Ambien is a prescription sedative that stays in the bloodstream for roughly 12.5 hours. This review covers factors influencing this time, drug tests that detect Ambien and more.

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.

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

Ambien traces can be found in hair. A 1.5-inch sample of hair shows the past 90 days of drug use.

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.
Rob Alston
Editor – Rob Alston
Rob Alston has traveled around Australia, Japan, Europe, and America as a writer and editor for industries including personal wellness and recovery. Read more
Jessica Pyhtila
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more
Sources

Hallare, Jericho; Gerriets, Valerie. “Half Life.” StatPearls, January 30, 2020. Accessed June 21, 2020.

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.

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.