Can you die from taking Ambien?

Yes, it is possible to overdose and possibly die from taking Ambien. Some side effects of the medication can be very dangerous even at normal therapeutic doses. We review some of the dangers of Ambien here.

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Yes. You can die from an overdose of Ambien. Not only that, but some side effects of the medication can be dangerous in their own right, such as “sleep-driving” or suicidal thoughts.

How does Ambien affect the body and can Ambien get you high? Know what an Ambien overdose looks like? And how do you know if you’re at a high risk of side effects from Ambien? We explore all these and more in this article.  And we invite your questions about taking Ambien at the end.

Dangers of Ambien ingredients

Because of the potential for abuse, tolerance, and overdose, Ambien is only prescribed for short periods of time, in relatively small doses. But what is in Ambien that makes the medication so dangerous? Ambien poses three main dangers for those who take the medication, either in the short or long term.

1. Slowed brain activity

2. Sedative side effects can complicate some medical conditions

3. Possible addiction liability

Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic medication prescribed for people who have trouble falling or staying asleep. As a hypnotic, Ambien alleviates the symptoms of insomnia and helps people sleep through the night. Zolpidem, the active ingredient in Ambien, works by slowing brain activity. While this slowing of activity is helpful in insomniacs, it can also be dangerous, causing drowsiness or dizziness. In people with breathing problems or lung disease, the sedative effects can be even more dangerous. Zolpidem is also habit-forming, so there is the danger of Ambien get addicted.

FDA warnings about Ambien

Ambien should always be taken as directed, and never taken with alcohol or other medicines that cause drowsiness. The FDA doesn’t recommend the use of Ambien in people with certain health conditions, including:

  • a history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • a history of depression or mental illness
  • kidney or liver disease
  • lung disease or breathing problems
  • pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • suicidal thoughts

However, one of the biggest dangers of Ambien short term effects and long term effects  is that it can cause some people to sleep-walk or participate in potentially dangerous activities in their sleep. If you find out that you have been engaging in any of the following activities during the night and can’t remember them occurring, the FDA warns that you need to talk to your doctor right away. Some activities reported while users have been sleeping and on Ambien include:

  • driving a car
  • having sex
  • making and eating food
  • sleep-walking
  • talking on the phone

Serious adverse side effects of Ambien

Because Ambien acts directly on the brain, it can sometimes have serious side effects in normal doses. Anyone experiencing any severe side effects after taking Ambien should consult their doctor right away.  Some major Ambien dangers are:

  • activities while sleeping
  • anxiety and depression
  • difficulty concentrating
  • hallucinations
  • memory problems
  • pain, burning, and numbness in limbs
  • stomach pain or problems
  • strange or unusual behavior
  • suicidal thoughts
  • uncontrollable shaking

Signs of Ambien overdose

Taking too much Ambien can cause excessive drowsiness. Although the feeling of sedation may be subjective, drowsiness becomes truly dangerous if it begins to affect consciousness, breathing, or heartbeat. An overdose on Ambien may cause difficulty breathing, or slowed breathing and heartbeat. Ambien overdose can even cause the user to lose consciousness and fall into a coma.

How to treat Ambien overdose

If you’re worried you’ve taken too much Ambien, contact your local poison control center. However, if you suspect that someone is experiencing an Ambien overdose, and they’re either collapsed or stopped breathing, you need to contact 911 immediately. It may be a matter of life or death.

Help for Ambien use or misuse

Ambien is an addictive medication – chronic use of the Ambien may result in tolerance and physical dependence. Ambien abusers may need to take larger and more frequent doses of the medication to get the desired effects, which can be dangerous and even deadly. If you are addicted to Ambien, talk to your doctor. It is possible to kick an Ambien habit by gradually tapering the dose of the medication. You should never stop taking Ambien abruptly due to the withdrawal effects which can occur.

Taking Ambien questions

We  invite your question about taking Ambien here. Please know that we try to answer all legitimate questions with a personal and prompt response.

References: FDA: Ambien Medication Guide
PubMedHealth: Zolpidem
NHTSA: Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheet for Zolpidem
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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