Ambien (generic name zolpidem) has a sedative effect on you when you take it. If you have been diagnosed with a sleep issue, such as insomnia, your doctor may decide to prescribe Ambien.

This form of sedative is further identified as a hypnotic medication which comes in several formulations. The first is an immediate-release tablet that helps you to fall asleep right away when you get in bed. The second is an extended-release (Ambien CR). The outer layer dissolves fast to help you fall asleep quickly. The inside later dissolves more slowly and helps you to stay asleep.

What is Ambien?

This medication comes in several formulations. Three of them are immediate-release: Ambien, Edluar, and Zolpimist. Each one helps you fall asleep. The fourth is the extended-release discussed earlier, called Intermezzo. This version helps you fall asleep should you wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble going back to sleep.

This medication may be risky for some people to take. They may develop symptoms of anaphylaxis: allergic reaction with difficulty breathing, swollen face, throat, lips or tongue, as well as hives. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop taking the medication immediately, get medical attention, and let your doctor know what happened. They should prescribe you another medication that doesn’t cause any allergy reactions.

You shouldn’t try to share your prescription with anyone else. Even if they suffer from the same symptoms, giving them your Ambien may be dangerous. For example, dosages for men are higher than they are for women and children should never take this medication because they may suffer dangerous side effects. Your doctor has prescribed a formulation and dosage appropriate for you, not someone else.

Common Side Effects of Ambien

Ambien has a list of common side effects, as well as those that fall into an emergency category.

Some the common side effects you may experience include:

  • Tiredness
  • Poor coordination
  • Feeling sleepy during the day
  • “Drugged” or lightheaded feeling
  • Weak or dizzy
  • Dry mouth and nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Irritated throat
  • Headache or muscular pain
  • Nausea, upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

You may also find that you have made a phone call, driven, eaten, walked somewhere, or done some other activity while you were still sleeping. Generally, those who experience this side effect are not aware that this is happening. If you wake up in a strange place or seem to have performed some activity while you were sleeping, or if someone tells you what you did, stop taking your Ambien and tell your doctor immediately.

If you experience the following psychological or medical side effects, call your doctor:

  • Feeling faint
  • Agitated
  • Depressed
  • Aggressive
  • Anxious
  • Unusual thoughts, behavior
  • Memory issues
  • Hallucinations
  • Mental confusion
  • Suicidal thoughts

These lists of side effects are not comprehensive. Ask your doctor about any additional side effects you may feel.

Interactions of Alcohol and Ambien

Do not use alcohol while you are taking Ambien. Drinking alcohol makes the central nervous system (CNS) effects of the drug even stronger. Common side effects, such as difficulty with concentration, sleepiness, or dizziness are likely to become even worse. In addition, you may have difficulty thinking and making good judgment calls. Whether you mix Ambien and alcohol accidentally or intentionally, you may develop a series of dangerous physical symptoms that can threaten your life.

Because Ambien is a hypnotic sleep aid, it acts most strongly on your CNS, depressing the nerve activity. Alcohol is also a CNS depressant, which slows down your breathing, heart rate, and ability to think clearly and make good decisions. By mixing two CNS depressants, you’ll most likely multiply the effects of your medication if you mix it with alcohol.

Initially you may feel:

  • Marked relaxation
  • Feeling of drowsiness
  • Slowed ability to think
  • Slower breathing and heart rate
  • Lack of good coordination
  • Less anxiety

However, if you continue to drink, or forget you’ve taken your Ambien for the evening and take more, the intensity of your symptoms will only increase. Additionally, if you decide to drive or engage in sexual activity after taking Ambien, both of these place you and others at a much higher risk of injury or unsafe sex. Even if you are driving or having sex, you are not awake.

Alcohol Poisoning and Ambien Overdose

Addiction’s most harmful symptom is an inability to resist the temptation to use alcohol or drugs. The drug-seeking behavior is compulsive, even though the person knows the substances are harmful or even potentially deadly. Alcohol and Ambien can be both. Too much alcohol causes alcohol poisoning and too much Ambien can result in an overdose. Taking both at the same time increases these risks exponentially.

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning:

  • Lowered body temperature
  • Mental confusion
  • Pale or bluish skin
  • Conscious, but unresponsive
  • Passes out
  • Extremely slowed breathing
  • Vomiting

In severe alcohol poisoning:

  • Breathing ceases totally
  • May have a heart attack
  • May choke on their vomit
  • Hypothermia
  • Brain damage from severe dehydration
  • Seizures due to low sugar level

In extreme alcohol poisoning, coma and death can result.

Symptoms of Ambien overdose:

  • Very tired
  • Drowsy
  • Lightheaded
  • Mentally confused
  • Loss of memory
  • Falling
  • Unable to work, understand, or drive
  • Hallucinations
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slow heart rate

Increased heart rates have been reported.


Nearly anything that changes the chemical makeup of your body can lead to withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol and Ambien create real physical withdrawal symptoms which can be severely unpleasant, long lasting, and sometimes deadly.

Shortly after taking your last drink of alcohol (within 8 hours), you can experience mild withdrawal symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Anxious
  • Tremor (hands, body)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Gastrointestinal upset

Moderate to severe symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Higher systolic blood pressure
  • Shallow, rapid breathing
  • Confusion

A symptom which does not always appear, but can show up even days after your last drink is Delirium tremens (DTs), which causes:

  • Disorientation
  • Inability to pay attention
  • Hallucinations (visual and auditory)
  • Seizures

Ambien is only intended for short-term use. Withdrawal symptoms can develop within 48 hours of your last dose:

  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Ambien cravings
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal cramping/discomfort
  • Delirium
  • Depression, uncontrollable crying
  • Panic attacks
  • Rebound insomnia
  • Flushing skin
  • Rapid heartbeat, breathing
  • Seizures (rare)


Immediate treatment of alcohol withdrawal requires detox to effectively manage the withdrawal process. Depending on the severity and length of the addiction, you may need medical supervision or assistance. If you are at low risk of severe withdrawal, outpatient detox may be sufficient. Your progress is monitored via frequent checkup appointments in an outpatient setting; that way, if you need a higher level of care, this can be put in place.

A medically monitored inpatient detox is required if you are experiencing moderate to severe symptoms. You’ll be admitted to a 24-hour detox facility, where your withdrawal will be supervised and monitored. Benzodiazepines or other sedative meds may be given to help mitigate the effects of withdrawal. As you near the end of your withdrawal symptoms, medication will be tapered off to decrease the risk of any complications.

You may need inpatient, intensive outpatient, or outpatient rehab to help you move into recovery and relapse prevention. You’ll participate in individual counseling, group therapy, family counseling, support groups, medication treatments, and wellness activities.

Detox from Ambien should also be medically supervised, especially if you have used the medication for a long time. As you deal with an Ambien addiction, intensive outpatient rehab or inpatient rehab will help you to learn the skills you need to stay sober. Services include individual and group therapy. Aftercare/sober living helps you to move back into the community once you have stayed clean from Ambien for a specified time period. If you need help, it is available.