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Ambien and Alcohol: A Dangerous Combination

Aug 15, 2022

Overextending yourself in your professional commitments can mean sacrificing quality sleep hours to work late and start the day early. With the onset of sleep issues, you may also find yourself needing a prescription medication to get rest at night. For example, a drug like zolpidem, best known by the brand name Ambien, can be successful in treating insomnia. At the same time, it’s essential to be aware of the risks of drinking alcohol while using sedatives like Ambien. 

Prescription sedatives can be a helpful way for people with insomnia to get some much-needed rest. However, they do present an ongoing risk for addiction, especially for heavy drinkers who mix alcohol with this type of medication. Using them simultaneously can increase the risk of developing a variety of symptoms, including lightheadedness, coordination problems, and nausea. More serious side effects may include hallucinations, depression, and blackouts. If a sleep disorder is plaguing your ability to get rest and worsening a drinking problem, treatment with strategies to achieve sleep naturally is available to help you get on the road to recovery. 

The Limited Value of Sleeping Pills

Prescription sedatives are prescribed for people who have trouble falling or staying asleep. For professionals who work long days and struggle to wind down at bedtime, taking an Ambien can feel like the only solution. While it may help you fall asleep quicker, the drug doesn’t remain in the body very long, so it’s limited in helping you stay asleep all night. This could lead users to take additional doses without first consulting with their physician. 

Ambien’s effectiveness can be altered depending on your sleep habits. If you take it on a night you cannot stay in bed for at least seven hours, you may experience some memory loss or struggle with alertness the next day. Likewise, if you have a history of addictive illness, this medication could prove problematic down the line.

The Dangers of Mixing Ambien with Alcohol

Short-term use of Ambien can be safe, but increasing your dose, taking it more often, or using it for longer than prescribed are potentially harmful. Long-term use is not recommended, and stopping Ambien abruptly can lead to withdrawal symptoms. In addition, someone who regularly consumes several drinks in the evening before taking this sedative can face additional risks to their health. 

Increased lethargy and sedation can be consequences of mixing Ambien and alcohol. In a sedated state, you put yourself at a higher risk for injury. Impaired judgment can also lead to irrational behaviors. They may come from impulsiveness or difficulty to control your emotions while using Ambien. 

More severe threats from mixing the two include the physical changes that occur. For example, your breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure can drop sharply. This sudden shift in your vitals could lead to a medical emergency requiring hospitalization. 

Overdose is another potential outcome of drinking while using Ambien. Overdose can come from a lack of good judgment about the dose you’re taking or forgetting you took one earlier as you take another. An Ambien overdose is another medical emergency that can result in hospitalization and even death. 

A Better Sleep Solution

Treatment for Ambien abuse and an alcohol use disorder can serve many purposes. Helping you get into recovery is first and foremost, of course. Enabling you to take steps to protect your career is another purpose. But, even with recovery support, the underlying sleep issue must be addressed to help avoid relapse and find alternatives to substances for inducing sleep. 

One of the features of treatment at Headwaters is the Center for Brain Recovery (CBR). The CBR interventions and therapeutic programs are aligned with the needs of high-profile individuals whose careers and demanding schedules often create an imbalance in their professional and personal lives. The care provided at Headwaters recognizes the pressures that are unique to celebrities, physicians, attorneys, pilots, and influential people in leadership roles. 

Addressing sleep issues can be done with evidence-based neurological interventions at Headwaters. They include sleep program protocols that assist patients in learning to sleep naturally. Stress and anxiety management is another asset for improving sleep and comes from interventions such as neurofeedback, biofeedback, and breathing techniques. With a culture of confidentiality in place, the high-profile professional can receive the care and support they need to end the cycle of Ambien abuse and other substance use issues and return to their careers ready to build on their recovery success. 


Headwaters at Origins is a well-known care provider offering a range of addiction treatment programs for executives and their families targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561-270-1753.

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