If you're experiencing difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, your doctor might prescribe Ambien for the short-term relief of insomnia. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, Ambien slows activity in the brain, allowing you to fall asleep. However, if you drink alcoholic beverages, it is crucial to understand the interactions between alcohol and Ambien before you begin taking the medicine.
Alcohol and Ambien
Ethanol is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine and hard liquor. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Ambien is the brand name for another drug called zolpidem, a member of the sedative-hypnotic class of medications.
When you use Ambien as indicated, the drug induces a strong feeling of drowsiness that is intended to help you fall asleep, and stay asleep for seven to eight hours. Alcohol amplifies the sedative-hypnotic effects of Ambien, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. When you drink alcoholic beverages while taking zolpidem, the combination of the two drugs will yield a far more pronounced sensation of drowsiness, as well as other effects.
Enhanced Side Effects
Along with its ability to enhance Ambien's sleep-inducing effects, alcohol also will increase the risk and severity of zolpidem's side effects. These include motor impairment, memory loss, dizziness, unusual behavior and slowed breathing, reports the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Also, the interaction of alcohol with Ambien increases the risk for problems associated with sleep apnea, a condition that causes interrupted breathing during the night.
Ambien can cause residual effects in the morning, reports the National Institutes of Health DailyMed. Having even one or two drinks at night after taking Ambien can make your morning sluggish and unproductive. Alcohol and Ambien have an important factor in common--one that also affects their potential interactions when combined. Both Ambien and alcohol are habit-forming drugs. Regularly drinking while taking Ambien can increase the risk of tolerance and dependence on zolpidem.
Risk of Overdose
Overdose is a real risk when mixing alcohol and Ambien, and it is crucial to know the signs and possible outcomes. Symptoms of an overdose of zolpidem exacerbated by alcohol can include pinpoint pupils, slurred speech, strange behavior, and the inability to wake up. An overdose can result in coma or even death from respiratory failure. If you suspect an overdose of alcohol and Ambien in you or someone you know, contact emergency services immediately.
- National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism: Harmful Interactions - Mixing Alcohol with Medicines
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheets - Zolpidem (and Zaleplon, Zopiclone)
- National Institutes of Health DailyMed: Ambien (Zolpidem Tartrate)
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: PubMed Health - Zolpidem