The Dangers of Mixing Ambien and Alcohol
A report by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) revealed that almost 3 out of every 10 Americans suffer from insomnia. On top of that, the report also suggests that more than half of that number may actually be self-medicating to overcome the problem. This is seen as a serious problem because lack of quality sleep is known to make certain mental issues like anxiety and depression even worse. Self-medicating, however, is not an answer either, as a growing number of people take to using sleeping pills and drinking to help them sleep. This is why more people need to understand the inherent dangers posed by combining sleeping pills like Ambien and alcohol. It’s also important to seek substance abuse rehab in indiana to stop the risk of the serious health risk posed by combining sleeping pills like Ambien and alcohol.
What is Ambien?
Ambien is the commercial name of zolpidem, a form of medication primarily used in the short-term treatment of sleep issues like insomnia. zolpidem is a sedative and a hypnotic substance and works by increasing y-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the central nervous system. The increase reduces excitability by the neurons in the brain, which creates a progressively relaxing and sedative effect, promoting sleep.
Zolpidem, or Ambien, is the 47th most commonly prescribed medication in the US, with more than 14 million prescriptions being filled out in 2020. Pharmacies note that more than 10 million prescriptions for Ambien are filled out each year in the country, easily making it one of the most used medications being marketed today.
This medication is typically prescribed for short-term use only, spanning a period of about two weeks, for the treatment of insomnia. It is also used for improving the onset of sleep, sleep onset latency, and quality sleep (staying asleep). It is, however, not recommended for people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, myasthenia gravis (long-term neuromuscular junction disease that causes varying degrees of skeletal muscle weakness, most commonly affecting muscles of the eyes, face, and muscles used for swallowing), severe liver disease, respiratory depression, people who suffer psychotic illnesses, and children.
What Are the Side Effects of Ambien?
Due to the fact that Ambien is a medication that helps people sleep by slowing brain activity, it comes with side effects associated with sleepiness, feeling deeply relaxed, significant slowing of the cognitive functions, and impaired motor functions.
Other side effects include:
- Impaired balance
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Dry mouth
- Tremors and twitches
- Vivid or unusual dreams
- Pain, burning sensation, or tingling in extremities
- Ringing, pain, or itching in the ears
- Red eyes
- Muscle aches
- Heavy menstrual bleeding (during a female’s period)
- Next-day drowsiness
- Short-term memory loss
- Impaired coordination
- Suicidal tendencies
- Flu-like symptoms
- Sore throat
- Back pain
- Night eating syndrome (while asleep)
Ambien is also known to produce more severe side effects in some people. It is highly advised that a person seek immediate medical attention or be treated immediately should any of the following side effects be experienced:
- Severe itching
- Swelling of eyes, face, lips, tongue, or throat
- Sensation that the throat is blocked or constricted
- Difficulty breathing and swallowing
- Blurred vision or vision problems
- Bradycardia (abnormally slow heart rate)
- Shortness of breath
- Severe nausea
- Tachycardia (abnormally elevated heart rate)
- Chest pains
- Loss of consciousness
What are the Side Effects of Ambien and Alcohol?
Ambien and alcohol are both central nervous system depressants, which means each of these substances will already cause heavy sedation in the brain, which would also affect most of the body as well. By combining these two central nervous system depressants, the sedative effect is significantly magnified, and depending upon the person, could cause serious side effects.
Some of the more common side effects include:
- Persistent sleepiness
- Extreme drowsiness
- Varying degrees of disorientation
- Slowed or compromised breathing
- Impaired motor control
- Impaired memory
- Inability to focus
- Impaired judgment
- Sleep apnea
- Slurred speech
- Unsteady gait
Is it Possible to Overdose when Mixing Ambien and Alcohol?
When combined, the sedative effects of both Ambien and alcohol are more pronounced and fast-acting, and for people who suffer from chronic insomnia or from conditions where they get little quality sleep, begin able to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer could be a blessing. When mixing Ambien and alcohol, however, this is not the case. This combination could be immensely habit-forming for people who desperately crave sleep.
