How Long Does Ambien Stay in Your System?
According to the CDC, “About 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems.” When you have a hard time sleeping, it can be difficult to function in your daily life. Because sleep issues are so common, tons of people have turned to sleep medications to get a full night’s rest.
One of the most common sleep medications is known as Ambien (zolpidem). Ambien is a prescription medication that is prescribed to treat insomnia. This medication is fast-acting, meaning it leaves your system fairly quickly.
Ambien is not intended to be used on a long-term basis because the medication can be habit-forming. Once you are addicted to Ambien, your body will become tolerant of the drug, causing you to take large doses at one time. If you or a loved one abuse Ambien, knowing how long it stays in your system can prevent you from suffering a benzodiazepine overdose.
What is Ambien?
Ambien is the brand name for a substance referred to as zolpidem. This substance is intended for short-term use to treat the symptoms of insomnia. Taking Ambien for longer than directed could lead to physical dependence and addiction.
Ambien belongs to a class of drugs known as “Z drugs”, which includes other substances like eszopiclone and zaleplon. These medications are commonly used as alternatives to benzodiazepines, as they have similar mechanisms of action.
Ambien binds with the benzodiazepine receptors on the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) complex in the brain. This increases GABA activity and increases brain inhibition which relaxes the central nervous system and helps you sleep.
Zolpidem is classified as a Schedule IV drug, which means it has some potential for abuse and addiction. According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 900,000 people reported misusing Ambien in 2017.
The Effects of Ambien
Ambien’s primary effect is inducing sleep. However, like other medications, zolpidem has side effects that you should be aware of. These side effects typically subside after your body adjusts to the medication.
The side effects of Ambien include:
- Daytime drowsiness
- Feeling “drugged”
- Increased risk of falls or other bodily injuries
- Memory loss
People taking Ambien have reported experiencing sleepwalking, sleep eating, and even sleep driving. Because zolpidem can cause people to drive cars in their sleep, you should always take this medication with precaution. If you are taking Ambien for the first time, having a loved one with you to ensure your safety is recommended.
It is important to note that people who are addicted to Ambien will experience symptoms of withdrawal when they stop taking the medication. Because Ambien is similar to benzodiazepines, the symptoms of withdrawal may appear the same. However, the symptoms of zolpidem withdrawal are usually milder than that of benzodiazepines.
The symptoms of Ambien withdrawal include:
- Cravings for Ambien
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Heart palpitations
- Stomach cramps
While seizures and psychosis are rare symptoms of Ambien withdrawal, you could experience these symptoms, so it is important to attend a drug and alcohol detox program if you stop using Ambien abruptly.
How Long Does Ambien Stay in Your System?
Ambien works quickly and only remains in the body for a short period. This medication will begin to take effect 30 minutes after swallowing it, with the effects peaking between 1 and 2 hours. How long it takes for the effects to peak depends on whether you are taking the immediate or extended-release form of the substance.
Zolpidem has a relatively short half-life of 2.5 to 3 hours. This means that it takes about 3 hours for your body to eliminate half the dose of Ambien. However, elderly patients or individuals with liver impairments may take longer to metabolize the drug.
Because Ambien is metabolized quickly, it is usually only detectable by urine for 24 to 48 hours and blood for 6 to 20 hours when taken at therapeutic doses. However, it is important to note that individuals who abuse this medication usually take higher doses than recommended and mix it with other substances like alcohol. When taken in larger doses, it can be detected for 72 hours in the urine and 48 hours in the blood.
While zolpidem is not absorbed through hair effectively, trace amounts can be detected in the hair for about 5 weeks.
Of course, how long Ambien stays in your system also depends on a variety of personal factors. While the above-mentioned detection times are accurate, they are also generalized.
The detectability window of Ambien is affected by the following factors:
- Liver and kidney health
- Frequency of Ambien use
- Regular dose
- Mixing Ambien with other drugs like Xanax
Find Help for Ambien Abuse and Addiction Today
If you or a loved one struggle with Ambien abuse, it’s time to seek help. Ambien addiction can become dangerous very quickly, as this drug often causes people to behave strangely in their sleep. Several people have reported driving their vehicle in their sleep while they were under the influence.
Because of the risks of Ambien abuse, you should consider attending a benzodiazepine addiction treatment center. Programs like Carolina Center for Recovery can provide you with the support and tools you need to overcome Ambien addiction and regain control of your life. Contact us today for more information on how to get started.
Medically Reviewed: December 9, 2022
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.