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Can You Take Ambien and Xanax Together?

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Many people wonder if you can take Ambien and Xanax together. Both medications can be used to treat insomnia, though the latter is more commonly prescribed for anxiety disorders.

Avenues Recovery breaks down the similarities and differences between these two drugs and answers all your questions about combining them.

Can You Take Xanax With Ambien?

Taking Xanax with Ambien is generally not advised unless recommended by a healthcare professional. When considering combining Xanax (alprazolam) and Ambien (zolpidem), it's important to understand that both medications are central nervous system (CNS) depressants and they slow down brain activity. Combining them can intensify these effects, leading to increased drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, and impaired coordination.

One of the primary concerns with mixing Ambien and Xanax is the risk of respiratory depression, when breathing becomes dangerously slow or shallow. This risk is especially significant if you have underlying respiratory issues or if you take high doses of either medication.

Additionally, mixing Xanax and Ambien can increase the likelihood of experiencing side effects such as memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and impaired judgment. This can be particularly risky if you need to perform tasks that require focus and coordination, such as driving or operating machinery.

In some cases, the combination of these medications can lead to more serious health complications, including coma or death, especially when taken in large doses or with other substances that depress the CNS, such as alcohol or opioid medications.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax is a brand name for the drug alprazolam, which belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines (benzos). Benzos are central nervous system depressants that are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and occasionally for other conditions like insomnia and seizures.

Xanax enhances the effects of a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which has a calming effect. This can help reduce feelings of anxiety and panic. 

It's important to use Xanax only as prescribed by a healthcare provider, as it can be habit-forming and has the potential for abuse. Misuse of Xanax can lead to serious side effects, including respiratory depression, especially when combined with other central nervous system depressants such as alcohol or opioids.

Prescription for alprazolam (Xanax), taken for anxiety. Many wonder if you can take Ambien and Xanax together

What Is Ambien?

Ambien is a brand name for zolpidem, a sedative-hypnotic medication mainly used to treat insomnia. It belongs to a class of drugs known as non-benzodiazepine hypnotics. Ambien is typically prescribed for short-term use to help people fall asleep and stay asleep.

Ambien works by affecting certain chemicals in the brain that may be unbalanced in people with sleep problems. It helps to induce and improve the quality of sleep by increasing the duration of sleep and reducing the number of night awakenings.

It's important to use Ambien only as prescribed by a healthcare provider, as it can be habit-forming and may cause side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired coordination. Ambien should be taken just before bedtime, and only when you can get a full night's sleep (7-8 hours) to reduce the risk of drowsiness and reduced alertness the next day.

Ambien vs Xanax: How Similar Are They?

The chart below summarizes the main differences between Ambien AKA zolpidem and Xanax:

Drug Name

Xanax

Ambien

Drug Class

Benzodiazepine

Nonbenzodiazepine sedative-hypnotic

Uses

Anxiety, panic disorders, insomnia

Insomnia

Action

Enhances effects of GABA neurotransmitter

Binds to GABA-A receptors, enhancing GABA activity

Addiction Risk

High

Low

Abuse Potential

High

Low

Onset of Action

Fast (30-60 minutes)

Fast (15-30 minutes)

Half-life

Short (11 hours)

Short (2-3 hours)

Duration of Action

Short (4-6 hours)

Short (7-8 hours)

Withdrawal

Can be severe

Can be severe

Side Effects

Drowsiness, dizziness, memory problems

Drowsiness, dizziness, diarrhea, headache

Interactions

Alcohol, other CNS depressants

Alcohol, other CNS depressants

 Vial of zolpidem used to treat insomnia. Many wonder if zolpidem and Xanax can be taken together

Ambien and Xanax Side Effects

Ambien and Xanax each come with side effects – some different and some the same. The chart below summarizes these effects. 

