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Ambien Overdose: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Roughly 1 in 3 people in the United States live with insomnia or sleep problems.[1] Ambien is a prescription drug that can help people fall asleep faster and remain asleep all night.

But some people abuse Ambien, which can lead to severe consequences, including overdose. It’s important to recognize the signs of Ambien overdose and the risks of abuse so that you can get the treatment you need to stop using it safely.

If you need help to stop using Ambien or other substances, reach out to the caring specialists at South Carolina Addiction Treatment today to explore your treatment options.

What is Ambien?

Ambien is a prescription medication used to treat insomnia. Before Ambien became available, many people relied on benzodiazepine medications to help them sleep–but many people developed dependence and addiction to these drugs.

Ambien was initially considered a safer option compared to benzodiazepines because of its low risk for abuse and addiction. But some evidence suggests that Ambien is not as safe as it was first thought to be and has the potential for addiction.

Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic medication that slows the activity of a person’s brain so that they can fall and stay asleep. People who take Ambien may have less grogginess when they wake up than those who take benzodiazepines.[2]

What Are the Risks of Ambien Abuse and Addiction?

Generally, Ambien is intended for short-term use. Long-term use of Ambien has been associated with several medical issues, including chronic sinus infection, reflux, respiratory conditions, and other serious health complications.

People may also develop tolerance when taking Ambien, meaning they must take more and more to get the same effects. This is one of the primary signs of dependence and indicates someone may need help to stop using Ambien safely.

But Ambien can also cause many concerning side effects, even when taken as directed. Some of Ambien’s side effects include:[2]

  • Aggressive behaviors
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Not remembering the things you’ve done
  • Drowsiness
  • Poor coordination
  • Slow reaction times
  • Suicidal thoughts

People should not drive while taking Ambien because the drug slows the brain’s activity. Reaction times and judgment are impaired, and coordination is challenged.

One of the most significant concerns about Ambien abuse and addiction is the chance of overdose. An Ambien overdose can occur if someone takes more than prescribed or mixes it with other substances.

Ambien Overdose Signs

An Ambien overdose is a serious, sometimes life-threatening event that requires immediate medical care. Recognizing the symptoms of Ambien overdose and seeking emergency medical care is essential.

Some symptoms of Ambien overdose include:[3]

  • Slowed heart rate
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Falling down
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired judgment
  • Hallucinations
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Neck, back, or joint pain
  • Pain, burning, and numbness in arms and legs
  • Confusion
  • Stomach pain

A deadly Ambien overdose is more likely if the user has mixed Ambien with other sedatives, antidepressants, or alcohol. An Ambien overdose can also occur if someone uses it differently than prescribed, such as by injecting liquified Ambien.

What Should I Do if I See Symptoms of Ambien Overdose?

If you believe that you or someone near you has Ambien overdose symptoms, call 911 immediately. Make sure that the person’s airway is clear. Remove anything around the person’s neck, such as jewelry or tight clothing.

Check if the person is breathing and watch for blue coloration in their fingers and lips. Do not force the person to vomit. Wait with the person until emergency medical services arrive.

Recognizing the Signs of Ambien Addiction

If you believe you are addicted to Ambien, you must get treatment to help you detox safely and address the addiction’s physical, emotional, and behavioral aspects. Some of the signs of Ambien addiction include:

  • Purchasing Ambien illegally
  • Mixing Ambien and other substances
  • Driving while under the influence of Ambien
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking Ambien
  • Having multiple prescriptions from different doctors
  • Forging prescriptions for Ambien
  • Having intense cravings for Ambien
  • Needing to use Ambien every night
  • Wanting to stop taking it but feeling like you can’t
  • Taking Ambien in a higher dose, different method, or more frequently than prescribed

Without getting the help you need to stop using Ambien, your drug addiction safely will likely worsen. If you attempt to detox from Ambien on your own, you may experience severe withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Agitation
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased blood pressure, pulse, body temperature, and rate of breathing
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Stomach cramping
  • Nausea

The discomforts of withdrawal may lead to a relapse before detox is complete. For the best outcomes, seek professional treatment and support for detox and complete a comprehensive addiction treatment program.

Get Help Now

If you abuse Ambien, you are at risk of Ambien overdose. Don’t risk your health and safety. Contact the South Carolina Addiction Treatment specialists for information about your prescription drug treatment options and ongoing support. Help is just a call away. Don’t wait for the treatment you need.