Forming a habit of combining Ambien and alcohol is a significantly dangerous thing because the combination could put the user at serious risk of an overdose. It is not uncommon for many substance abusers to succumb to the highly damaging effects of the substances they abuse, although this tends to happen over a period of time. Combining a potent central nervous system depressant like Ambien with another depressant like alcohol could become life-threatening when the person becomes unresponsive to reviving and slips into a coma.
What is the Treatment for Ambien and Alcohol Addiction?
Addiction to both Ambien and alcohol needs immediate drug treatment and alcohol rehab as the continued abuse of these substances could lead to serious health risks. An addiction combining both of these substances is even worse as there is a high risk of an overdose due to the nature of their action. Treatment for the combined addiction includes:
Medical detox is always the first step in overcoming any kind of addiction. Both Ambien and alcohol are powerful central nervous system depressants that can have effects and even progressive damage to the body, including damage to the liver, kidneys, and other organs.
Drug detox program in Indiana seeks to rid the body of the substance and its toxic effects. This can be done through a variety of methods including:
Where specific medications are used to help minimize the withdrawal symptoms and cravings. There are many cases where medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is so effective that the patient is able to recover much faster and is able to maintain sobriety with little to no problems.
This involves gradually reducing Ambien use over time, as there are cases where people become violently ill once they completely stopped using Ambien. There are also instances where the body has become so used to the presence of the substance that complications suddenly arise if the substance is no longer present in the body. Tapering, however, is not recommended for alcohol addiction treatment.
This is the abrupt and complete stop to taking the substance being abused. This is typically the method used, mainly because it also helps in lessening the overall damage already done to the body by the substance abuse. This method, however, also tends to bring out the worst withdrawal symptoms in many people undergoing medical detox.
Inpatient rehab comes with the benefit of the presence of medical aid when needed, particularly during the more severe episodes of withdrawal. Patients who are left severely weakened mentally and physically by withdrawal may need help in doing the most basic of things, such as self-care. As the name would suggest, inpatient treatment is done in a clinical environment where the attending staff is trained in hospital procedures.
The goal of medical detox and rehabilitation is to get the patient on the road to recovery, and this means that they need to learn how best to reintegrate into normal life after rehab. As such, they will need the guidance and support of therapists and support groups to learn the coping skills and confidence needed to begin normal life anew.
Outpatient treatment gives the benefit of similar care and support offered by inpatient treatment, although patients are allowed a measure of freedom and independence so as to better prepare them for a normal life outside of rehab.
A patient who has successfully completed medical detox and the initial treatments could still be susceptible to cravings and urges to take substances again. This is why continued therapy through outpatient drug rehab in Indiana is still needed. This way, patients could still receive therapy without having to live within the rehab facility. Patients could go home at the end of the day once their therapy sessions are completed.
Support groups or group therapy are among the most popular forms of post-rehabilitation therapy being used today as it satisfies that very human need to connect with others who might be going through the same thing. Many people are able to overcome their urges to take substances they formerly had a dependency on, but others are not as fortunate. The cravings and urges sap their will and preoccupy their waking moments. In many cases, they simply could not handle it anymore and give in to a relapse.
Support groups help people by giving them assurance, empathy, and advice relevant to what they are going through. What’s more is that this is not theoretical or textbook advice, but real suggestions from people who experience the same problems and issues. This removes the feeling that a person is going through hardship alone, and is therefore truly motivational.
First City Recovery Can Help You with Ambien and Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things in life, there is no question about that. What is questionable, though, is what some people would do just to get enough decent sleep. Taking sleeping aids like Ambien is fast becoming a habit for many Americans, even those who are still young enough to be able to sleep perfectly well. More than that, many people are also mixing alcohol with sleeping pills like Ambien, which is an immensely dangerous practice. This practice is also immensely difficult to stop, which is why we here at First City Recovery, drug and alcohol rehab center in Indiana, make it our business to find the most effective ways to help people through this type of addiction while there is still time to do so. Let’s get you started on your recovery. Talk to us now.
Dr. Vahid Osman, MD is a psychiatry specialist in Indianapolis, IN.
Dr. Osman completed a residency at Austin State Hospital. He has over 32 years of experience in Psychiatry & Behavioral Health. He is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.