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Is Xanax and Ambien a Safe Mixing Combination (How Much?)

Xanax and Ambien are both prescription drugs that are used for different purposes. They could be dangerous when taken together.

Xanax and Ambien

The misuse of prescription drugs is a serious problem that contributes to emergency room visits, overdoses, and death. In 2017, approximately 18 million people had misused prescription medications in the past year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Xanax is a benzodiazepine medication that is the trade name for the drug alprazolam, and it is used for anxiety and panic disorders. It is one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States.

As a benzodiazepine, Xanax can be habit-forming. There is potential for dangerous outcomes if the medication is not taken as prescribed.

Ambien is the trade name for the drug zolpidem, which is a sedative-hypnotic medication that is prescribed for insomnia or other sleep disorders. This medication helps people fall asleep and stay asleep by slowing brain activity, allowing the consumer to relax and rest.

Ambien can also be habit-forming. People can become dependent on it, which can exacerbate existing sleep problems.

Both these medication have sedative effects. Combining them increases the risk of oversedation and exacerbates other side effects.

group therapy session

What Potential Dangers Exist When Mixing Xanax and Ambien?

The greatest risk when combining Xanax and Ambien is oversedation, which could lead to coma or death in some instances. Combining these drugs can also result in confusion, dizziness, extreme lethargy and drowsiness, impaired coordination, and uncontrollable behaviors.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that approximately 1 million emergency room visits in 2009 were related to prescription drug abuse. Benzodiazepines such as Xanax were involved in the majority of the visits that involved central nervous system depressants. Furthermore, the rates of emergency room visits involving Ambien rose from 13,000 in 2004 to 29,000 in 2009.

Both of these medications function as central nervous system depressants, which means that they can slow down breathing and heart rate. The potential danger of combining these drugs comes from this effect on the respiratory system. The combined effect of the drugs can slow down breathing and heart rate too much, causing you to stop breathing.

The larger the dose of each medication, the higher the risk of a potentially deadly overdose.

If you take these medications together, avoid doing anything that requires you to be mentally alert, such as driving. Ambien should only be taken before bedtime.

Addiction is another potentially serious risk that is increased when consuming these medications together. Both Xanax and Ambien can cause tolerance, dependency, and addiction.

Taking these medications over a long period of time can increase the risk for addiction, which can exacerbate existing problems and require complicated treatment protocols.

Counterfeit Drugs

drug exchange

Another potential danger is the risk of counterfeit drugs when purchasing drugs on the street.

Xanax is sold in illicit drug markets, but there is no way to guarantee that drugs purchased from street dealers are real. Some prescription medications sold in illicit drug markets are manufactured by unauthorized dealers. Often, pills that are sold as Xanax are not actually alprazolam.

Anytime you purchase a drug from unauthorized drug dealers, there is a risk that you may be receiving a counterfeit drug or a drug that has been otherwise contaminated or laced with unknown substances. This substantially increases the risk and danger of overdose or death because there is no way to know what you may be consuming.

Only purchase medications from licensed pharmacies with a legitimate prescription to avoid the potential danger of consuming unknown substances.

Is There a Safe Amount That Can Be Mixed?

It is possible that a doctor could prescribe both of these medications for an individual if needed. When taking these medications together, there are other factors that should be considered, such as the timing of when you take the medication.

Spacing out the timing of the dosages may help to mitigate some of the potential side effects from this drug combination. You should always follow your doctor’s recommendations on the dosage timing.

The safety of any combination of prescription drugs depends on many factors, such as the dosages taken, whether other substances like alcohol have been consumed, and other individual health factors. The only amount of Xanax and Ambien that can be taken together is the amount prescribed by your doctor with adherence to the prescription instructions about dosage and timing of ingestion.

drug effects

What Are the Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Xanax and Ambien?

Both Xanax and Ambien have potential side effects that can present with short-term and long-term use of these medications. When you take them together, you will be more likely to experience some of the short-term side effects, which may be exacerbated when you take the drugs together.

The following are short-term effects of Xanax:

• Drowsiness
• Dizziness
• Irritability
• Talkativeness
• Lightheadedness
• Headaches
• Fatigue
• Dry mouth
• Nausea
• Constipation
• Weight changes
• Joint pain
• Difficulty with coordination

The following are short-term effects of Ambien:

• Dizziness
• Drowsiness
• Memory loss
• Hallucinations
• Parasomnias, such as walking, eating, driving, or participating in other activities while asleep
• Difficulty balancing
• Nausea
• Constipation

The long-term effects of Xanax include the following:

• Tolerance
• Dependency
• Addiction
• Memory problems
• Suicidal thoughts or ideation

The long-term effects of Ambien include the following:

• Dependency
• Withdrawal symptoms
• Depression
• Changes in appetite
• Joint, back, or neck pain
• Vision problems

The longer you are taking a medication regularly, the more likely you will be to experience some of the long-term side effects.

A study from the journal Behavioral Neurology found that long-term users of Xanax experienced some cognitive impairment in the areas of sensory processing, processing speed, motor performance, working memory, verbal memory, and verbal speed. These impairments were observed even after withdrawing from the medication and during follow-up testing.

drowsy woman

Can You Overdose on Xanax and Ambien?

Yes, overdose is possible on Xanax and Ambien. Any time you combine two drugs, there is the possibility of drug interactions, including overdose. The combination of these drugs together could amplify the side effects of both drugs and make overdose more likely.

The following are symptoms of overdose:

• Oversedation
• Confusion
• Loss of motor skills
• Unconsciousness
• Vomiting

If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or someone else who has taken Xanax and Ambien, call for emergency medical services immediately.

What if I Have Taken Xanax and Ambien?

If you have taken both of these medication, you should be aware of the potential for oversedation and overdose. Because these medications could cause you to lose consciousness, notify someone that you have taken both medications, so they can call for medical attention if needed.

If you have been prescribed both of these medications, only take them as directed and pay close attention to your doctor’s instructions.

If you have taken more than your prescribed dose or have improperly combined these drugs, notify your doctor or call 911.

SOURCES

Alprazolam. (January 2019). U.S. National Library of Medicine

Is it safe to use prescription drugs in combination with other medications?. (December 2018). National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Misuse of Prescription Drugs. (December 2018). National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The Effect of Chronic Alprazolam Intake on Memory, Attention, and Psychomotor Performance in Healthy Human Male Volunteers. (July 2016). Behavioral Neurology.

What is the scope of prescription drug misuse? (December 2018). National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Zolpidem. (January 2019). U.S. National Library of Medicine.