Tag Archives: Ambien and Alcohol

Sleeping Pill Overdose

When people think about overdosing, sleeping pills are usually on the bottom of the list of drugs that can cause an overdose. Many individuals seem to think that sleeping pills improve the quality of sleep and therefore it has to be ok or at the very least, harmless to the body. Realistically, how much damage could come from sleeping? Unfortunately, the dangers of sleeping pills is commonly underestimated and can cause your sleep to worsen, and potentially result in permanent damage or even death. 

Sleep 101

Sleep feels amazing. There is no doubt about that. However, many people struggle with falling asleep and staying asleep. According to the Sleep Research Society (SRS), the US economy loses $63 billion each year due to loss in productivity related to insomnia. Further, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that nearly 35% of Americans do not get the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night. The causes of insomnia and other sleep issues are very complex. In some cases, there are reports of family history, depression, increasing work hours and even obesity as a cause for insomnia. Other issues such as the blue light emitted from our devices can contribute to sleep disorders. 

sleeping pill overdose

Millions of Americans use sleeping pills to help achieve better sleep and there are many options to pick from. For example, Benzodiazepine (benzos) sedatives are powerful prescription medications which sedate the body. Benzos are a less popular option due to the high potential for developing a dependence to the drug. Other popular options include Ambien, a sedative which falls under the hypnotic class of drugs, or Melatonin, a very common OTC sleep aid.

sleeping pill overdose

Can You Overdose on Sleeping Pills?

The short answer to “can you overdose on sleeping pills’ is yes. It is indeed possible to suffer a potentially fatal overdose on drugs such as Ambien. However, it is quite rare. Instead, most people will find that taking large doses or mixing sleeping aids with other drugs will produce a very bad experience, or in severe cases, permanent damage to the body. Sleeping pills in the past were more dangerous than they are now (such as Halcion) and saw high use among suicidal people as the idea of slowly falling asleep and never waking up sounded more pleasant.

Newer sleeping pills and sedatives have a design meant to help reduce the possibility of an overdose. For example, Ambien is typically prescribed in 10mg doses. Anything above 600mg can put you into overdose territory and cause permanent damage to your body. 2000mg is reported to be the fatal dose of Ambien- 200x the recommended dose.

Side Effects of Sleeping Pills

While all sleeping pills help induce some form of lethargy and sedation, different types of sedatives can have different side effects. 

For example, some side effects of pills such as Ambien, Rozerem, and Halcion include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Heartburn
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Stomach pain

In some severe cases, people may experience parasomnias. Parasomnias are involuntary actions during sleep which you are not aware of or have control of. Some parasomnia behaviors include sleepwalking, sleep eating, making phone calls or even sleep driving. It is difficult to predict if you will experience parasomnia until you try taking sleeping aids. 

sleeping pill overdose

What Does a Sleeping Pill Overdose Look Like?

A sleeping pill overdose may be hard to identify at first. Most pills help people sleep by sedating the individuals central nervous system and slowing brain activity until they fall asleep. The danger of taking too much is that the drug will suppress the body too much and critical organs such as your lungs, slowly cease to work. This can be worsened when sleeping pills are combined with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants.

Some indicators of a sleeping pill overdose are:

  • Extreme lethargy- By design, these medications will make you feel tired and very lethargic. However, there is a noticable difference between just sleepy and unable to function properly. In the latter case, it may be smart to contact emergency services just in case. 
  • Breathing problems- As mentioned, sedatives slow critical bodily function. However, a healthy dose will not make it uncomfortable and should be barely noticeable. If bodily functions begin to slow too much, this may be a sign of an overdose. Paying attention to breathing patterns is usually a good indicator of whether or not someone is experiencing an overdose.

Unfortunately, sleeping pill overdoses may even go unnoticed by the victim as they are fast asleep and too sedated to do anything about it. It may take the help of a bystander to get someone the help they need.

sleeping pill overdose

Sleeping Pills and Alcohol

While it is unlikely that someone will overdose on just sleeping pills, the mixing of any two central nervous system depressants can greatly increase the risk of an overdose. CNS depressants slow critical body function like breathing and brain function. Mixing ambien and alcohol for example can overpower the body causing the cessation of breathing and dangerously low brain and heart function. The mixing of two drugs is also known as polysubstance abuse and brings about its own deadly set of consequences.

Sleeping pills are not the only option when seeking better quality sleep. Usually, people struggle with getting sleep because of environmental and behavioral habits. Some ways to manage your sleep are:

  • Reducing stress or finding ways to manage it by picking up hobbies such as yoga
  • Better time management
  • Avoiding stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine in the evenings
  • Drinking more water
  • Avoiding daytime naps
  • Eating healthy food
sleeping pill overdose

The Bottom Line

Sleeping pills can be helpful for those who suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders. However, everything comes in moderation and taking more of a sleeping aid does not mean you will enjoy a better night’s sleep. In fact, taking too much of an aid like melatonin, can cause more sleep problems and make you feel less rested and more tired the next day. It is always recommended that you moderate your use to the prescribed amount and always seek professional opinion before taking any sleep supplements.

