Zolpidem is a prescription-grade sedative and hypnotic medication best known by its more recognizable brand name, Ambien. This medical compound is intended to fix the brain’s chemistry as it relates to disrupted sleep patterns. Insomnia is the most common of these conditions, and Ambien works to either help patients fall asleep in the first place or keep them in a state of deep, restful slumber.

Though very similar to benzodiazepines in regards to intended effects, side effects and usage, Ambien is considered to be a nonbenzodiazepine due to chemical dissimilarities.

Some users have reported engaging in dangerous activities while under the influence of Ambien. Sleepwalking, while potentially harmless in some scenarios, has led to accidental deaths when using the drug. Additionally, cases of sleep-driving have occurred, which increases the threat factor by an enormous amount. The sleep aid disables basic functions while individuals are still awake, too. For all these reasons, it comes as no surprise that physicians highly discourage any Ambien users from operating vehicles or performing normal day-to-day functions after taking the medication.

Beyond the possibility of a sleep-related injury, another consequence of Ambien use is a potential overdose. Ambien overdoses can occur when the medicine is used improperly at high doses. Prepare to discover what symptoms of such an overdose would look like, how much Ambien it takes to reach the said point, and what can be done to reverse the effects.

Related Topic: Can you overdose on sleeping pills

Drug overdose can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately. Do NOT be afraid to seek help. If you do not have access to a phone contact Web Poison Control Services for online assistance.

Can You Overdose on Ambien?

Whenever strong sedatives are involved, there is always a chance of lethal ramifications. Ambien is no exception to this. Nevertheless, the drug requires a large amount before it enters fatal territory.

Ambien is fast-acting and remains in the human body for only a short period of time. The medication will be completely gone within the matter of a few hours. Thus, greater dosage quantities are needed in a short amount of time for it to become deadly. 

How Many Ambien to Overdose?

Alcohol can have a disastrous influence on Ambien. Those with a substance use disorder linked to alcohol are more likely to abuse and develop a dependency on drugs such as Ambien. With dependency comes tolerance. And with tolerance comes more and higher Ambien doses to achieve desired effects — both legally and recreationally speaking.

Medically sanctioned Ambien doses start in the 5–10 mg range. When a patient or user passes this recommended threshold, the drug quickly becomes a detriment to one’s health. As low as 70 mg can create dangerous complications within the body. Venturing into recreational-use numbers, doses of 400–600 mg, will lead to an overdose. The result may not be death at this point, but the side effects will be permanent. Experts place a lethal Ambien amount at approximately 2,000 mg. Again, disastrous outcomes will occur far before this number is reached.

Still, if 2,000 mg is the figure in question, and at 10 mg a dose it would take upwards of 200 pills, how is an overdose possible? Truly, it all comes down to how the Ambien is taken. Some unsafe use practices in a recreational setting can intensify the risk, virtually making the dosage amount irrelevant. Chief among these include using Ambien in unintended, not-as-directed ways. Chewing, snorting or injecting the medicine nullifies any intended safeguards. This already rapid-release drug suddenly enters the bloodstream immediately. Compound this scenario with another likely Ambien use case — mixing the medication with alcohol — and all bets are off. Ambien overdoses become a real probability.

Ambien Overdose Symptoms

Ambien overdose symptoms are easy to identify. This is good news for victims and onlookers alike. If any of these symptoms arise, seek treatment from a first responder:

  • Extreme drowsiness: This symptom can prove to be the most dangerous. After all, drowsiness is the intent of Ambien, so it is easy to misinterpret one for the other. If the effect is beyond any you’ve experienced before, never dismiss the feeling.
  • Confusion or irrational thoughts: Victims will often appear visibly confused and find it difficult to answer questions or recall information.
  • Imbalanced respiratory function: Abnormal breathing may result from overuse. This can take a turn for the worse very quickly. Be sure to remain vigilant and react accordingly.

True to its nature as a sedative, Ambien overdose symptoms directly correlate to its side effects. Neither an adverse reaction nor an overdose should ever be ignored. Remember, Ambien is a sleeping pill. If you do not contact the proper medical help in a timely fashion, you risk falling into a state far worse than simple sleep — a coma.

What To Do During an Ambien Overdose

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Make sure that the person’s airway is clear.
  • Ensure that the person can breathe by carefully removing anything from around the neck (such as a necklace or tie).
  • Monitor the person’s breathing and check for any discoloration (such as a bluish hue) in the lips or fingertips. Do not give the person anything to make them vomit.

Ambien Overdose Treatment

Though we have established that Ambien is different than benzodiazepine compounds, they do share a key similarity when it comes to overdose treatment. Physicians may administer an overdose antidote called flumazenil to counteract the victim’s sedation. If necessary, medical staff may choose to remove Ambien from the stomach entirely. This occurs in only the most extreme overdose situations. From then on out, treatment transforms into monitoring of a victim’s health and well-being until it is safe to leave medical supervision.

Because many begin taking Ambien under the care of a doctor, it can be difficult to notice when addiction begins to creep in. If you’re struggling with a dependence on Ambien or any other substance, you’re not alone. Help is closer than you think. At The Recovery Village, clients heal from their substance use disorders under the care of compassionate clinicians and physicians. Reach out to an intake coordinator today for more information. 

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.