

Even when taken by itself, zolpidem has serious negative side effects on mental and physical functioning. The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA)[1] shares that even minimal doses can cause the following:

  • Unsteady gait
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Memory impairment
  • Psychomotor slowing
  • Reduced attention capacity
  • Visual disturbances
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Impaired balance
  • Impaired time judgment
  • Impaired coordination
  • Impaired reaction time

Like Ambien, alcohol is a depressant that can make you feel sleepy, uncoordinated, confused and disoriented. Mixing alcohol with Ambien increases both drugs’ sedative effects on the central nervous system. Alcohol and zolpidem cause severe physical and cognitive impairment. The NHTSA warns, “Alcohol increases the sedation and decreases psychomotor performance produced by zolpidem. Other CNS depressant drugs may potentiate the effects of zolpidem.”1 Drivers who consume alcohol while taking zolpidem show decreased psychomotor coordination and a high risk of motor vehicle accidents. The risk of accidental falls, drowning, and other injury also increases.

Both alcohol and zolpidem harm the liver, an organ that plays a major role in detoxifying the body. Over time zolpidem and alcohol abuse can contribute to liver disease, a condition linked to many alcohol-related deaths.

Mixing Ambien with Other Drugs

Ambien users may combine drugs for a variety of reasons. These reasons can include the following:

Ambien combinations result in unknown reactions. Taking drugs together isn’t as simple as taking an upper to cancel a sedative or taking a sedative to cancel an upper. Effects are unpredictable and unexpected. They can result in escalating side effects or entirely new effects. Combining Ambien with benzodiazepines, opioid painkillers, marijuana, alcohol or other addictive substances leaves individuals vulnerable to cognitive and psychological side effects such as the following:

  • Memory loss
  • Learning problems
  • Psychological dependence
  • Delusional thinking
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dependence
  • Addiction

Using multiple drugs damages mental and physical health. Ending drug use restores health. It may even leave individuals feeling better than before drug use began. Contact Black Bear Lodge to learn more about finding support for complete recovery. A rehab program must engage the body, mind and spirit in order to be effective over the long term. Black Bear Lodge provides comprehensive zolpidem addiction treatment in a secluded, tranquil setting in the mountains of Georgia. If you’re searching for recovery services for yourself or a loved one, we’re here to help. Call our toll-free number to speak with one of our admissions coordinators today.


[1]“Zolpidem (and Zaleplon, Zopiclone).” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Web. Accessed 23 May 2017.

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