If you or a loved one you know is suffering from dependence to sleeping pills, please contact us today so we can help you on your path to recovery.

Ambien and Alcohol

Americans are now more distracted than ever. Since the end of the 20th century, more and more screens have been introduced into the average household. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, massive TVs- all contribute to the increase in sleeping disorders. Many people turn to options like Ambien to help. A lot of people in America also drink alcohol, sometimes even with the thought that it helps sleep. Subsequently, the increasing risk of mixing Ambien and alcohol is a real danger.

ambien and alcohol

What is Ambien?

Ambien is the brand name for Zolpidem Tartrate, which is a sedative and falls under the hypnotic class of medication. In general, the purpose is to treat insomnia in patients and is seen as a better alternative to benzodiazepines or barbiturates. Ambien’s design is to provide the same sleep relief as other drugs but without the dangerous side-effects commonly associated with drugs such as Valium. It was approved by the FDA in 1992 during a time where the prevailing sleep-aid, Halcion, was being linked with psychosis, suicide and addiction and was welcomed with open arms. 

ambien and alcohol

Ambien works by binding and activating GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter which is responsible for blocking impulses between nerve cells in the brain. Ambien binds to the same receptors as benzodiazepines. By binding to the receptors, the chemical essentially slows down brain function, making it easier to fall asleep. While Ambien became popular because it was believed to have less of the harmful side effects of other sleep-aids available at the time, it comes with its own risks:

  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • “Drugged” feeling
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Headache

Some of the serious side effects of Ambien include:

  • Memory loss
  • New or worsening depression
  • Abnormal thoughts
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Anxiety

Ambien Addiction and Abuse

A chemical tolerance is when a higher dose is required to get the same desired results while taking a drug. Essentially, the body gets used to the drug and more of it is required to feel the effects. Unfortunately, Ambien tolerance develops quickly in some patients. Ambien was never designed to be a long-term use drug. However, some patients require their physician to increase the dosage to get the same relief. Increasing the dosage may cause users to develop a dependency to the drug. Some may find that they are unable to fall asleep without it.

ambien and alcohol

In high doses, it is possible for Ambien to provide a euphoric high, which is then be sought after by some. At this point, normal use begins to turn to abuse. According to SAMHSA, Ambien abuse is rare with those who are have a prescription. It is more likely to be with those who acquire it illicitly.

Overdose of Ambien is possible. According to SAMHSA, there were 64,175 Ambien related emergency room visits (ER) and of those 20,793 were related to over-medication. While your risk of overdose will depend on various factors such as body composition, tolerance level and history of use, it is generally considered that taking more than 150mg per kilogram of body weight is lethal. An individual weighing 50 kilograms will need to take 7,500mg of Ambien to experience a fatal overdose. While that may seem like a lot of medication, the 150mg can be greatly reduced when taken with other drugs, especially alcohol. 

How Long Does Ambien Stay in Your System?

Once Ambien enters the body, it takes around 30 minutes for the drug to reach peak potential blood concentration meaning that the full effects are felt around this mark. Compared to other drugs, this is quite fast. However, Ambien has a short half-life of around 1.5 hours. A chemicals half-life is a determination of the time it takes for the chemical to reduce to half of its ingested dose. In other words, after 1.5 hours, the 10mg dose of Ambien is essentially reduces to 5mg. However, it’s possible to feel the effects of the drug for 8 hours and the chemicals will be completely out of the body in about 14 hours. 

It is possible to detect Ambien in the body after the 14 hour mark in various tests:

  • Urine – 72 hours after use
  • Hair – 3 to 5 weeks after use
  • Saliva – 8 hours after use

Drug testing for Ambien is quite rare however circumstances such as traffic incidents may call for testing.

Mixing Ambien and Alcohol

Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. A CNS depressant will slow brain and nerve function thus having an effect on motor and cognitive function. Ambien has very similar CNS depressant effects by binding to the GABA receptors in the brain. Two depressants or drugs mixed together (also referred to as polysubstance abuse) will amplify the overall effects and can pose serious overdose risks. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), mixing alcohol with other depressants such as Ambien can cause drowsiness, slowed or difficulty breathing, impaired motor skills, and memory problems. With two powerful depressants working, it can cause breathing to slow to a dangerously low level or stop completely. Death can also occur by engaging in dangerous behavior often associated with alcohol use. 

Getting Help

Getting off Ambien may seem difficult. Especially if the user has been using it for an extended period and believes it is necessary for a good night’s sleep. Someone with a problem with ambien and alcohol needs specialized help. However, with the proper attention and guidance, recovery is possible. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact us today to see how we can help.

*Resources:
Hypnotic medications and suicide – NIH
Emergency Department Visits – SAMHSA
Harmful Interactions – NIAAA