So you have some trouble getting to sleep. Maybe a glass of wine before bed will help you relax enough to nod off, or maybe you will try out the prescription for Ambien that your doctor recently gave you. Better yet, you ponder, maybe just take the Ambien with the glass of wine. Not so fast! Mixing Ambien and alcohol is never a good idea, no matter how much you crave a good night’s sleep.
Both alcohol and sleep aids like Ambien (zolpidem) are depressants to the central nervous system, creating a sedative effect. When taken together it can result in dangerously low heart and respiratory rates. For this reason, all prescription sleep aids have a warning clearly stated on the label to never use them while drinking alcohol.
Still, it is tempting to amplify the effects of each substance by using them together, which can lead to addiction or dependency issues, or even a serious health emergency. For this reason it is important to learn about the dangers of mixing Ambien and alcohol.
Ambien is a fast-acting drug that is prescribed to assist individuals struggling with insomnia. Zolpidem is in the category of sedatives called hypnotics, and is usually prescribed for short periods, such as one to two weeks. Ambien is not intended to be a long-term solution for insomnia. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has classified Ambien as a Schedule IV controlled substance, considering it to have moderate risk of becoming abused or addictive.
Some people intentionally abuse this dangerous combination of drugs, alcohol and Ambien. They may obtain the drug illegally without a prescription with the sole intention of experiencing a specific high that results from high dosing of each substance. The danger of overdose and death escalate significantly among these individuals who elect to abuse these substances in tandem.
About Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol use disorders effect more than 15 million U.S. adults, according to statistics provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction. An alcohol use disorder is classified as mild, moderate, or severe based on the number of diagnostic criteria present. Alcohol abuse can considerably impact physical and mental health, as well as quality of life. In fact, a number of health conditions can be attributed to alcoholism, including heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, cancer, brain disease, and more. In 2015 alone, approximately 35,000 people died from alcoholism-related liver disease.
While science has not yet defined the exact cause of why someone develops an AUD, some causal factors include genetics due to family history of alcoholism, biochemical make-up, and inadequate coping skills. Many who suffer from a mental health condition misuse alcohol as a means of managing the discomfort associated with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or PTSD.
What Are the Dangers of Mixing Ambien and Alcohol?
While most prescription drugs carry a warning against using alcohol while taking their product, the danger to the individual is enhanced when using sedatives like Ambien. This is due to the compounding effects of using both drugs, alcohol and Ambien, which causes each one’s effects to be amplified. This can cause serious health risks and even overdose, depending on the amounts consumed.
Dangers of mixing Ambien and alcohol include:
- Slowed heart rate
- Slowed respiratory rate
- Reduced blood pressure
- Cognitive problems, losing track of how much is being consumed, impaired judgment
- Sleep apnea
- Problems with coordination increasing risk of falls or injuries
- Engaging in high risk situation, such as driving under the influence of both drugs
- Engaging in odd behaviors, such as sleep walking or eating
- Both drugs pose risk to kidneys, liver, cardio-respiratory system
- Increased tolerance can lead to higher levels of consumption and addiction
Signs of overdose include pinpoint pupils, slurred speech, depressed breathing, loss of consciousness, and coma.
Effects of Mixing Ambien and Alcohol
When using Ambien and alcohol together, the effects might include:
- Unsteady on one’s feet
- Slurring of words
- Strange behaviors or conversation
- Dry mouth
- Short-term memory impairment
Signs of Addiction
When someone begins to develop a higher tolerance to the alcohol and/or Ambien, they will be prompted to consume higher levels of the substance in order to achieve the desired effects. Over time, certain behaviors or signs will point at a problem, such as addiction. These signs include:
- Taking increasing amounts of the drug
- Doctor shopping to obtain more Ambien once the prescribing doctor has cut off refills
- Stealing Ambien from family or friends
- Purchasing Ambien from unknown sources
- Obsessing over obtaining the drug and having enough supply, looking forward to using
- Use of these drugs leads to problems with work, family, relationships, finances, health problems
- Continuing to use Ambien and alcohol regardless of the negative consequences
- Neglects responsibilities and family obligations
- Legal problems, such as a DUI
- Attempt to stop using but can’t
- Experience symptoms of withdrawal when attempting to quit
Treatment for a Polydrug Addiction
When addiction or chemical dependency develops for either of these substances alone it can have highly deleterious effects on one’s life. When addiction to both of these substances, alcohol and Ambien, develops it is called a polydrug addiction, and the treatment for this type of combination drug addiction is more complex. In addition, some who have acquired a polydrug addiction may also suffer from an underlying mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, which will require treatment from a dual diagnosis rehab program.
