Mixing drugs with alcohol is never a good idea. Sometimes it can even be deadly. When you are having trouble sleeping or feel you just need to relax, you might be given a prescription for a medication that can help you. Mixing medications such as Ambien and alcohol can result in a dangerous drug interaction.
Ambien for Sleep Problems
Ambien is the brand name for zolpidem tartrate, a medicationgenerally prescribed for short-term treatment for adults who are experiencing insomnia or trouble falling asleep. It is a sedative-hypnotic medicine that is a federally controlled substance, because it can be abused and its use can lead to dependence. Patients who are prescribed this medication are advised to tell their healthcare providers if they have ever abused or been dependent on drugs, legal or illegal, or alcohol.
Side Effects of Ambien
Taking Ambien by itself can cause a number of side effects in some people. After taking the medication, you may not be fully awake even after a night’s sleep. You may get out of bed in the middle of the night and not realize what you are doing. When you do wake up the next morning, you may not remember doing anything during the night.
One behavior that has been found among people taking Ambien is known as “sleep driving.” This happens when you have taken the drug and are not fully awake but decide to get in your car and drive. You probably do not realize what you are doing and will not remember it the next morning. This behavior is extremely dangerous.
These side effects are compounded when you mix Ambien and alcohol, producing a dangerous drug interaction. You have a greater chance of sleep driving when you’ve taken both substances together. You may also make and eat food, have a phone conversation, or sleepwalk while under the influence.
Consequences of Mixing Ambien and Alcohol
The combination of Ambien and alcohol can have dangerous results. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) has reported that the interaction of these substances was responsible for 14% of emergency room visits related to the use of the medication, with most of those requiring admission to the intensive care unit.
Ambien is a central nervous system depressant medication that increases the activity of a substance called GABA, which produces a calming and sedating effect and slows brain activity. Depressant side effects can include slowed heart rate, slowed or difficulty breathing, and loss of consciousness. Alcohol is also a central nervous system depressant, so when the two are mixed the effects are compounded.
When the two substances are combined, a dangerous drug interaction results in profound sedation. Your breathing will slow further and that could lead to losing consciousness or going into a coma. You could also die from mixing the two. DAWN also reported that 57% of emergency room visits for an Ambien overdose involved the use of alcohol or another drug in combination with the sleep aid.
The effects could last into the next day. You could continue to experience impairment while driving, hours after taking the medication and mixing it with alcohol use. Older adults, especially, are at even greater risk of falls and fractures after combining Ambien and alcohol.
Mixing Other Sleep Aids with Alcohol
Anytime you take a medication for a mental or physical health condition, you should check on its possible interaction with alcohol. Other prescription sleep aids are also central nervous system depressants and will have the same dangerous results when taken with alcohol. Even over-the-counter sleep aids should not be mixed with alcohol. Dietary supplements such as melatonin or Valerian root can also result in a dangerous drug interaction.
Help for Drug Abuse Issues
At Hope by the Sea, a southern California addiction treatment center, we work with you to begin the journey of recovery from drug abuse as well as mental health issues. We specialize in treating you as a whole individual, as well as your family members who are affected, so everyone can embrace recovery with as much support and momentum as possible.
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