In short, Ambien has the potential to be detectable in:
- Blood for roughly 12.5 hours
- Saliva for up to 24 hrs (or 1 day)
- Urine for up to 72 hours (or 3 days)
- Hair for up to 90 days
However, the amount of time it is detectable depends on a variety of factors.
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Ambien Peak Levels & Half-Life
Both short- and long-acting Ambien take around 1.5 hours to hit their peak blood concentration. For this reason, they should be taken well before bedtime. The half-life, or the time it takes for the medication to decrease by half, is about 2.5 hours in healthy male adults.
Since it takes around five half-lives for a drug to be cleared from the body, this means that Ambien lasts in the blood for roughly 12.5 hours in healthy male adults.
Types of Testing for Ambien Use
Although Ambien use will not likely be detectable on a basic drug screening, a variety of tests can detect it.
- Urine testing
Ambien can be detected in urine tests for up to three days after use. Urine testing is the most common way to test for drug use.
- Blood testing
Blood tests are rarely used to determine misuse. 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 its use is suspected in a driver or in a hospitalized patient.
- Hair testing
- Saliva testing
Ambien can be detected in the saliva after one hour. Its major breakdown product, zolpidem phenyl-4-carboxylic acid, or ZPCA, has a half-life of around five hours in saliva, meaning that it can be detected for around a full day after use.
Individuals with a history of sleeping pill misuse or suspected drug abuse may be more likely to be tested for it 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.
Factors That Influence How Long Ambien Remains in the System
- Age: Age is a common factor that affects how quickly the body can rid itself of a substance. The half-life of Ambien is longer in older adults than in younger adults. Since younger people tend to metabolize it more quickly, they will likely be rid of the drug faster than an older individual.
- Food and fluid intake: Although the rate at which Ambien is cleared from the body is not affected by food, food impacts how quickly the drug takes effect. Ambien is meant to be taken on an empty stomach because eating makes it take longer for the drug to kick in.
- 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 can take longer if the liver is not functioning as well as it could be. In fact, the half-life of Ambien for those with liver problems is almost 10 hours.
- Dosage: 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 over a long period of time may have traces of the drug in their system longer than someone who takes it once. This is because the more frequent the use, the more likely the drug is to accumulate in the body. The more the body has to metabolize, the longer the process takes.
- Other medications: Other medications can impact how long the drug stays in your body. St. John’s Wort, an over-the-counter mood supplement, may cause your body to clear Ambien more quickly. Conversely, ketoconazole, an antifungal drug, can increase Ambien’s half-life by 30%, making it last longer in your system.
Other FAQs About Ambien
- What is Ambien used for?
Ambien is mainly prescribed to treat insomnia. There are two types of this medication — immediate-release and extended-release.
- Immediate-release tablets release the medication all at once and are often prescribed for those who have trouble falling asleep.
- Extended-release tablets release the medication over time and are given to those who have trouble staying asleep.
- Is Ambien addictive?
Ambien is a controlled substance, meaning that it can be habit-forming and addictive. For this reason, it is typically only prescribed for a few weeks rather than long-term, due to a potential for dependence.
- Does Ambien have serious side effects?
Ambien does carry an FDA Black Box Warning for complex sleep behaviors. Some of these behaviors can be dangerous. In addition, people typically do not remember these activities the next day. They include:
- Sleep driving
- Sleep eating
- Sleep talking
- Sleep sexual activities
- Is it possible to overdose on Ambien?
Yes. Symptoms of overdose are similar to that of other central nervous system depressants and include:
- Being unable to wake up
- Cardiovascular collapse
- Problems breathing
If you suspect someone has overdosed on Ambien, you should seek emergency medical attention immediately by calling 911.
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U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Ambien CR.” August 30, 2019. Accessed June 21, 2020.
ARUP Laboratories. “Drug Plasma Half-Life and Urine Detection Window.” January 2019. Accessed June 21, 2020.
Villain, Marion; et al. “Windows of Detection of Zolpidem in Urine and Hair: Application to Two Drug Facilitated Sexual Assaults.” Forensic Science International, 2004. Accessed June 21, 2020.
Feng, Xueyi, Chen, Hang; Xiang, Ping; Shen, Min. “Zolpidem and Zolpidem phenyl-4-carboxylic Acid Pharmacokinetics in Oral Fluid After a Single Dose.” Drug Testing and Analysis, 2019. Accessed June 21, 2020.
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