The type of rehab best suited for this polydrug addiction will be determined by the length of time the abuse of the drugs has been going on, and the levels of consumption or dosing. For individuals who have only recently begun to combine these drugs, an outpatient rehab program will be appropriate. An outpatient rehab will offer treatment and recovery tools while the individual lives in their own residence.
For those with a long history of polydrug abuse and addiction, a residential program is the more appropriate level of care. A residential rehab provides housing for the duration of the individual’s treatment plan, offering 24-hour monitoring and support. The rehab should offer expertise in treating individuals with addictions involving more than one substance for best recovery results.
The residential program will help individuals with an Ambien and alcohol dependency through the following interventions:
- Medical detox, during which withdrawal symptoms will be closely monitored and treated
- Individual psychotherapy, helping individuals identify thought patterns that lead to abusing alcohol and Ambien, and then shifting them toward healthy ones
- Group therapy, where a clinician-led small group engages in discussions around various topics related to addiction and recovery
- Family-focused therapy or couples therapy, providing more focused attention on the impact of the addiction on core relationships
- Medication management if naltrexone is prescribed to help reduce alcohol cravings, or if treating a co-occurring mental health condition
- Classes in addiction education, helping clients to understand the effects of Ambien and alcohol on brain systems
- Planning for avoiding relapse, which involves identifying triggering things, people, events, or situations, and then forming an actionable plan to manage the response
- Stress-management techniques, such as deep breathing techniques, yoga, meditation, journaling, massage therapy
- Interpersonal skill building, such as communication skills, conflict resolution
- Adjunctive therapies, such as EMDR, biofeedback, art therapy
Lifestyle Changes that Assist with Recovery
At the center of alcohol and Ambien abuse lies a problem with managing stress. Learning methods to help regulate the stress response and reduce anxiety is intrinsic to overcoming an alcohol/Ambien polydrug issue. It takes time to establish new habits, but by making lifestyle shifts there will be little need to rely on substances to be able to relax.
Dietary: There is ample evidence that what we eat can directly impact our quality of life. When recovering from a polydrug disorder it is common to find one’s overall health has deteriorated. In recovery, restoring health and wellbeing will center on making positive changes in diet. Reducing sugars, processed foods, and caffeine will help keep blood sugars stable. A diet rich in lean proteins, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and fresh fruits and vegetables helps reverse vitamin deficiencies and build healthy bodies.
Exercise: Regular exercise has abundant health effects on both physical and psychological health. Even as little as two hours of exercise a week will benefit overall health and wellbeing. For optimal health, four sessions of 30-60 minutes of cardio exercise—cycling, swimming, running, walking, dancing, hiking—is sufficient. Exercise increases production of endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are all brain chemicals that induce relaxation and boost mood.
Holistic: More attention is being paid to the mind-body connection for addiction recovery success. If both systems are not copasetic there will be a problem. The mind has a powerful affect on the body, and visa versa. Holistic activities, such as mindfulness training, guided meditation, hypnotherapy, and gardening provide a soothing, positive mind-body response. These activities help regulate cortisol levels, the stress hormone, as well as help individuals attain a peaceful emotional state.
Solutions 4 Recovery Treats Polydrug Addictions and Dual Diagnosis
Solutions 4 Recovery is an Orange County-based residential rehab that is a leader in the treatment of addiction and dual diagnosis. Using the most cutting edge treatment interventions, the clinical staff at Solutions 4 Recovery combines evidence-based therapies with important adjunctive therapies that further enhance the chances of a sustained recovery. Treating a polydrug addiction, such as that which results from mixing Ambien and alcohol, necessitates a specialized treatment approach. Let Solutions 4 Recovery help you overcome your dependency on Ambien and alcohol today. Please connect with us at (888) 417-1874.