Drug Name

Xanax

Ambien

Similar Side Effects

Drowsiness, dizziness, headache, nausea, constipation, dry mouth

Drowsiness, dizziness, headache, nausea, constipation, dry mouth

Different Side Effects

Memory problems, changes in appetite, blurred vision

Amnesia, muscle pain, stuffy nose, nose or throat irritation

Effects of an Ambien Xanax Interaction

When Ambien and Xanax are taken together, they interact, often resulting in serious health effects. Potential risks include: 

  • Increased CNS depression: Taking Xanax and Ambien together can lead to increased sedation (drowsiness), dizziness, confusion, and difficulty moving properly. This can make it harder to drive, work, and use heavy machinery.
  • Breathing problems: Both Xanax and Ambien cause slowed breathing. Mixing them can increase the risk of breathing difficulties, which can be dangerous, especially in people with respiratory disorders.
  • Memory problems: Both Xanax and Ambien may cause memory problems. Mixing them can make this symptom worse.
  • Increased risk of overdose: Taking Xanax and Ambien together increases the risk of overdose, which can be life-threatening. Symptoms of overdose include fatigue (being tired), confusion, and difficulty moving and breathing.

Increased risk of addiction: Both Xanax and Ambien have the potential for abuse and addiction. Taking them together may increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder.

Can You Take Ambien and Xanax When Prescribed By a Doctor?

Generally, it's important to avoid taking these medications together unless specifically directed by your healthcare provider. A doctor who knows your medical history and current health status will let you know if you can take Ambien and Xanax safely.

If your healthcare provider has prescribed both medications and has given you specific instructions on when to take them, it's important to follow their guidance. They may have considered factors such as the timing of the doses, the effects of the medications, and any potential interactions.

How Many Hours After Taking Xanax Can I Take Ambien?

The timing between taking Xanax (alprazolam) and Ambien (zolpidem) depends on various factors, including your health status, the dosages of the medications, and how your body metabolizes the drugs. 

Again, it’s important to follow the instructions of the healthcare provider who prescribed the medicine about the dosage and time between the medications. 

If you are unsure when to take your pills or have any concerns, it's best to consult with your healthcare provider or pharmacist for personalized advice. They can provide you with guidance based on your specific situation and medical history.

Insomniac woman lies awake in bed. Many people wonder if you can take Ambien and Xanax together

Can I Take Ambien 5 Hours After Xanax?

Taking Ambien (zolpidem) 5 hours after Xanax (alprazolam) can still pose risks due to their combined effects on the central nervous system (CNS). While spacing the doses out may reduce the immediate risk of severe respiratory depression or overdose, both medications can still cause excessive sedation and impair cognitive and motor functions.

Even when taken 5 hours apart, mixing Xanax and Ambien can lead to increased drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, and impaired coordination. These effects can be dangerous, especially if you need to perform tasks that require alertness, such as driving or operating machinery.

It's crucial to follow your healthcare provider's instructions carefully and not exceed the prescribed doses of either medication when taking Xanax and Ambien together. 

Can You Overdose on Ambien and Xanax?

An overdose of Xanax (alprazolam) or Ambien (zolpidem) can be extremely dangerous and may lead to serious health complications or even death. Both medications are central nervous system depressants, and an overdose can cause respiratory depression, extreme drowsiness, confusion, impaired coordination, coma, and in severe cases, death.

If you suspect an overdose of Xanax or Ambien, it is critical to seek immediate medical attention. Call emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room. Be prepared to provide information about the type and amount of medication taken, as well as the person's age, weight, and current condition.

It's important to store these medications securely and take them only as prescribed by a healthcare professional. Avoid combining them with other substances that can depress the central nervous system, such as alcohol or opioid medications, as this can increase the risk of overdose.

Treatment For Xanax and Ambien Dependence

If you or a loved one struggle with a combined Xanax and Ambien addiction, reach out to us at Avenues Recovery so we can guide you on your path to recovery. Our experts are on call, waiting to hear from you. Thousands of people have been helped to overcome their addictions by our highly professional and experienced staff, and they can help you too! In a warm and supportive environment, our clients can benefit from a mix of traditional and holistic therapies. Contact us to begin your journey home today!

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