How Long Does Ambien Stay in Your System?

Ambien, a drug used to treat sleep disorders, has the potential to remain in the system for weeks after use. However, the amount of time it is detectable depends on a variety of factors. In order to understand how long Ambien remains in the system, it is important to develop an understanding of what the drug is for and how it works.
A pack of Ambien sleeping pills sit on a table next to a glass of water.

Ambien, also known as zolpidem, is a prescription sedative medication given to treat difficulty sleeping or staying asleep. There are two types of the medication — immediate release and extended release. Immediate release tablets are often prescribed for those who have trouble falling asleep, while extended release tablets are given to those who have trouble staying asleep. Extended release tablets work by releasing the medication periodically, while immediate release tablets release the medication all at once.

Ambien typically only prescribed for a few weeks rather than long-term, as its main ingredient can have negative effects when taken for long periods of time.

Because insomnia has to do with a person not being able to relax enough to sleep, ambien works by forcing the body and brain to relax. In simple terms, ambien works by slowing activity in the brain. In more complex terms, ambien acts as a central nervous system depressant. These types of medications work by increasing the activity of the brain chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which slows activity in the brain. This increase in GABA activity results in a feeling of drowsiness and calm.

Physically, ambien use can result in dizziness, drowsiness, unsteady balance, odd dreams and lightheadedness.

For some users, ambien may have a plethora of side effects. It may cause memory issues, and in some cases users can attempt every day tasks such as driving while asleep. These types of side effects can be exacerbated if ambien is mixed with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants.

Ambien can be habit-forming and addictive, which is why it is often only prescribed for a few weeks. When taken in higher than prescribed dosages, ambien can make a user feel high and can cause them to hallucinate. Symptoms of ambien abuse or addiction may include bloodshot eyes, headaches, loss of coordination, heartburn, stomach pain, diarrhea, appetite changes, muscle or joint pain and shakiness.

Within 30 minutes of taking Ambien, it hits its peak blood concentration. In other words, it takes effect very quickly. The half life, or the time it takes for the medication to decrease by half, is 1.5 hours. However, the effects of the medication may last up to 8 hours after use. For most individuals, Ambien will be completely out of the system within 14 hours of use. However, Ambien use remains detectable for much longer, depending on a variety of factors and the type of testing administered.


Age is a common factor that affects how quickly the body can rid itself of a substance. Since younger people tend to metabolize substances more quickly, they will likely be ridded of the drug faster than an older individual. As people age, organ function may slow, which affects the rate of metabolization.

Body makeup

Body mass can affect the rate at which Ambien is metabolized. Since Ambien is water soluable, those with a higher percentage of body fat may be ridded up the drug more quickly since body fat does not contain much water.

Food and fluid intake

The rate at which Ambien is cleared from the body may also be affected by the amount of food and fluids a person has in their body at the same time as the medication. If someone eats a large amount of food around the same time they take Ambien, they will likely take longer to clear the drug than they would otherwise. This is because the body and organs are working to metabolize the food as well as the drug, so the process slows. However, clearance may speed up if an individual has had a lot to drink, as their urine output will increase and the drug will be removed from their system faster.

Organ function

Certain organs play a role in metabolizing drugs, especially the liver. Since the liver is responsible for breaking down substances in the body, the process may take longer if the liver is not functioning as well as it could be.

Metabolic rate

The metabolic rate is the rate at which the body can burn calories while at rest. If someone has a high metabolic rate, they burn higher amounts of energy while at rest and may clear drugs faster than those with a lower metabolic rate.


In determining how long it may take to rid the body of Ambien, it is important to consider the dosage taken. An individual who has taken higher doses of Ambien for longer periods of time will take longer to clear the drug than someone who took a normal dosage one time. This is because more metabolites form when higher doses are taken, and in turn it takes longer for the body to clear itself of them.

Frequency of use

Someone who takes Ambien often is likely to have remainders of the drug in their system longer than someone who takes it once. This is because the more frequent the use of Ambien, the more likely the drug is to accumulate in the body. The more the body has to metabolize, the longer the process takes

Though Ambien use will not likely be detectable on a basic drug screening, there are a variety of tests that can detect it.

Urine testing

Testing urine can detect metabolites that are a result of Ambien use. The most common metabolite of Ambien is referred to as “ZPCA” (zolpidem phenyl-4-carboxylic acid). This may remain detectable in urine for up to 72 hours after use. Urine testing is the most common way to test for Ambien use.

Blood testing

Blood tests are rarely used to determine Ambien use. They only allow for a short window of testing, usually within a few hours of use, since ambien leaves the bloodstream rather quickly. However, blood tests may be used if ambien use is suspected in a driver or in a hospitalized patient.

Hair testing

Testing hair follicles allows for the biggest window of testing time for Ambien, as it can remain traceable in the hair for 3 to 5 weeks following use. Typically hair must be at least 3 centimeters in length in order to detect the drug’s metabolites. After a sample is taken from an individual, it is sent to a laboratory for testing.

Saliva testing

Ambien can be detected in the saliva within 15 minutes of use, and may remain traceable for up to 8 hours after use. Even though saliva tests only allow for a short window of time, they are a preferred testing method since they are non-invasive and simple.

Though Ambien use is not likely to be detected in a routine drug test, individuals with a history of Ambien abuse or suspected abuse may be more likely to be tested for the drug in one of these manners. As is the case with any drug, the only way to remain positive the drug will not be detectable is to abstain from using it.

A simple and rapid method for the identification of zolpidem carboxylic acid in urine. PubMed. Accessed 26 March 2017.

Pharmacokinetic properties of zolpidem in elderly and young adults: possible modulation by testosterone in men. PubMed. Accessed 26 March 2017.

Windows of detection of zolpidem in urine and hair: application to two drug facilitated sexual assaults. PubMed. Accessed 26 March 2017.

Zolpidem. Accessed 26 March 2017.

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