Xanax and Ambien are both prescription controlled substances and central nervous system depressants (CNS). Many people commonly use them. They have some similarities and differences, but what about using them at the same time? Can they be taken together, or is this risky?

The following provides more information about Xanax and Ambien separately from one another and what you should know about combining them.

Article at a Glance:

The ultimate advice regarding Xanax and Ambien should ultimately always come from your physician, but the recommendation, in general, is that you shouldn’t combine them.

  • Combining these two prescription drugs can cause more severe side effects than you might ordinarily experience with one or the other.
  • Combining Xanax and Ambien can cause extreme drowsiness and impairment.
  • Both are depressants and if taken together, they may suppress the activity of the CNS too much, to the point where you experience an overdose.

Can You Take Xanax and Ambien Together?

The recommendation is usually no; you shouldn’t take them together.

When you combine them, it can increase the side effects of one or both. The side effects of each are similar, so the effects can be amplified. They are both central nervous system depressants that enhance the effect of gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA. For example, some of the side effects that can appear or increase when you take Xanax or Ambien together include:

  • Severe drowsiness
  • Breathing problems
  • Coma
  • Death

People who combine the two substances should avoid any activity that requires them to be mentally alert, particularly if they don’t know how one or both of these medicines will affect them.

Finally, both Xanax and Ambien have the potential for abuse and dependence, as they are both controlled substances. The risk of addiction may be compounded if you combine them, as opposed to taking them separately. They both can also lead to withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking them because physical dependence is possible.

What is Xanax?

Xanax is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S., and it’s classified as a benzodiazepine. It is intended to help with anxiety and panic disorders, and it calms neuron activity in the brain to make the user feel more relaxed. The generic name of Xanax is alprazolam. The drug acts as a sedative in many people, particularly at higher doses and in older adults. Xanax enhances gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA, in the central nervous system, slowing the brain down and causing a calming effect.

Even though physicians so often prescribe Xanax, it may be habit-forming. There is also the potential to overdose, which can be fatal. This is especially true if it is mixed with other substances like Ambien. People are also warned against combining it with alcohol because it too can increase the risk of overdose and death.

Xanax’s common side effects may include slurred speech, lack of balance and coordination, drowsiness, and memory problems.

What is Ambien?

Ambien is the brand name of a drug called zolpidem, which is used to treat insomnia in adults. The drug is a member of a class of drugs called sedative-hypnotics, which have a calming effect on the brain. Like Xanax, Ambien enhances the effect of GABA in the brain.

Ambien is intended only for short-term use because it can be habit-forming, like Xanax. People may also become physically dependent on it, which means that if they suddenly stop taking it, they may go through withdrawal.

Withdrawal from Ambien can include abdominal and muscle cramps, vomiting, sweating, tremors and convulsions. Physicians advise patients to taper off Ambien gradually to avoid withdrawal.

Some of the side effects possible with use can include dizziness and sleepiness during the day. In rare cases, it can also include memory loss, new or worsening depression or hallucinations. There have also been some instances where people taking Ambien have done things that could be dangerous while sleepwalking, such as driving vehicles or making food. The FDA has a Black Box Warning about these side effects.

As with most drugs, interactions are possible with the use of Ambien. St. John’s Wort is an example. This herbal substance may affect how Ambien is removed from the body, and as a result, how it works.

If you or someone you know needs help stopping Xanax or another drug, The Recovery Village can help. Our addiction professionals are experts in treating addiction to benzodiazepines, other substances, and co-occurring mental health conditions. Call today to start the journey to recovery.

  • Sources

    U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Ambien.” August 29, 2019. Accessed June 21, 2020.

    U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Xanax.” December 1, 2016. Accessed June 21, 2020.

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