Ambien is a potent prescription medication that treats insomnia. It belongs to a long line of drugs used to slow the central nervous system and induce relaxation. Of these drugs, barbiturates were once the most popular and effective means of helping people fall asleep. However, addiction, withdrawal, and overdose were prevalent, pushing researchers to look for alternative options.
Benzodiazepines were then produced and thought to be a wonder drug but had similar symptoms. Finally, Z-drugs like Ambien were designed with insomnia in mind. While it’s far less addictive, Ambien overdose and withdrawal are still potential complications. Below, we’ll discuss the signs and symptoms of an Ambien overdose and what you can do to prevent it.
Ambien Overdose Statistics
The overdose crisis has been widespread throughout the United States. The most recent statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more than 100,000 people overdosed last year, the first time in this country’s history. The total number was 107,622, an increase from 93,655 in 2020. While opioids dominated the list, other drugs like Ambien added to the total. The overdose crisis has become incredibly severe in our country, and prescription drugs have been the fuel to an open flame. Prescription drugs account for 13,503 of those deaths in 2021.
The overdose role of hypnotic drugs in combination with opioids has been a point of contention. While it takes a high dose of Ambien to overdose, many people that use opioids are also taking drugs like Ambien. Ambien is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. When used in conjunction with other depressants like opioids, each drug potentiates the effects of another. For example, if you take a dose of Ambien your body is tolerant of, as well as a dose of an opioid your body has taken before, it can result in a fatal overdose.
The overdose crisis is reducing life expectancy in the United States. The global pandemic wreaked havoc on our nation. Lockdowns led to isolation, which led to drug use and caused a significant uptick in overdose deaths. The life expectancy dropped to 76.1 years in 2021 – drug overdose deaths were largely to blame. These figures have not been seen since 1996, indicating a significant step backward with regard to progress.
One way to combat this is to learn more about the symptoms of an Ambien overdose to protect yourself or others.
Can I Overdose On Ambien?
Yes. You can overdose on Ambien. However, an Ambien overdose is more likely to occur when you take a large amount of the drug in a short period or when it’s mixed with other substances like alcohol or opioids. Both accidental and intentional Ambien overdoses have occurred. Ambien is a safe and effective drug when used as prescribed, but it is extremely dangerous when misused.
The most common dose a doctor will prescribe is between 5 mg and 10 mg. When used in this dosage, you’ll experience very few side effects. While all medications produce some side effects, they won’t put you at risk of an overdose. However, exceeding this dosage can dramatically increase the odds of adverse side effects, including an overdose.
Around 70 mg is the dose someone can begin experiencing dangerous side effects. Even higher doses than this will lead to an immediate Ambien overdose. The more of the drug someone takes, the greater the risk of an overdose. Misusing Ambien in ways other than prescribed, such as injecting it, crushing it up, or snorting it, can also increase the chances of an overdose.
What Are the Symptoms of An Ambien Overdose?
Fortunately, an Ambien overdose is easy to identify. It also will show up fairly quickly after someone ingests the drug. It’s vital that you seek help right away if you suspect someone has overdosed on Ambien. Since it’s a fast-acting sedative, the individual will quickly fall unconscious, meaning they could slip into a coma. For that reason, do not wait – if you suspect an overdose, call 911.
The most common Ambien overdose symptoms include the following:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Slowed heart rate
- Abnormal or slowed breathing
- Irrational thoughts
- Loss of consciousness
Fortunately, an Ambien overdose is survivable. However, that doesn’t mean the individual will come through unscathed. The sooner you seek help, the better the odds are of survival and avoiding long-term damage. Overdose-related deaths are more common when the individual has been using alcohol or opioids in conjunction with Ambien.
What Are the Most Common Ambien Overdose Risk Factors?
Before taking Ambien, speak to your doctor about certain risk factors. Unfortunately, various risk factors exist that increase someone’s odds of encountering adverse effects of overdosing on Ambien. Those over the age of 65 are at an elevated risk of an Ambien overdose.
Below are additional risk factors that increase the chances of an Ambien overdose:
- Overmedication: When someone takes more Ambien than what’s prescribed, elevating their risk of an overdose.
- Gender: Unfortunately, women are at greater risk of an Ambien overdose, even when using lower doses of the drug. Women who take more Ambien than their doctor prescribed are more likely to overdose than men.
- Using Ambien and other drugs or alcohol: When prescribed Ambien, alert your doctor to other medications or supplements you take. If you consume alcohol regularly, you may be required to stop or avoid taking Ambien. Taking this medication with other substances drastically increases your chance of a fatal overdose.
- Substance use history: If you have a history of abusing drugs or alcohol, you’re at an elevated risk of abusing Ambien, which can lead to a fatal overdose.
Remember, everyone is different and will react differently to Ambien. While some might abuse the medication, others will follow their doctor’s instructions. You must always be careful and relay any adverse reactions to your medical provider.
How Is an Ambien Overdose Treated?
As was mentioned above, if you suspect an Ambien overdose, seek help right away. The sooner you reach out for help, the lower the odds of long-term damage or death. Ambien overdoses must only be treated by first responders and other medical professionals. By not seeking immediate help, the person will not always make a full recovery.
An Ambien overdose will be treated in the following way:
- Monitoring your vital signs
- Administering IV fluids
- In severe cases, pumping the stomach to remove all traces of Ambien from your system
- Administering flumazenil to counteract the sedation – this isn’t often used in an Ambien overdose but is an option
Individuals will likely remain in the hospital overnight to ensure they’re safe.
If you’ve had to use drugs like Ambien to sleep, it either worked well, or you started misusing the medication and became addicted, causing an overdose. Fortunately, safer alternatives are out there that can help you fall asleep and not worry about overdosing.
While there are other prescription drug alternatives, many people would like to avoid chemicals altogether. Fortunately, there are natural remedies that help with sleep and have fewer side effects. These include herbal remedies and supplements on the market sold over the counter. While some work, others are less effective, and you should pay attention to the ingredients.
Melatonin is one such substance that’s widely used for insomnia and other sleep conditions. It helps people fall asleep fast and stay asleep longer. However, the long-term effects of melatonin are unknown. Another key factor in sleeping is what you eat. By eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, you can make an improvement in your sleeping habits. Protein and complex carbohydrates can help you fall asleep, as will green leafy vegetables high in magnesium. Warm milk is another method used to help people fall asleep.
Lavender is also widely known for promoting sleep. Taking a warm bath infused with it before bed can relax your body and help your body to calm down. You must also keep a set sleep schedule each night by going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time. While exercise is part of a balanced lifestyle, try to avoid it too close to bedtime as it can keep you awake. You must also avoid electronic stimulation like your cell phone or TV before bed.
These are options you must consider before taking Ambien. Only you and your doctor can make the final decision on what you use to sleep, but you must also know an Ambien overdose can be fatal. Try these alternatives before taking the drug.